Recently, Twitter has become one of my favorite apps. According to my own Twitter page, I’ve actually been using it for almost seven years. However, I’ve also mainly been ignoring it for six years plus some change. A few weeks ago, though, I did a complete overhaul on my lists and whom I follow, and now Twitter has become a near perfect feed of all the news and information I want to see.
This could not have been possible without one inimitable fact: almost none of my friends use Twitter.
In fact, most of my friends who do regularly use it I’ve had to unfollow or mute. There are so many interesting and useful things on the Internet that I want to see, but usually my friends expose me to none of them.
Take Facebook. My Facebook newsfeed is an unending flood of garbage.
A large part of that blame goes to Facebook itself, which gives so much preference to paid marketing that the top of my feed always ends up being either Humans of New York or George Takei despite my liking hundreds of other pages. I do like HONY and George Takei, but seriously, once in a while how about you show me some of that other shit that I told you I like?
On the other hand, an even larger part of the blame goes to my friends themselves. What I’ve gathered from using Facebook in recent years is that my friends’ lives, thoughts and likes are, for the most part and with few exceptions, either boring or stupid as fuck.
Next comes the part where people start unfriending me. Fuck it.
Earlier this week, one of my friends — a friend whom I haven’t spoken to in over 10 years, though I also have “friends” on Facebook whom I’ve never spoken to — posted a picture of herself wearing a t-shirt announcing her pregnancy. 500 people liked this picture.
Really? 500 people liked this pregnancy announcement? Did she overcome uterine cancer? Is her son the long-awaited heir to the throne?
That’s the other thing. This announcement also included the gender of the baby, which means that she had been pregnant for some time. Thus her husband, her family, and all her other loved ones had already heard the news and gotten their chance to be happy and excited for her, as they should be because this truly is a happy and exciting moment for all of them.
However, that also means this announcement was not for them. This announcement was for all the peripheral people in her life. People like me, who don’t actually keep in touch but now have been served official notice — To Whom It May Concern: I’m Pregnant. Sincerely, Someone You Once Knew.
I know I sound like a bitter little prick right now, but my intention is not to shame this person because there is nothing be ashamed of. This is what Facebook is, or at least what it has become. Everyone’s Facebook page is now this carefully curated and manicured collection of life events that they present to everyone else like some type of social résumé. Here’s my job. Here’s my spouse. Here’s my baby.
Of course, I notice this more than most people do because I have none of those things, and the highlight of my week is still getting blacked-out drunk (though let’s be honest, even if I had all three of those things, the highlight of my week might still be getting blacked-out drunk). My Facebook is just as guilty as everyone else’s, but my social résumé just happens to suck.
Tim Urban has described this phenomenon far better than I ever could, so I won’t delve into it. What I want to discuss, though, is how social media didn’t always used to be this way.
My first favorite social media site was Xanga, to my knowledge the first blogging site to incorporate followers, likes, comments and a newsfeed. Xanga was social media before the term social media entered the common lexicon.
And it was entertaining as fuck. I was in college then, and everyone I knew who used Xanga was just another college student like me. What we posted was honest and unfiltered. Yes, even then some people’s blogs were scrupulously curated to highlight particular topics or a non-stop stream of selfies, but back then reading my friends’ posts was the highlight of using Xanga (minus the ones who posted rote descriptions of their daily lives or just plagiarized popular Internet threads).
To this day, I still remember the evening I came home, opened up Xanga, and discovered one of my friends had written this incredibly long and detailed account about all the ways his ex-girlfriend (who was also a mutual friend) had lied to and cheated on him. My comment on his post was to say that I sympathized with how he felt but that he should consider whether it was appropriate to publically share all that information. In reality though, I saved that fucking post onto my computer because it was probably the most fucking entertaining thing I’d read in years.
The trouble was his parents also read it. And her parents. And basically the entire community of the church that they both attended. Ultimately, her family was ostracized from that church and had to go find a new one.
Church. Fucking classic.
That is part of the downfall of all popular social media sites. If they get popular enough, everyone gets on board, and you soon realize that you have family members, prospective employers, and potential lovers all looking at what you’re putting out there. Then the curating begins, and that’s when your site starts feeling less like a community and more like a bunch of actors each standing alone on stage performing to a dwindling audience of other people on their own stages. That’s when your site stops being cool.
What’re the kids using now, Snapchat? Old people don’t understand why young people love Snapchat. Ironically, that is why young people love Snapchat.
Yet it’s not just a different generation or professional scrutiny that inspires a desire for perception management. A few years ago, my girlfriend at the time moved to an apartment in some little boondock town. I drove out there for Thanksgiving and brought some take-out for our dinner. It was meager but cozy and charming. All the food was laid out neatly on moving boxes, and we even had a special Thanksgiving dish for our dog.
I took a picture and wanted to put it up on Facebook. My girlfriend didn’t want me to. Everyone else was posting photos of grand, homemade dinners with multiple courses and friends and family all gathered together. She thought ours looked lacking. I didn’t even realize our Thanksgiving was lacking anything until she mentioned that.
What had been such a happy moment was ruined. Because fucking Facebook.
Most of my friends don’t understand Twitter. They don’t know how to use it, and I hope they never figure it out. Don’t get me wrong. I like my friends. I like spending time with them and hearing what they want to tell me. I’m just not interested in reading their fucking résumés.