It’s the thought that counts
I reached out to someone on Twitter a while ago. That person appeared to be going through turmoil and it was heartbreaking to read their misery on their Twitter page.
If I knew this person in real life I’d probably call for a few minutes of awkward conversation, maybe take them out for a beer and more awkward conversation. The awkward conversation wouldn’t matter. Just being there with them is like being there for them. Silence is OK.
Not on Twitter.
Twitter is an arid patch of land where only the creative flourish. Evocative writing affects me deeply. There are no frills on Twitter to cloud my judgment or enhance the message, just words. It takes talent to cut through an impersonal computer screen, the choice of closing the browser or switching off the laptop and make you nod appreciatively at a poetic thought or make your guts twist with words of pain. This task of cutting through the clutter is even more daunting because of the ephemeral nature of tweets. A timeline that follows 150 people or more moves fast. A message within 140 characters sticky enough to stay on in your head is noteworthy.
It doesn’t end there. Soon you’re waiting for those lines of text to roll across your screen as you try to piece together the poignant moments of someone else’s life. Then, the helplessness as you articulate responses that sound feeble either because you don’t write well or you really don’t understand what’s happening.
Worse, the realization that the messages may stop and the window into their world may close forever. As I said, silence isn’t OK. This is the hypnotic power of Twitter. Connected by thoughts.
Sometimes I try to put those thoughts together into a coherent picture of the individual and I fail. It reminds me of a Salman Rushdie novel I’d read where a man isn’t allowed to see his prospective wife, but only parts of her through a veil. He sees the eyes, nose, hands, chin, feet and is smitten. When he sees her after the wedding, the whole is decidedly less than the sum of the parts. This is what worries me about online friendships.
Over the past year that I’ve spent on this medium I’ve been fascinated by some of the people I follow. I think I know them, I think I relate but I don’t know if they’ve really let me into the most private realms of their world. A privilege few extend and fewer deserve.
Until I meet them I can only continue to build my edifice of thoughts, letting a chosen few enter in the hope they extend the same faith.
It’s the thought that counts, but not if you can’t say it well on Twitter.