Oh, I am SO reluctant to write this.
Why, you might ask?
Because I just pulled myself off Twitter to do it. And something happens to me physically and psychologically when I steel myself to get off Twitter.
I do believe this describes addiction.
I’m not an addictive personality, as far as I know. And I should know because, well, it’s me I’m talking about, right? True, I was addicted to cigarettes many, many decades ago. But when I quit, I learned what it was to have real power in my own life.
It was a mighty feeling.
I remember when and how I smoked my first cigarette. And I remember when I opened my Twitter account: when I started this blog, in 2010.
Ever so social-media savvy (I’m kidding), I figured Twitter’s then-140 character limit to be a neato way of notifying the universe about a post I’d written. Sort of a catchy advertising line, with a link to the post.
An example of a Twitter sales pitch for this post would maybe be: “BREAKING NEWS: I confess I’m not addicted to SEX but have no intention of joining any 12-step group for Twitter.” Or something like that.
For a while, I enjoyed the challenge of writing a compact, potentially seductive line. Then Twitter opened the limit to 280 characters and I rejoiced. Felt as if I’d opened a belt on tight jeans.
How does Twitter work? Aside from writing your own tweets, you can do things with other people’s tweets: forward them to your followers; hit a little ♥ button to “like” the tweet; comment on the tweet; reply on the tweet. Forward the tweet and stick some emojis in to suggest some mood or other. (It took me a very long time to discover the emoji menu and I still don’t use them, especially since I can’t read what they mean on other people’s tweets. Is that a scream of alarm, or hilarity? What is that thing doing? What is that thing?)
But I did begin to respond to other people’s tweets using my own words. And that’s what got me hooked. I find myself hitting that “Twitter” button many times a day, and spend way too much time scrolling down, scrolling down, prowling for something to like or dislike.
Twitter is an escape mechanism. Twitter is a tic.
What is Twitter good for? Instant news notices, yes. Twitter picks up actual BREAKING NEWS faster than the Times because it’s quicker to write 280 characters than it is to write a whole newspaper article.
What else is Twitter good for? Venting, in fast hard puff-outs, like cigarette smoke. Sarcasm. Primarily sarcasm. Bon mots. Snark.
And that’s when I discovered what Twitter was especially good at: provoking Twitter fights in which critters not using their own names (I use my full name) go on the attack. I’ve written here about being attacked by gun dealers and “libertarians.” (I’ve since learned that some of those critters are attack bots.)
Unfazed, I would occasionally tweet a reply, but mostly I’ve been amused because I am, in Twitter-terms, a virtual non-entity. I know this because I follow a lot of entities and I am not one of them. The entities I follow — many of whom are actual people — have, oh, say, half a million followers. I have 147.
A few weeks ago, I did something that’s been bothering me ever since. Even when I was personally ready to stop being bothered, Twitter kept poking at me. Here’s what happened:
A genuine person, a well-known journalist, tweeted praise for a well-known TV journalist — a woman — said she should have her own show, and described her as “very bright.” This expression hit a nerve ending. How often in my working life have I been called “very bright” by some guy? How many times have I been pissed off?
Because I hear “very bright” as condescending to an intelligent woman.
And the woman this guy was praising is far more than “very bright.” She is fluent, fast, remarkably articulate on her feet and is a Harvard grad.
So I commented. My comment was similar to what I just wrote in the above paragraph. I ended with a request that he stop calling intelligent women “very bright.”
Male journalist didn’t like it. He argued back that he calls a lot of people — male and female, friends and family members — “very bright” and sort of smacked me a little. I answered in a fairly reasonable way; he responded that in his “usage” “very bright” was not condescending. I gave up. Wrote back, “OK, I accept that,” and then agreed that the woman journalist should have her own show.
That should have been the end of it. No. Because ever since all sorts of people have either “liked” my comments, or “liked” the male journalist’s responses. Up and down, back and forth. My anecdotal evaluation suggests most of the people who “liked” my comments are women, and men prefer his.
One comment — which was really sort of sweet — was along the lines of, “Aw. Did I just witness a Twitter hug?”
Anyway, every time I go on Twitter and see I’ve received a number of notifications, while I’m supposed to feel great about the attention, I groan.
From now on I’m only going to tweet in praise of Caesar. Or Matthew. But I’m still going to give gun dealers and “libertarians” hell, because that’s what they’re trying to give us.
There. I feel unburdened. And “very bright.” So, bye, I’ve got to go back into Twitter to tweet about this post, although I think I’ll leave the SEX out of it.