Soylent Green is people. So is Twitter.
If you‘d put a “was” by Twitter up there, here’s why I still believe.
When I joined Twitter in March 2007, I had no idea what I was doing. Someone who read my blog sent me an invitation, and I signed up. The first thing I wrote was about the banana bread I was eating. The second thing I wrote was about the weather. The third thing I wrote was about a spider stalking me at work.
If you know me well, you know nothing has changed.
When @ mentions and responses came along, I started interacting with everyone else’s ordinary, too. While it frustrates some folks to no end that people want to discuss what they had for lunch in a public forum, I am delighted to hear you enjoyed your grilled cheese.
I’m also delighted to know that your toddler finally stayed in bed all night long, that traffic on the way to where I’m going is completely hooped so I can take another route, that your favorite word is “abalone”, that you are also tired of Aflac ads, or that the clouds look like renegade sheep in Minnesota right now.
But according to many people I’ve interacted with on Twitter for lo, these nine years, this is less of what Twitter is today. Why?
Because the little cocktail party we had going on has turned into a flea market.
Bots! Spam! Marketing gurus marketing their guru-ness! Indiscriminate retweets with a request to RT again! Follow-back clubs full of teenagers with bathroom mirror portraits! Brands selling everything from Oreos to ThighMasters to Lexuses (Lexii?)!
“Twitter is dead.”
“Twitter is not what it used to be.”
“Twitter is too far gone.”
“Twitter doesn’t matter anymore.”
I get it, I do.
It’s hard to carry on a conversation about odd papers we wrote in first year English or the difference between eggshell and semi-gloss paint finishes or whether or not Idris Elba could be a terrific Bond when someone is screeching, “BOGO on HOT KICKS for our first 10 followers to hit us up! BOOOYYAAAAAA!” less than a foot away.
But I think this isn’t a Twitter thing.
It’s a life thing.
There’s a lot of noise everywhere we go, especially marketing noise. Giant, garish billboards popping up on our skyline. Blinking banner ads on every webpage we visit. 30-second spots shouting from the television. Subscription cards littering our laps from magazines. Radio sponsor jingles stalking us in our sleep.
Then there’s the noise of reality TV and the kind of pop culture that’s less Trivial Pursuit, and more “gym, tan, laundry”.
One can’t forget the noise of the news, of course — and I don’t mean the news we need to hear to be knowledgable about the world around us. Talking head news. Partisan news. Wolf Blitzer bearded news.
And finally, the quintessential waste of our time, spam: spam in our email, on our phones, shoved through the mail slot to fall all over our entryway, and inundating us in website comments, endlessly hopeful that we want a bride from Russia or an easy job where you’ll make $30 an hour to start— at home!
Really, though: why wouldn’t all of this hit Twitter, and Facebook, and anywhere else that humans huddle together to do what we do? We like to ruin stuff that way.
But here’s something else we can do once we ruin things: we can unruin them.
We can use them the way we want to, and be purposeful about finding people who want to use them the same way.
We can find our kindred spirits talking about hockey, or good recipes for jambalaya, or marathon training, or Dr. Who.
We can connect with people who are radically different than we are, and learn a little something new about another culture or country or way of living.
We can also hold dark things up to the light so they will be seen. We can lift up people who are devastatingly alone by making them part of us, if only through a, “I see you”. We can get elderly neighbors checked on, get dogs and cats adopted, find a last minute officiant for a wedding… you name it.
But all of this takes intention and effort, just like building any other sort of community. We sure didn’t know how we’d do it when Twitter came to be 10 years ago… but we figured it out.
We met friends and found jobs and created companies and fell in love and discovered new hobbies and wrote books and found people places to stay and tried the best fried chicken and supported causes that captured our hearts.
Some people will say, “Ah, we’ll do it better with the next big thing.”
I say, as long as we’re already here, let’s find a way to make this amazing for the foreseeable future.
If someone annoys the crap out of you, it’s okay to let go, even if all your friends follow them.
If you don’t follow them and they bug the heck out of you as a sport, block them. Don’t engage in useless BS and validate their efforts.
If you’re following something you’re just not interested in anymore, get that out of there! Find people talking about the things you’re interested in now.
If you haven’t said hello to someone in ages, say hello! Don’t just watch them go by with a nostalgic expression.
Ask a question. Offer an answer. Share something that made you laugh or cry. Tell a joke.
Do what people do when people are at their best, wherever they are: care about other people, and their lives, hearts, minds, and paths.
All day today, I’ve seen people saying, “Wow, Twitter is 10? I had no idea I’d been wasting my time for a whole decade.”
I think I’ll start replying with photos of my lunch.