Friday, August 6, 2010

Tweet, Tweet-Tweet, Tweet-Tweet

Yes, I worked at Disneyland back in the day and listened to the Enchanted Tiki Room soundtrack one too many times. (My restaurant, Plaza Pavilion, was housed with the Tiki Room ride and the Tiki Terrace, a Polynesian-themed restaurant that was well-known among Disney "cast members" for only hiring Asian employees).

In today's terms, "tweeting" is a technological innovation that one (apparently) must participate in to be a valid member of society. Or at least a smart marketer and savvy solopreneur.

Buzz Bissinger, once a Twitter skeptic, has become an enthusiastic convert, according to The New York Times.

I feel more like the Times' Peggy Orenstein, who wrote an insightful column in last Sunday's magazine. It's worth a read, but here's a bit that particularly resonated with me:

The expansion of our digital universe — Second Life, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter — has shifted not only how we spend our time but also how we construct identity. For her coming book, “Alone Together,” Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T., interviewed more than 400 children and parents about their use of social media and cellphones. Among young people especially she found that the self was increasingly becoming externally manufactured rather than internally developed: a series of profiles to be sculptured and refined in response to public opinion. “On Twitter or Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are,” she explained. “But because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become a performance. Your psychology becomes a performance.”

It's that blurring between the public and the private - that sense of being "on stage" at any given moment during the day - that gives me pause and makes me a reluctant technology adopter.

No doubt one day I will tweet like the birdies tweet, several times a day. But for now, I'm content to stay quiet.


  1. Wow. That's an interesting perspective. I can't help but wonder whether the issue is that folks are developing less of themselves or that we're finally noticing that folks never have been that introspective, to begin with.

  2. Funny, in Shakespeare's day, intellectuals worried about the exact same thing (Peggy Orenstein could have copied her concerns nearly verbatim...). Subjectivity (the construction of the idea of "selfhood" and identity) was a new concept, as folks began to try on the mantle of individuality, rather than inherited roles.

    And, yet, Twitter was a mere glimmer on the horizon more than 400 years hence. The performative nature of the self is not a new anxiety; in fact, I would say we "perform" our various selves daily, if not hourly, with or without social networks greasing the wheels.

  3. It's an interesting dilemma, Anne. I'm likely more introspective (and certainly more introverted) than most.

    Good point, Linda, I didn't know that the issue went so far back (I would've pegged it to Freud/Jung maybe). Perhaps what is new is the easy availability of multiple platforms to us ordinary folks - those not on a literal stage every night.

    Years ago, one met a standard cast of people in the course of a day (at work, at the market) and maybe the mask came down with them due to familiarity?

  4. I so agree! I don't tweet, but I do FB and I see posts by friends who are going thru very hard times, posting like they are living it up. I understand not wanting to put your strain all over the internet, but I don't think pretending is especially healthy.

  5. We all want to put the best face on everything, don't we Julie Marie?

    At least, those of us raised in a certain way do. I have relatives whose entire persona is in the "poor me, pity-pity me" vein and they don't have a problem putting a sad face out for the world to see.

    However, that was anathema in my household, where "keep your chin up" and "stiff upper lip" were constant reminders that we didn't show defeat or depression.

  6. I tend to think of it as Linda does; it's a new thing and we're adapting to it until the next new thing comes along. In the long run, though, I don't think Twitter is going to change human nature.

  7. indeed - if you don't admit it, then it isn't so ;) at least that's how it was in my home.

  8. Speaking of public vs private--I have developed a terrible addiction to the Real Housewives of New Jersey--I'd love it if you'd weigh in on the brain-popping $11 million in debt of the Giudice couple (and yet they still set sail off to Italy--)

  9. Petrea, I guess in some ways every innovation changes all of us - at least a little. What I wonder is whether Twitter will evolve to become an accepted part of everyone's life, or will fade and eventually become one of those amusing fads that are mentioned in passing in history and culture textbooks.

    Julie, I recently read Alice Munro's View From Castle Rock about her Scottish immigrant family and I recognized so much of their mindset (my mother's family is Scots-Irish). One of the things that resonated is that they were taught "not to draw attention to themselves." That is SO familiar from my upbringing - and so antithetical to the modern mindset!

    Desiree, I'm sorry to hear of your addiction! I am all too vulnerable to such weaknesses, which is why I try not to watch even a moment of those episodes for fear that I'll be sucked in for the rest of the season. Getting into extreme debt is hard for me to comprehend as I seem to have a genetic allergy to debt. I will write more about it, as it's something I have thought about a lot.

  10. I wonder that, too, Karen. Time will tell.

    I look forward to your meditations on debt. We do everything we can to stay out of it. But damn, I'd love a trip to Italy.

  11. What a fascinating dialogue.

    When I was blogging daily on cancerbanter, readers constantly praised my honesty. But, of course, I didn't share everything. Some things I shared with a small circle, and other things I stashed into a file that only I could access. But I don't think that made me any less authentic.

  12. What's interesting about Twitter and other social media tools is that now someone who is painfully shy can also be outgoing and gregarious—online.

  13. Susan, you were amazingly transparent during that time. I remember how brave it seemed to me. I'm sure there were things that you considered "too much information," but what you did share was far beyond what many people would do!

    Paula, you're so right. I think the most gregarious online personas are probably the shyest and most reserved IRL (in real life). ;-)