Wednesday, December 7, 2011
I ran across a post a few weeks ago called, "Why twitter is like high school." I didn't mark the post, so my apologies since I can't remember the site where I read it.
I do remember shaking my head and disagreeing with the author by the time I got to her second sentence. Her feeling was that twitter was made up of the cool and the uncools; she added that she felt excluded every time she logged onto twitter. She complained of her tweets being ignored and that other tweeters passed their clever word batons back and forth with their BFF's, while she just sat and eeked out -- nothing. She ended her post by saying that twitter took her right back to high school.
I left a one sentence comment, "with one big difference, we're not in high school anymore."
In high school, you have to see the people that you feel look down on you, or pass you in the halls as if you don't exist. This is not the case on twitter: you don't have to see anyone you don't want to: there is the lovely unfollow/block button. If someone really upsets you, or gets your goat up because they refuse to acknowledge you, you can just one click unfollow them. Gone from your online life.
How satisfying would having that option have been back in high school, when Big Booby Liz bewitched and stole your Senior Class boyfriend away? On twitter, you can block and unfollow Big Booby Liz: outta sight, outta mind, outta your life.
Score one for twitter.
Next, if you've been killing yourself to get to know someone and you're but a dust mote in their twitter stream, stop and think about why you follow them. There is a triad of local tweeters I follow: these three won't engage with me for nothin'... not even if I held their adorable pug over hot bubbling lava would they respond to a tweet of mine. But their tweets are gold to me: they know about everything going on within 200 miles of where I live. I'll keep following them; I know no one is obligated to interact with anyone on twitter. But, if following someone and seeing each of their tweets is like a poison dipped dagger slammed right in the center of your heart, then unfollow. Unfollow, take a deep breath, allow time for your broken twitter heart to heal, then latch on to another superstar that floats your boat. Couldn't do that in high school.
High School: 0 Twitter: two.
Twitter is the great equalizer. You have access to people like Alec Baldwin, Ellen Barkin, Kim Kardashian, Kelly Ripa. If they're on twitter, you can follow them. There's no way that you could be privy to superstars like that in high school.
Three and O.
The biggest difference between high school and twitter, is that WE ARE NO LONGER IN HIGH SCHOOL. We no longer have to be that overly sensitive, self conscious, begging to be liked little budding teen. We are grown people, a lot of us with families of our own. If someone ignores us, hasn't followed back, doesn't respond to our tweets, it's not life and death at this stage. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. Whereas at one time there may have been nothing more important than belonging and being accepted into a certain group, this shouldn't be the case in our lives anymore.
Our families are the most important now. Our health, our well being, our livelihood: these are the things that matter now.
High school may have been center stage and the be all to us once, but no more. Twitter is not high school: it is a fun tool, a business tool and platform for many, a way to connect for the majority of us on it. Connections take time. We can't instantly jump in and be part of a group, no matter how hard we wish it.
If seeing action on twitter that doesn't include you, or if seeing a certain someone on twitter causes you duress, if the sight of a particular avatar sends you reaching for the Xanax, then think about the unfollow. If you say someone makes you feel left out, or uncool, or not part of their group, think again about what following them does to you. If it batters your ego and sends you back to high school thought patterns, perhaps 'tis best you don't see them. You don't have to.
You couldn't do that in high school.
If you've been feeling that twitter is like high school, I hope you try and see it differently. I also hope you don't choose to continue with the mindset you used 10, 20, 30 years ago when you were in high school; the mindset of seeing mountains when they're molehills. You're an adult now; you can pick and choose who you surround yourself with. On twitter, it's totally your choice -- you design your tweeting world, and the people in it. In high school, you have no choice.
It's only 140 characters ... it's only twitter.
It's not like it's high school or something.