[Scroll down for UPDATE]
I’ve been going through a healthy amount of self-examination lately, and have drawn a few conclussions that, while not entirely comforting, might shed light on some of my lifelong struggles with “normalcy.”
As much as I enjoy being my own pet project, these examinations have brought me to a point where I must make a choice about how much to reveal publicly about myself. After doing a bit of risk-reward math, I’ve decided to catalog some of these struggles here. (More on that later.)
I’ve always been uncomfortable with social interaction. Some of you who know me personally will get this, while others might actually be surprised. This is probably because, a) over 35 years, I’ve gotten pretty decent at covering it up, and b) I have a tendency to self-medicate with alcohol (and I hold it well).
Struggling as I do with meatspace interaction, I have embraced social technology as a way to engage with my many friends and associates in a way that I find highly rewarding. This site, while not strictly “personal,” is my humble attempt at a digital commons built on a community of individuals whose minds I admire. In the broader social metaverse, I use Facebook and Twitter to engage with both people I know well and those I’ve but rubbed digital elbows with.
These systems have been a lifesaver, as they connect me to the world in a way that doesn’t inspire anxiety or require pharmaceutical or alcoholic reinforcement. Or so I thought.
Last night, I was enjoying an evening of Twittering while relaxing in bed with my wife and half-watching the daily politics score on MSNBC. Aided by my iPhone and a glass of Courvoissier, I thumb-typed my way through a stressless social session. That is, until I got an @ reply from somebody with five “friends” and who had only began following me a few hours earlier:
“Wow you tweet excessively. At least once an hour. Why is that?”
OK. First of all, there are entire stretches of the day when I’m not using Twitter (or if I am, it’s for work.) Second, who the hell is this person to judge what is or isn’t “excessive” in social network communication? Third, they can always “unfollow” me if they think my updates are too frequent.
I will admit to some pretty high-volume tweeting when I’m battling with the doofuses at Comcast, but this is one of the only ways to get their attention. Other than that, I’m not sure I tweet much more than the folks I follow, which is to say, a lot at some points in the day, and less at others.
As I said in my reply to this individual, “Why do people sit in coffeeshops? Text vote for American Idol? Play ‘fantasy’ sports? These are all mysteries I’m content to ignore.” I don’t go to your fucking Superbowl party and ask why you’ve gathered a bunch of balding mouth-breathers to sit around your plasma TV and scream like an abattoir full of retarded children. (Thanks, Rorschach!)
In hindsight, I think this person simply chose their words badly. If s/he had substituted “a lot” for “excessively,” I’d have cheerfully answered the question. It just rubs me the wrong way when I’m made to feel guilty for being myself in one of the few social contexts in which I have a modicum of comfort.
To make matters worse, one of my IRL friends sent me this direct message: “Putting it nicely, you tweet excessively. Just put all of those extended thoughts into a blog post and tweet the link?”
Keep in mind this person only uses Twitter to send links to their blog. Which is cool, but doesn’t exactly satisfy the service’s full range of uses. Some people tweet for business, some tweet their fave books and TV shows, some tweet jokes. Some are marketing charlatans, some are rock stars, some are soccer moms. Hell, some folks tweet what can only be called “soul haiku.” (Those are my favorite!)
In the wake of all this, I almost gave up on using Twitter. As it stands, I’ll probably use it less. You see, despite my social dysfunction, I am hypersensitive to how others perceive me. Yet I’m not gonna let a couple of nattering nabobs of negativity dissuade me from radiating across any goddamn media I choose, in any fashion I choose.
Just don’t ask me to your Superbowl party.
[UPDATE: I received a really thoughtful e-mail from the aforementioned Twitterer, who apolgized for the way the question was framed. I apologized for not taking a minute to think through what he might’ve meant by it. Many of us (myself included) are still sorting through what our digital lives mean. That said, I stand by everything else in this post.]