December 24th, 2019

Inside Twitter: 12 Secrets and Hard-Won Insights

Last month I decided to focus more on Twitter. I joined Twitter a decade ago but rarely engaged, probably for the same reasons that you don’t.

I’m vocationally dependent on social media. I maintain a robust mailing list of friends, clients and ‘followers’ (I’m important).

But increasingly the metrics of attention–that used to be spread far and wide across the Net–has suffered network effect, and is now corralled on FB, IG, and Twitter. Social media is the Internet now.

The Net has definitely been hijacked and monopolized. And for oldtimers like me, it’s sad and creepy. You’d have to have been there, back in the mid-90s, when the Net took off. It was a lot of fun.

Although I’m older, I was similar in spirit to those Millennials that crawled out of the womb and hopped right unto a computer keyboard. I built my first website in 1997, and my blog Giving Head (for real title) launched in ’99 before blogs were a thing.

95% of my clients discovered my work from my online presence. And my art direction for an arts foundation in San Francisco requires a continual online engagement. Like many folks today, I’m in for the long haul. The Net sustained me financially for years. Until the dawn of social media.

I mention the above because my scrutiny of FB, which I consider political activism, always elicits the same response: “Why don’t you just leave FB?” I must get a couple DMs like that each month. And my response is the same: “It’s kinda my job to help you pay attention.” Like you, I want to live in a democracy for as long as possible and FB is helping destroy the mechanism, the checks and balances that sustain democracy.

Anyway, Here Are Twelve Things You Will Benefit From Knowing About Twitter

1. Twitter is raucous and vicious and like anything adversarial (and cacophonous) it will make you stronger (and fine-tune your senses) if you prevail. But it’s not for the faint-hearted.

2. Because brevity is a quality of good writing, Twitter will make you a better writer.

3. Our culture’s obsession with fame, status and position in the food chain is ultra supernova-amplified and neurotic on Twitter, meaning whatever feelings you have of being a nebbish will bloom as you interact on the network.

4. Jumping into Twitter has a ‘hazing’ period which serves to separate the girls from the women. But that decreases in intensity over time as you endure. The upside is that Twitter’s ‘atmosphere’ is more genuine than FB’s. FB sustains the illusion that you are connected with everyone (when you aren’t) and Twitter offers the opposite.

4. If you have a madcap sense of humor and like gallows humor, black humor, verboten humor, surreal humor–Twitter is fabulous fun, it’s one of my favorite things about the platform, similar to the madcap and unhinged commenting that Youtube still allows, without censor, on its network.

5. Because Twitter rarely censors it reminds me of the best of the old Wild Wild West days of the Internet, that period in the 90s that I miss the most. FB has become the opposite. Zuckerberg’s new schoolmarm scolding and monitoring tells me that FB has indeed become the platform of your grandparents. As old people die off so will FB. Sad.

6. Porn is freely published all over Twitter (if you want it). Again, when you’re in the mood: FUN!!

7. You can have contact with people that normally you’d never be able to contact unless you went through their manager or agent or the secret service. I’ve talked with film people, music stars, comedians and politicians I respect. You’d rarely if ever achieve that on FB.

8. Most always you must bring your friends/followers with you, through your mailing list, your ‘friends’ on FB, or organically through your website. It’s almost impossible to gain followers on Twitter because there are (literally) 350,000 tweets going off per minute, so your voice is lost in the avalanche–until it isn’t.

9. If you’re an of-the-second news whore, Twitter is your place. I expect to hear of DT’s demise on Twitter hours before it’s registered in reality.

10. The most innovative, forward-thinking, nutso-kookamunga content (and its dispersion) is on Twitter. I interacted yesterday with a guy that was publishing entire parts of his novel on Twitter in the most amazing way–and it was good. Another gal was showing bits of her new film, and I watched a woman pole dance with her Bengal cat riding on her thigh. And of course, nipples–male or female–are allowed.

11. On Twitter, the possibility is always present that you’ll publish/post directly to the entirety of the network, something that will never happen on FB as FB generates an illusion of connecting but it’s fake, a con. Too, FB supports stalking and creeping with its bevy of posts and photos at the ready. Twitter offers the same but the way its formatted dissuades rather than encourages.

12. FB maintains a massive dossier of your existence. I mean it’s fucking huge. When Sheryl Sandburg, FB’s CEO was asked how to stop the harvesting she said something like, “That would be a paid-for product.” Meaning if you’re on FB you are the product. FB ravages your identity (and privacy) and then apologizes and then plunders you again until it’s busted again. For years I’ve heard the same hackneyed response: “What do I care if FB is showing me advertisements tailored to my preferences.” If only it were that benign.

Again, Twitter gathers data too but it doesn’t give the impression that it’s anything other than what it is: A fascinating real-time ticker tape of the collective consciousness of the entire planet. That’s kind of amazing. And to find ways, should you be inclined, to participate might be worth your time.

For that reason it deserves reconsideration, especially should you want to depreciate FB’s draconian lockdown on what should be the people’s Internet.

Email me with questions (I no longer run comments here because of spammers, hackers, trolls and kookoo posters; I’ve sent them all over to trawl Youtube).

Twitter bird illustration by MKN Design.

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