Logging on to Twitter on a gloomy, overcast English morning, I was cheered to find that someone had tweeted: ‘WOOOHOOO!!! Sunshine and warm today in Minneapolis!’ It made me smile, and I thought that perhaps there was a chance of good weather over here at some point. Well, you never know.
The idea of connecting with people from all different places around the world is one that fascinates me, and seems to be a driving force behind many social networking sites. Facebook, as its motto suggests, is more of ‘a place for friends’; Twitter, on the other hand, seems to be a place for connecting and sharing. It helps us to understand things that are going on in different parts of the world from a first-hand perspective. Sure, we read the news, we know roughly what’s happening; but if someone ‘tweets’ it, somehow it becomes more real. The news-giver is no longer a reporter, standing somewhere nearby, detached from the action; now, it’s the person involved. Granted, I have yet to notice a ‘bomb just went off behind me’ tweet, but I feel sure it might happen in the future.
As a race, humans have always detached themselves from situations that are somehow unreal to them, whether this is because a subject is too close to home, or not close enough. The movement to online media, and the current growth of sites such as Twitter, allows people to stay in touch while detaching themselves further from the reality of the human experience.
On Facebook, people are generally connected with friends they know in real life, and therefore communication via messaging and so on is one step closer to offline life. Pictures, videos and ‘wall talk’ help us remember who we are speaking with, and allow us to gage at least roughly their reactions. Twitter, however, is another story altogether. In one hundred and forty characters, people communicate their lives, their thoughts, their business. There are no pictures; there are no videos; there are rarely any people we know offline.
How, then, do we keep track of our selves? How do we remember that we are people, rather than profiles? Reducing yourself to an ‘about me’ box is both cathartic and intriguing; I am never quite sure which parts of me I want to include, and which parts are so unimportant as to be insignificant. These profiles, these half-people, are the things we come to know and care about. As I mentioned in my previous post, there are people out there I have never met who I think about frequently.
Twitter allows us to connect with a world that seems unreal when we hear reports about it. But the jury is still out on whether or not this is a positive state of affairs. What do you see when you read someone’s tweet; when someone you have never met tells you they are in pain, they are angry, their life is falling to pieces? Do you see a modern newsreel? A note from a friend? An anecdote that peppers your day alongside a thousand more?
What do you think? Are we becoming more detached from reality? Turning into ‘pseudo-selves’? I’d love to hear your thoughts.