The other day, a friend tried fairly hard to convince me to use Twitter. I have a Twitter account, but I pretty much never post, and rarely check to see what the people I'm following are saying. I can make lots of arguments why I should be using Twitter. From a purely commercial standpoint, if I hope to make the writing thing work long-term, I should be building up a whole bunch of followers, on Twitter and every other platform, in order to then somehow find ways to get them to buy whatever it is I'm selling at any point in the future. From a creative standpoint, I should be trying to find ways to do something cool with the form. From a social standpoint, I should be using it to interact with people I know or don't know but could one day know.
And yet I don't. (I do use Twitter, a little bit, for this secret anonymous blogging thing I've been playing around with, but even there, I don't use it well, or consistently. I don't engage-- I don't respond to what other people are tweeting, I don't join the conversation in any significant way... thus I don't gain many followers, nor do I deserve to.)
I feel like I've become a very strange sort of Luddite. I stumbled into blogging fairly early in the timeline, and spent a lot of energy blogging. Worthwhile energy-- I owe so much to the form, and I got so much reward from it, not only in terms of my book but in terms of friends I made-- real-life friends, as well as e-mail correspondences that were (and in some cases continue to be) very, very rewarding. Blogging enriched my life tremendously, unquestionably.
And somehow the technology has passed me by. Somehow I got tired of being as public as I felt like I was. I got tired of not just checking comments and counter stats (because at some point I pretty much stopped checking counter stats) but of opening myself up to criticism from strangers. I don't have any particular moment in mind, there was no specific event-- I think I just got tired of worrying that at any moment, I could get an e-mail or read a comment that would hurt my feelings. That's as simply as I can put it. And I was never writing things-- in a blog or elsewhere-- that were particularly criticized or commented on, but I think my threshold is low. I was Googling myself too much-- I was looking too hard for anything anyone was saying, especially about my book. At some point it stopped adding value to my life and started taking it away.
I think, to some extent, it's that Facebook (which I also never really engage with, even though I read people's updates) and certainly Twitter are more about a conversation and the two-way communication than blogging is or at least was. It took me a long time to add comments to my blog in the first place. I never felt comfortable engaging in the comment section. I think I can count the number of times I've ever commented on someone else's blog on one hand, maybe two. When I started blogging-- and certainly when I started Anonymous Lawyer-- I was interested entirely in one-way communication. I wanted to put material out there. Being part of a conversation was not the point.
Now, being part of one-on-one conversations is great. From when I first started blogging-- receiving e-mails from readers, terrific. Even negative e-mails. Still usually terrific. The back-and-forth over e-mail, great. But put me in a comment section and I don't know what to do.
As I write this, I realize-- what I'm talking about with communication online actually mirrors how I communicate offline. One-on-one communication is rewarding. The bigger the group, the less I have to say. Drop me in the middle of a party, and I will mostly listen, and once I can't find something to listen to, I will try to come up with reasons why I need to leave.
[Hey, this post is getting to a point. People who are skimming: here is the point. Stop here and read!]
Twitter feels to me like a big party. Sure, there are cool people there, but I'm never going to meet them. I'm not that good at small talk. I don't have the perfect 140 characters that's going to grab your attention and get you to come over and chat. I need more time than that. I want you to get to know me. I want to get to know you. On a blog, there's time, there's space. In an e-mail, there's time, there's space. In a Facebook update, or in a Tweet, there is none of that. There's just lots and lots of small talk. And I don't care.
I've written at least twice (links later in this sentence!) about what I have clumsily called the shortification of content (and I continue to be convinced I have a pretty good thesis there, and since everything I'm motivated to write and think about keeps coming back to that, I'm starting to think I should turn it into a book proposal... but that's another story for another day) and that's what this is coming back to, it seems.
I am a Luddite who longs for the days of 2002, when people wrote long e-mails and blog posts were multiple paragraphs and written by human beings who were not owned by corporate entities and trying so hard to maximize traffic.
And the reason I long for those days is not so much because I am sure they were *better* or that long blog posts are inherently more worthwhile than Tweets or Tumblr posts (can someone please explain to me when Tumblr became a thing, and why every Tumblr I've seen just involves people posting pictures with barely a word of explanation, and why that's supposed to be interesting?), but because that moment in the history of communication happened to dovetail exceptionally well with the way that I best communicate, and am most interested in communicating.
Now it's all too easy. I learn that my friends are having babies when they post pictures of their ultrasounds on Facebook. And there's nothing wrong with that-- it's just less interesting to me than hearing how they feel, in bites longer than 140 characters. And it's not like I can't ask them, but it just seems like at least the Internet-enabled piece of friend-communication has made that more difficult lately. I actually talk on the phone to friends more than I did five or six years ago. Which, again, is fine, except I like e-mail more than the phone, and I'm better at it. Real e-mail, with paragraphs. Not, "I'll meet you there at 1:30" e-mail. Which I guess is now better served by a text message anyway.
So, what is my conclusion? Lucky me, because I happened to pass through some period where the technology was stuck at a point that best fit the way I would best communicate with people, but now I feel like we sort of past it and I don't feel the same push to spend time tweeting as I did blogging, back when blogs were all like, I don't know, Ben Casnocha's and not the official blog of Twitter, which ain't a bad blog, I'm just not that interested.
Oh, so to circle back to Twitter-- at some point, I will tweet more. In the meantime, send me an e-mail, because I miss getting e-mails.