This can be counterintuitive. I hope so. I remember the day I started using Twitter. My friend Gabe Rivera suggested it would be a good idea to sign up for the new network. It was basically a ground cover – claiming the property in my name. I was probably aware of the basics of the new service, but careful to actually make some sort of obvious splash. Why would he want, while the picture of the day passed, to announce what he was to eat?
But he knew that Gabe was right; I had to line up for the day which became clearer for how good this was. As Professor Irwin Corey would say, Adam said the first time to Eve: Retire, I don’t know how that will be. So I did, and I sat for almost a year. In the end some thread caught my eye, or my ego encouraged me to think that someone might be interested in what I was going to eat. This led to a series of discoveries that we all made about how this thing could work, if it couldn’t just crash out of its neo-scalable scripting linguistic roots.
One of the most interesting things to do in those early days was to abuse the net for creative purposes. If the logic of the publication was to provide meaningful content that would be of interest to a larger audience, we knew where it was headed. Celebrities, verified accounts, a triple A version of the major leagues of mainstream media. Logic maybe, but not what interested me. On the contrary, I enjoyed exactly the opposite, an experience where the result was something different from what we already had. One trick I had was to talk conversationally to the small audience of those I was pinging with their username.
This may or may not have preceded the @ mention, but the intention was to send a message to someone who had been notified of the attempt by a notification. Alternatively, following a small but targeted series of accounts has created a flow of posts from people who have shared some implicit common interests. Either way, eventually these @mention clouds will become a rich source and an object of breaking news, jokes and a stew of social energy. I liked the occasional response, and would respond instead as if I had a private chat. The theory was: if this bothers people, they will follow me and be happier about it. Many did, and they were.
Jumping forward for now, I still use Twitter this way for the most part. I set my notification flow to show a subset of my followers, first around 50, then 100, now at more than 4 or 500. It’s annoyingly disturbing from the top of my screen; reading an ebook is an intermittent experience at certain hours waiting for the flow to slow down when I try to read the first couple of lines of a page. But what I get is an almost subliminal collage of casual clothes from a not-so-casual group of what reminds me of a circle of friends from a cafeteria in college days. The mainstream press repeatedly goes through when someone dies or succeeds, but there are also the whispers of entrepreneurs and thought leaders, industry captains who like the direct channel, the politicians of the digital underground, the comedians, culture cowboys and cowgirls, right, left, and centrist.
It’s something that breathes life, and it’s different from everything else. Facebook is what I think of it, but I’m sadly grateful for its role as a link between family, friends, and a shared personal story. It doesn’t matter that it’s impossible to find something once it’s over. I also appreciate it though. But Twitter is an imperfect pacemaker in my chest, beating with the pulse of the nation, notifications leaving Europe, then the East Coast, finally the Valley and Hollywood before I am overwhelmed by reality. and up the hill the next day.
As well as Michael Markman quotes Jerry Seinfeld in this episode of Gillmor Gang, “It’s never in the bag, and you’re never out of the running.” Yes, Trump dominates the service, and all the other networks as we move toward elections. Twitter fills some of the gaps of the pandemic in the traditional campaign. Some are good with Twitter; some are not. But when the cry is over and the polls are counted, Trump may or may not be left standing. Twitter will definitely be. Just don’t call him Shirley.
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang