Monday, March 30, 2009

Twitter: I type, therefore I am

I took a hand count in my homeschool sessions (APACHE conference over the weekend) to see who had heard of Twitter. Many homeschoolers still (how to put this delicately) tend to be Luddites. Still, the techno-ones who were Twitter fans jiggled their hands in the air with the enthusiasm of anyone who has joined a craze. I felt a kinship with them. I get the same way... that is, happy to be in the know when the know is in! We bonded. We knew we weren't wasting time, doing nothing, all day, for no good reason.

The next morning, I ate my stale English muffin in front of the hotel TV and listened to a commentator condescend to the "crazed" as she raised her eyebrows mouthing the word "tweet" like it was a juvenile playground term six floors beneath her, that had somehow wormed its way onto her teleprompter, forcing her to say it Against. Her. Will. She derided the "updating" process, making the tweet all about stale English muffins at breakfast.

Yet just the day before, one of my homeschool moms had told me about a Twitter identity that tweets a different opening hook from a novel every day. I had just taught the "opening hook" in that session and she was positively gleeful to tell me about this resource that would add such value to the ideas I was suggesting. Of course! That's the point right there. Someone else is compiling opening hooks from children's novels, publishing them every day, and all any of us has to do is read them. Genius!

I got to talking to a man later in the day who had heard of Twitter but had yet to succumb. He wanted to understand how on earth I had time for all this social media (blogging, facebook, twitter, forums). Of course, I spend more time on the computer than should be humanly permissible so that makes it easy for me. But I went on, in my Brave Writerly way.

We're living in an epoch when more writing is being created and disseminated than in the history of the world. Really. I'm not overstating it. Kids especially (our reluctant writers, our kids who say they hate writing) are writing constantly (won't even use the phone as it's impolite so they text instead). Yes, much of what is written may as well be speech (they're not writing for pay, after all). Still, the craving to be known, to record what and who I am through the written word is taking over; putting myself in print or pixels has become one of the ways I know I exist. Writing is competing with speech for the first time in history.

And I'm one of those people who thinks that's incredibly good! For one, we take more responsibility for what we think when we commit it to writing (ask anyone who has made the mistake of pontificating on a forum without nuance). We express a point of view (even in 140 characters) and are accountable to those who read it (was it good to read? did it inform? did it inspire? did we connect?). Writers online share a passion, looking for that corresponding "yes" and experience the community creating happiness that comes from knowing that what I love, others love too.

Twitter, FB status updates, blogs: they let us play with words. God! Why is word play so undervalued? The heart of a vibrant community is its vocabulary. Truly. The more ways you can express your devotion to your passion, the more trivia you accumulate, the more insider-lingo you master, the greater your pleasure. It doesn't matter if you're a NASCAR fan or are all about container gardening. Pleasure multiplies when you talk about it in depth, using all your words (technical, slang, jokes and trivia), with other people equally zany for your chosen enthusiasm.

Twitter is genius since our attention spans have been shortened by the media saturation we live with every day. So now, in 140 characters, we must become good writers. Can you get it done and hold the reader's attention? For people like me, that's the game. It's the sudoku of language (and let's just ask: why does sudoku get to be famous and people admire those who do the silly puzzles daily, but twitter is seen as a waste of time?) We wordy people must rise up in protest. No more "math" beats "language arts" - the injustice!

So yeah, I love Twitter and Facebook and blogs and forums and texting on the phone. Finally - we can all be published. And read.

I write, therefore I am. Or... I type, therefore I am.


NoVA Dad said...

I love it! One of the great things for me about Twitter is the fact that it makes me focus on geting to the heart of a thought. On my blogs and essays, I can wax poetic with expansive language, but in Twitter I have to shave it to the very core. It's a challenge, but one I enjoy (and as long as we can substitute "&" for "and" and "2" for "to/two/too," I'll be in good shape;-)

AmpersandToo said...

i HeART this post. SO much. :)

SUSAN said...

Here, Here!

Susan :-)

Kansas Bob said...

I like the inane-ness of twitter.. free to be silly or serious.. for me it is a nice way to mini-blog and mini-journal.. and just opine a bit :)

Susanne Barrett said...

You preach it, sistah!

musing said...

yes, Yes, YES