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Why Am I on Twitter?

I am not “on” Twitter—what a loathsome expression. Now and then I may be on time or on my way or on a roll or on the phone; I am fortunately not on crack or on the dole or on the rag or on the wagon. But I am not on Twitter (or Facebook or the internet).

I do, however, use Twitter. Occasionally I dispatch tweets of my own, but mostly I just listen. I follow a small number of people. (Very small: less than .000001 percent of the people available to be followed. That’s an important fact about Twitter. No one can sample more than the minutest fraction; everyone is taking droplets of the ocean.)

Last night, for a few excited minutes, I was reminded of why. Something important was happening far away, and I was able to check in, not on the reality, not on the facts, but on my tiny chosen slice of the global consciousness.

Tweets are not facts; they are not news. They are not to be trusted:

The real news will come more slowly, from brave and talented reporters working for the few great news organizations still able to afford them—such as Kareem Fahim (in Tripoli yesterday) and David D. Kirkpatrick (in Zintan) for the New York Times. Yet, considering what passes for news on cable TV these days, it’s not totally silly to speak of getting one’s news from Twitter:

Some of the people I follow (my followees? my leaders?) are friends and acquaintances; some are just people I admire. At least two are imposters: one (Samuel Pepys) entirely faithful to the original; the other, not so much:

The last time I relied this much on my Twitter feed was when the Murdochs pere & fils were testifying before Parliament. On such occasions one feels connected to others who care. I feel like Stephen Fry (except I don’t care about the football):

In olden times I might have turned on the TV. Not now.

Others are watching so I don’t have to.

Andy Borowitz fires away at the pace of a Gatling gun.

But there are no bright lines between journalists and jokesters.

This is a participatory universe. History is made in real time. A surprising amount of feeling can be compressed into an epigraph of no more than 140 characters.

Not the end of the story, for sure. But now I can go to bed.


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  1. Peter Gleick says

    Nice. Very nice.
    By the way, I’m glad you’re not on crack, but when you’re waiting to get into a movie, are you “on line” or “in line?”

  2. rebecca reynolds says

    “…not on the reality, not on the facts, but on my tiny chosen slice of the global consciousness.” Hmmm, that’s exactly why I’m “on Twitter.” Who I follow is more important to me than who follows. Don’t get me wrong: I welcome followers. But I am intrigued by the global hum on Twitter, the pulse of minds sharing. The more broadly I follow (and there are always discoveries awaiting me for who to follow next), the more expanded my tiny slice becomes. Cheers.

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