This past Sunday night, both my twitter accounts (the one in my name and one I’d set up for a branded content blog I write occasionally) were hacked. After apologizing on Facebook and Linkedin, I changed my passwords so the accounts couldn’t continue to be used. Then, to avoid having to deal with this sort of thing again, I deactivated both streams. When I mentioned what I had done, there were those who acted like I had just lost a pet.
“No Twitter feed,” they cried out, “How will you know what’s going on? How will you be part of the conversation? Alas…”
I think I’ll cope.
Beyond the moderate embarrassment of the hack job, it wasn’t a big deal for me. I never really “got” Twitter anyway. For me to use it properly, it would need to be on my Blackberry and then I’d be one of those people walking down the street peering into their phone as if it were broadcasting secrets from beyond. The ones who walk right into me if I don’t zig and zag like I have an inner ear issue. I don’t care much for those people—and I feel bad that they’re missing all the cool things I see while I’m watching where I’m going. Street musicians. Cute dogs. That great canvas bag in the window at Mags and Fags. (Yes, I can find a way to buy a handbag pretty much anywhere.)
Twitter has always felt, to me, like a tool of the thoroughly egomaniacal or an aid for would-be stalkers. Too, a platform for those who aren’t deep thinkers because, as a writer, I know few serious ideas can be expressed in 140 characters.
Perhaps even more quizzical for me is the use of the “check in” feature on Facebook or social media sites like FourSquare. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the knowledge that you’re at the airport or at the Orange Julius kiosk at the mall—unless of course I am meeting with you immediately after. In that case, I’d like a small Original, thank you. Aside from the obvious security issues involved (as in “whole family waiting at airport for three week vacation—which could easily translate into “home full of electronics and nice jewelry yours for the taking”), the whole point of being a grown-up to that you don’t have to let people know where you are or what you plan on doing once you get there. You are a free agent. The mistress or master of your own destiny. You’re a big kid now. You can go where you want and not explain your whereabouts to anyone. So why would you?
Granted, there are some courtesy exceptions. If I’m going to be late for work, I let people know. I’ll call if I won’t be home for dinner. But I’m always a little reticent about specifics. The idea of “checking in” felt terribly confining even as a child. My parents were hardly the helicopter type, but they did feel entitled to at least a phone call if I was staying over at a friend’s house. At 17, I declared my independence, rationalizing that since I’d be “on tour” for a good part of the summer, and more than four hours away at school soon after, it was time. Oddly enough, they were fine with that. They figured they’d done a good job and preferred wings to anchors themselves. The following spring, they supported my desire to attend a prom not only in another city, but technically in another country, and then went so far as to pay for a room at the local Howard Johnson’s so that I didn’t have to sleep in the same house as my date’s brother’s pet snake. A 17-year old girl in a strapless dress, with a date and a hotel room—most parents got the bends just reading this line. But they trusted me and moreover, they trusted my date, a sweet, wonderful guy who genuinely respected me enough to not take undue advantage of the situation.
In “Instinct,” a longish short story I wrote a few years ago, which won an award I’d never heard of until then, my narrator is a member of a turn-off society, an illegal underground movement of individuals who turn off and tune out of the information flow. Since the mobile device had not yet been crowned the de facto means of receiving information, I had propped the tale with Orwellian banks of monitors. If that group ever gets it together in real life, I may sign up. I’m getting so weary of social media that some days I just want it all to go away. I’m using Facebook less and less, mostly just to share the odd article and promote this blog. Linkedin seems a career necessity, but I do little there other than take note of the great number of anonymous users viewing my profile. Twitter was a wash; if the site and some my “followers” (speaking of Orwellian…) hadn’t told me, I would have never known the account was compromised. Google+ seems like a much more open, do your own thing kind of place (and so far, no one’s cows have gone missing) but you can still hear the crickets. It seems quite complicated, but luckily I have a friend who’s really into Google and helping me navigate. Incidentally, he’s that former prom date, still a sweet and wonderful guy who now respects me enough not to make me feel stupid when I ask technical questions.
I haven’t given up my seat in the virtual global community quite yet, but sometimes I need a breather. So unless you’re in danger and need my help or some bail money, I don’t want to know where you’re going. By the same token, you don’t need to know where I am. And I’m betting my (supposedly frail writer’s) ego can stand up to not having followers, the Twitter kind or otherwise.