I like both platforms. Really, I do. Facebook was fun when I first joined. It was exciting to be able to reconnect with old friends and stay in touch with family. I could have long chats for hours, catching up with everyone, liking their posts, feeling as if I am a part of their lives. It is comforting on a certain level to be able to let someone know I am thinking of them, and when they read it, I know they are thinking of me, at least for that moment. I could invite people in to see my pets, my dinners, my collection of craft brews. I felt comfortable sharing my activities, my whiny days, my job. The boundary lines are roomy, up to a point. After a while, the honeymoon was over. People can only take so much complaining before they start giving advice. The advice phase lasts about as long as the falling out of love phase in a marriage. Then, people either start really jumping into one’s shit, or they just go away–ghost the whole thing. After a few years, though, strong friendships can be formed and family bonds severed. It happens. That’s where people start getting choosy about what they post and they continue to grow. Whether they grow together or grow apart depends on what they are willing to do to keep the relationship alive. It’s a familiar place, as broken in as a favorite pair of shoes or faded polo. I look at them and hang on to them because they still serve a purpose, albeit much narrower than in the beginning.
Twitter is the opposite. It’s like 50 first dates every stinking day. It’s exciting, addictive, soul-sucking. It’s as demanding as a mistress and as flighty as a girlfriend. Every day there’s something new. Every day, all day long, breaking news, twitter wars, trolling, and somewhere under the noise is a steady hum of news, research, articles, exposure to new cultures, diverse opinions, creators, artists, teachers, journalists, politicians, leaders, celebrities, lawyers . . . and they are all accessible. Unbelievably so. I can send a tweet to Chely Wright and she just might respond. I can make a pithy comment on a Julian Castro tweet, and he might even answer with a pithy comment of his own. There are few boundaries between people and stars. There’s a level of trust and an element of danger, just like a psycho girlfriend. The sheer volume of information can become crazy-making. Woe to the neophyte who wanders into a timeline that is already rolling along and try to be clever. It’s like trying to jump on a moving train while wearing a gunny sack. Pragmatic elitism exists as a desperate filter to at least move the noise to an acceptable level. There are bad neighborhoods and good neighborhoods, just like every city in real life. It takes a certain level of street smarts to navigate unscathed through them.
We need these platforms–to inform us, to make us think if we want to. They can become echo chambers of confirmation bias, and they can impel us to educate ourselves and find out the truth of what is out there. I don’t know anything about reddit or 4chan or instagram because I waste enough time already with these two sites. Being curious can lead me all around the world and back home again. I become a little wiser and more willing to explore, as long as I understand on a visceral level that these two platforms are for me to use, not for them to use me.