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In Search of Specificity on Twitter After a Nine-Month Hiatus

By Gabrielle Pearson

For nine months, I attempted pressing reset on my resolve for social interaction online. When I unable to push my business any further without it, I returned not only to Instagram, but Twitter and Facebook. Both Twitter and Facebook required a true reset of my account; there was nothing to resume or refresh. I had to start from scratch. After this amount of time, Twitter is by far the hardest environment to recreate. Informally known as the “hate app,” our controversial little birdhouse is where the… let’s say “truest” essences of users are magnified.

It isn’t all bad, of course. It just is not formulated to focus purely on the positive or appealing. It’s where we go to get personal, get real, and get used to making it feel like a soundbite amongst so many identically formatted blurbs. It feels so comfortable that we almost feel cloaked. Or maybe a more accurate descriptor is “free.”

When we started our journeys, every last one of us began chronicling our lives in play-by-play format. That’s how MySpace and Facebook trained us to understand a text post. “What are you doing?” “How are you feeling?” Twitter, however asks, “What’s happening?” In the creation phase of each tweet, the interface beckons a wider perspective and in turn suggests the attention of other users isn’t so keenly focused on the I. You’re free from introspection by design.

If every kid is thinking of their own outfit on the first day of school, it means no one is looking at your outfit. That’s what Twitter whispers into our ears before we walk into class and a twit pic of said outfit garnishes 87,000 likes with the caption “What are thooooooose? SMH” But by then it is too late to turn around and we are hooked. Even when it hurts.

This effect is also a fraction of what turned the platform into a news hub. Realtime. All the time. That was and is the key.

Leaving, then, for nine months is like missing a lifetime of thought. Shortly after returning, you’d eventually find yourself unable to reconnect with suspended accounts of those you grew to love. I never felt embarrassed following anyone that others hated. I never felt afraid I’d be persecuted for what I read. I never held my tongue. I never had a split-second thought about how my content would affect my life off of the platform.

I never shared my name.

“But by then it is too late to turn around and we are hooked. Even when it hurts.”

When I got back last month, I went searching frantically and joylessly for mutual followers of my most cherished accounts. I attempted pinpointing similar accounts by combing through buzzwords and statements I thought they would publish in their own voice. I’ll save my thoughts on the the superior aspects of Twitter compared to other social platforms. For now, I will simply say the search tool is a giant in this space.

I found that long-lost account I pined for. It had been suspended with three others popping up soon-after. All ending in suspension. I should let you know an actual tear of frustration coated my eyeball and I was intent on keeping it from falling. Seriously, though! I had spent time hunting down accounts in a stage of my Twitter infancy that was supposed to suggest endless possibilities. So what drove me to this place?

Specificity drove me here and sped off with my belongings still in the car. Specificity of content I found on my feed and of the ones I followed.

What I found appalling, they’d already expressed distaste in. What I found inspiring, they’d already presented a twelve-tweet how-to guide for. Subjects that had me in stitches, I found gif reaction tweets for on their feed.

We have a difficult time making friends of others with whom we agree on nearly everything. It would be difficult finding them, quite strange and uncomfortable wanting to make them our friends based solely on that, even unlikely that they’ll automatically want to make those friendships just as much. I argue it should be difficult not only because it’s unnatural, but also because it can be dangerous seeing our reflection and wanting it to surround us in every way.

Twitter, however, is the exception. Some of us bend to the will of our preferences. The environment is toxic because we like it that way.

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