Micro-blogging: Why I Love and Hate It

I've been mulling over these thoughts for a while now, and decided to be the two millionth or so person to analyze the complexities of micro-blogging. I've never gotten into Twitter, and I've only been on a Twitter website a few times, but Facebook status updates are a constant barrage of bits of information about people's lives for me.

Writing a dissertation means I'm on the computer and internet all the time, and when the writing is not going well I'm on Facebook pretty constantly. Dissertating is a lonely process, and hitting refresh on FB to bring me news of friends and acquaintances somehow makes it feel less lonely. I'm always thrilled to hear about someone I hardly ever see or talk to getting engaged, a new job, etc. It's nice to be in on the random details of someone's day, too, the inconsequential things that seem important enough to tell the world about. Even with friends I see or talk to often, I have key points to address when we next talk, like "I saw on FB that you went to that new restaurant" or "Oh you saw that movie, what did you think?" My personal status updates come when I'm feeling particularly interesting, or I've done something cool, or I'm feeling thankful. And telling my 400 odd FB friends about me somehow validates my actions or thoughts.

So here's why I hate it. It feels dishonest in some ways. For example, yesterday I posted an update about the organic apple/kiwi juice I made fresh. Impressive, right? But I posted nothing about the gross fast food I ate for lunch, or how I'd skipped breakfast because I didn't feel well, etc. Even if it's about something as banal as food, you will never get the full story. Updates or tweets are carefully chosen selections. I may be having a really terrible day but post something about how much I love summer. Both may be true at the same time, but the crappy day is more encompassing and you'd have no way of knowing that. The point is it shows some of what we are doing but not how we are doing.

And sometimes, I have this crazy jealousy for other people's days. Based on their statuses, their life seems way more interesting than mine today. Sometimes I get my feelings hurt because I see that someone did something cool but didn't invite me or a close friend posts news I wish I'd heard in person (I know more than one person who has learned of their sibling's engagement via Facebook). Seems silly, but an instance like that could affect me deeply for a while.

In Laurel Snyder's article "Addicted to Twitter" she talks about how she thinks in Twitter when she's not around it. I find myself doing this too. When we were abroad this summer I did not miss my cell phone one bit, and barely missed the internet, but I still found myself thinking after many experience, "Lauran just saw a lake where scenes from Harry Potter were filmed" or "Lauran is trying out an English accent." What? That's what I'm thinking about? How I can sound the coolest on Facebook? Like it's a twisted popularity contest I'm playing with myself?

Snyder brilliantly puts it this way:
"It’s all the mental and creative energy spent on words that don’t even get archived. It’s all the tweets that could have been conversations with my family. All the words I could have poured into poems or lines of dialogue or essays like this one. All the thoughts that should not be formatted, reduced, condensed to 140 characters. All the ideas meant for mulling. All the words best spoken to an audience of one (or none). It’s the idea that thinking is not a performance, hard as that can be for someone like me to accept."

I'm not quitting micro-blogging or taking a fast from it or whatever, I'm just trying to be aware of what effect it has on me and to temper it as much as possible. My life is way too complex for 140 characters.

And just for fun, here's a spoof of Twitter called "Flutter":

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