Above: @AJEnglish tweets mixed with top, promoted, and other tweets from my stream. Please refrain from laughing at my rudimentary Photoshop skills.
Yesterday, I had multiple CoTweet and HootSuite dashboards open on numerous browsers, scanning the streams of 40+ Twitter accounts at once. I was the operator of the Nebuchadnezzar, sifting through the code.
On my primary and personal account, although I’ve hand-picked each Twitter handle to follow, there is unavoidable noise. Promoted and top tweets. Hashtags. Retweets of those I don’t follow. Trending topics. But ultimately, I shape this world; it is mine. I control what I see in my stream as much as I can. (I have qualms about this, certainly.) But what I’m currently trying to grasp is how the world materializes on my screen, bit by bit—a news link from here, a blog post from there, a photo essay from her, a video clip from him.
A patchwork of memes.
Like the never-ending bits of data streaming down the Matrix, tweets flow every second. Strangely beautiful, it is. A waterfall of information, rich and raw, ready for me to consume, digest, disseminate. I absorb what I can, I overlook the rest.
As a whole, this world makes sense; it is both logical and emotional.
But sometimes it surprises me. I read a serious or thoughtful tweet on the tsunami destruction in Japan, followed by an irrelevant or untimely one: A complaint about someone’s workday? An LOL reply to a tweet about getting drunk on St. Paddy’s? My reaction to such juxtaposition is similar to this . . .
. . . and I find the untimely tweet offensive. And that makes no sense; surely these tweets are not strategic and intentionally insensitive.
And don’t I do the same, when I tweet about beer and baseball, about loud dance music that most people hate, about trivial moments of my day? What is fascinating to me may be useless to another. And should I be more mindful of what I tweet in times of war? Revolution? Natural disaster?
For those of us who mingle virtually with avatars in the same room, and who embrace Twitter as meaningful and three-dimensional, I wonder: If one is not interested in Libya, or Wisconsin, or the Superbowl, or Egypt, or Planned Parenthood, or the Grammys, how do we whisper about something else? How do we tweet politely about our day when others are distraught, angry, or in need? (Or do we unfollow when we feel momentarily alienated?)
Or would such courtesy, even silence, skew the stream? Perhaps the unwanted noise and jarring moments are what keep this virtual world complex—and human.
Cheri Lucas Rowlands
Blogger at Writing Through the Fog. Story Wrangler at Automattic.