Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The snail rushes in

Imagine you're at a party. You went there because somebody said you just had to be there. But when you got there, you found out that everyone was talking in a strange way. Say they were all clapping when they talked, or affecting an obscure accent, or hopping on one foot. Confused, you tucked yourself into a corner, nursed your drink, and watched the room.

After some time, you began to make sense of what was going on. You kept sneaking off to the bathroom to practice the strange talk. Finally you felt that you might be ready to try talking. But as you looked around at the lively room, you felt unable to start. Should you jump into a conversation and announce yourself? Should you attempt to pretend that you'd been speaking all along, maybe across the room, and had just drifted over to a new group? Or should you give up and leave?

I've been tucking myself away in a corner of the Twitter party for a few years now, trying to make sense of what's going on. I look at Twitter every week or so, but I always come out of it like the snail who rode on the back of the turtle ("Whee!"). 

Just now I looked at Twitter, and I saw:
a poem
a cat
a fascinating quote I would need an hour to absorb
something about toilet paper
a call to action
a prediction
a picture of a doll 
And then I had to stop. I don't know how you people do this.

I am not a fragmentary thinker. When I read a book, I read every single word in the book, and I read the words in the order they appear. Twitter feels to me like a giant book I can never read from beginning to end. I find that almost physically painful. But I also can't help feeling intrigued, attracted to the light.

New people follow me on Twitter all the time, even though I never say anything. I suppose they think I might say something. I feel like I've done something wrong by being at the party but not in the party. Also, to be perfectly frank, I would like to tweet once in a while, for example when I want to ask people to help me with something (like my new card game). And I wouldn't mind putting up tweets that say "new blog post" instead of hoping somebody else does. But I don't feel right crashing the party only when it suits me. I feel I ought to contribute.

This led me to think: How could I contribute to Twitter, so that I give to it as much as I (might like to) take? I don't have much to offer the fast-paced crowd. I don't get out much, and I usually have the same thing for breakfast, and I average one thought a week.

Then I thought: What if I did post one thought a week? I do sometimes have thoughts, ideas, questions, explorations, that never grow into full essays. Writing an essay takes a lot of time, so probably only about ten percent of the essays I'd like to write get written. I could write the rest of these proto-essays to Twitter. But it should not be a thought per week; that's presumptuous. It should be a question. A question people might like to ponder. That could be my contribution.

So I thought: Okay. I'll start writing one question a week (or thereabouts) on Twitter. I'll join the party.

But then I thought: How can I tell Twitter that I'm going to post one question a week to Twitter? How can I possibly explain what I want to do in 140 characters? And then I thought, if I can't even explain why I want to post on Twitter using the rules of Twitter, do I deserve to be part of Twitter? And the whole idea got stuck there for a long time.

Finally I decided that I will have to forgive myself and start tweeting by not tweeting. So, as of this week, I intend to start posting one question per week (or thereabouts) on Twitter. To save you the trouble of going to check Twitter to find out what my first question was, I'll post it here too.
Q1. Online bandwidth is a trickle. Can we adapt to compensate? Are we trapped or have we learned helplessness? Is the cage door open?
That's a super condensed version of a blog post I have thought about writing, where I explore the ways in which people have used customs and traditions to widen the trickle of bandwidth in media from stone engravings to telegrams to penny-post letters. I don't know if anyone has already written about this issue. Finding that out would be the first part of researching the essay. I usually read for several hours before I even begin to translate thoughts into words.

I have to say, it feels mentally bruising to release a fledgling question into the world with no protection from its parent. But that is the nature of the Twitter world, as I understand it. Who knows, maybe my questions will be improved by early exposure to the world. Maybe I've been too coddling, a helicopter thinker.

You will have noticed that I gave my tweet a number. It's the only way I can bear the fragmentation. I will have to write my tweets in a coherent series, or I'll go insane. I can't read the book of Twitter from beginning to end, but I can read my contributions to it from beginning to end. Maybe I'll even keep the list of tweets here on the blog somewhere. Yes, that's the ticket. If I can write my tweets as part of a growing page, I will be able to enter into the Twitter party in perfect serenity.

I'm excited, if a bit nervous, to give myself this new challenge. I hope to see you at the party. I might stumble around a bit and get the accent wrong, but I'll give it a try.

[Edit: A week later I realized that I didn't tell you how to find me on Twitter. I'm cfkurtz there.]


RMK said...

Immediately remembered a classic:

Cynthia Kurtz said...

Perfect. Maybe one week when I haven't had a thought I'll tweet "riboflavin" just for fun. ;)