Why Do I (hardly ever) Tweet?: On Lanier
July 8, 2012
I have spent the previous month trying to entertain Twitter while at the same time reading books about the Internet: getting up to speed on the frantic and the sluggish. I finished Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget while I was wrapping up my Twitter foray. Reading Lanier gave me that extra little boost I needed to stand my ground amidst a field of true believers (many of whom are my friends). He’s decidedly against “anonymized fragments of creativity as products.” And man those fragments are tiny!
While I opened my Twitter account a few years back, I never really used it for one important reason: I knew I was already more immersed than any one person might want or need to be with my own special social media provider. And every girl should have her techno-limits.
However, while attending the Re:Humanities conference last Spring, everyone seemed to be back-channeling, so I thought this was the right forum and crowd with which to take the plunge.
So now I’ve got my tweet deck and follow lots of folks, but I can’t say it really works for me. I do like how I can be assured that jumping into the flow will pretty quickly get me to an article, blog, conference, or web resource I am glad to know about but would have never found. But I actually don’t particularly like also knowing so much about so many people’s eating habits, states of mind, or latest blog posts and publishing activities, including my own (I suppose I use Facebook and Vienna for that). Lanier calls this stuff “second order expression” (fragmentary reactions to “first order expression” which is a representation by one human rendered to completion.) And I must agree that I do leave Twitter feeling like none of those fragments ever add up. If anything, each one takes a little bit from me—or byte—demanding yet another flick of the wrist, turn of the head, click of the mouse, moving towards evocative things that are not here. Lanier calls this “reaction without action”: all dressed up with nowhere to go but more.
And this gets me back to my other recent posts on blogging and allows me to understand that the difference between blogging and tweeting for me is that I use social networking tools for aims primarily professional (even on Facebook, I find that I primarily share resources) while also personal. And I see this inhabited, positioned, professional persona that I craft here as a decidedly feminist push against both Lanier’s most dire fears about anonymity (that it turns us all into trolls or teenage boys), and his celebration of self (“where the one is better than the many”) and also Lovink’s cranky disdain of the “Real self” online. I use this blog as a place for the activities of one, careful networked self: neither real nor solo, both personal and professional. On the blog (differently from in the class, or at home) I seek combined, co-present first order thinking.