Each line of this piece fits into a single tweet.
Twitter is seven now – just old enough to have a voice of its own and Really Strong, Oddly Confident Opinions about faraway issues.
Like most 7-year-olds, it would be awkward to take it off into the woods and attempt to do away with it now.
You know how 7-year-olds are. They’re like people, but shorter. They love what they love and they’ll yell about it to anyone nearby.
That seems about right. Among the things Twitter loves — Star Wars. Puns. Being So Much Wiser Now.
Seriously, Puns. “ReplaceA[Something]TitleWith[GenerallyImmatureWord].”
Look at the hashtags that creep into popularity. “#SingleBecause.” “#DescribeHighSchoolUsingSongLyrics.” “#InThisGenerationPeople.”
Twitter is one of those technologies that allow you to be in the same room with people around the world looking at the same thing.
At large gatherings I am always overcome by the suspicion that the conversation I am currently in is not the Most Exciting Conversation.
“What’s going on at the end of the table?” I ask. “Are they swapping bon mots that will forever bind them in indelible bonds of friendship?”
“Not when you put it like that,” everyone says.
Oscar Wilde said that at parties he never cared where he was sitting because “For me, the highest place is always where I am myself.”
Wilde would have loved Twitter. His quips fit the character limit.
But most of us lack that confidence. Hence, Twitter. It’s where The Conversation is. It’s the watercooler. It’s the cafeteria.
But it’s not your watercooler. As my colleague Jessica Goldstein points out, it’s about feeling closer to things that are actually farther away.
Most social media is. It’s all four times as bright, but twice as far.
And to echo across the vast cavern of everyone else’s indifference, you have to phrase it just right.
It’s like dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo, most of the time.
You have to shout twice as loud to be heard outside your own room.
Or just try deleting a tweet once if you’re a public figure. Especially if you’re a politician. Especially if it contains an image.
We’re familiar with the cafeteria problem now: You talk amongst yourselves, almost like in private. No one’s listening, until everyone is.
You’re in the same room with thousands of strangers. You can see what Everyone is saying, all the time.
Sometimes a hush falls and we all yell “Shame.” But mostly it’s a sort of benevolent Babel.
That is the trouble with Twitter. It sends the things we actually care about floating mortifyingly to the surface.
Social media calls our bluff about what really matters. Big Data doesn’t lie.
Trending Topics are our slightly embarrassed confession that we love puns and are making an actual effort to keep up with the Kardashians.
Sometimes, we care about the important things.
When news breaks, it spreads like glitter: It gets everywhere, quickly and irreversibly, and bits of it are still trickling into your shoes weeks afterward.
Misinformation can travel fast, too. But corrections can actually get their shoes on before the lie is halfway around the world.
So Happy Birthday, strange cafeteria.
“We won’t be able to say anything in 140 characters,” everyone said when this started.
Now that’s all we need. Faster and shallower. There are millions of these every day. They’re words writ in hot water.
Brevity is the soul of tweet.
It can aid revolutions, or at least make you feel as though you’re aiding revolutions. You can be practically there.
For most of us, that’s good enough. Retweeting is like laughing. Favoriting is like chuckling.
Jerry Seinfeld said Twitter was comedy with a net. You can only hear the applause.
It is as good as being there, without all the hassle and danger of actually being there.
You are wherever you are, squinting at your phone screen to let everyone know what you have to contribute.
Periodically there are festivals and conferences where everyone stands in the same room so they can tweet with the same hashtag.
You have to be There. Where, exactly? You are somewhere between the two places.
You give up a little of the room where you actually are standing in order to be present with people who are absent.
And all in all, it’s a fine trade-off. This is as close as you need to be. It’s worth it for the echo.