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Am I too old for Twitter? Or just too unsociable?
Slarek | 20 February 2013

A confession. I'm crap at Twitter. I'm so crap that the previous statement doesn't make that much grammatical sense. The problem is simple – try as I might, I don't seem to be able get it.

Let's be clear, Cine Outsider has had a Twitter feed for some time now, back since before the optimistic acronym 'DVD' was replaced by the more generic 'Cine'. It was started at the suggestion of one of our younger writers and I'll freely admit it's proved a handy way of alerting followers to newly posted reviews and news stories. But just as I never really understood the attraction of Facebook, I'm similarly bemused by the runaway appeal of Twitter.

At first I presumed it was a generational thing. After all, most of us are fairly insecure in our youth and to be able to constantly keep tabs on your mates and believe that others might hang on your every word is clearly almost as addictive as heroin for some. I work in education and a good third of our students carry their phones in a free hand at all times, constantly ready for any news about what pot noodle a virtual friend might have just poured boiling water into. I trivialise, of course, but a few years ago when a friend first tried to get me interested in Facebook, that was the nature of the messages that were appearing on his page. In an interesting barometer of what his fellow Facebook users would respond to, when my friend's mother died he posted a message mourning her passing and saying how much he missed her, and only three of his army of virtual chums sent a sympathetic response. When he later, at my suggestion, posted a message claiming that Facebook was actually a waste of time and served no useful function, he was inundated with terse messages challenging his statement.

So am I just told old to get the appeal of Twitter? Hardly. Stephen Fry is older than me and he is one of its most vocal advocates. Michael Haneke's even older and he's an avid Twitter user. He even uses texting abbreviations in his tweets, something that usually gets right up my pedantic hooter (yeah, yeah, see below*). And as someone who spends a good part of each day enthusiastically glued to one electronic device or another and who leaps at the chance to play with previously untried equipment and software, I'm not exactly closed to new ways of doing things. No, I think it's a little more fundamental than that. I find it hard to engage with social media for the simple reason that I'm not a sociable person.

Don't get me wrong, I'm interested in what people create and love reading thoughtful and well constructed articles. I'm just not that interested in small detail of the lives of the people who write them. By logical association, I can't imagine why anyone would give a crap about my own bite-sized snippets of formless triviality. As a result, while I'm able to sit down and write a review, an article or even this blog, I become strangely self-conscious about tweeting anything other than a link to a news story or site review. Part of this stems from my discomfort at the idea of spreading my true self all over the net. I have sound reasons for this, which range from my fondness for personal privacy to the worrying stories told to me by a friend in on the Force about how easy it has become to gather information for identity theft using the information people willingly volunteer on social media sites (try not putting your actual date of birth on your Facebook page for a start). Indeed, the only reason I set up an individual Twitter feed in the first place was to be able to respond to the enjoyable political anger of one specific individual (you know who you are) without having to moderate my language on tweets that are automatically fed to the site's front page. I won't deny that this feed has proved useful. When my five-year-old MacBook died, I received some sound advice on the specifications I should look for when selecting its replacement. And as a weapon of political dissent and information flow in the face of oppression, it's proved invaluable to everyone from dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to members of the Iranian Green Movement protesting the 2009 elections. But I'm rarely engaged in such worthwhile conflict, and having set the damned feed up I now feel obliged to tweet something every now and then to justify having done so, but am never sure what to say. I've done my share of short angry rants at the government, have commented on the odd film and have even remarked on a few things that annoy me, but every time I do so I feel like one of those annoying extroverts who loudly states his opinions in a public place to people who couldn't care less what he thinks. Who am I talking to? Myself, really. So why write it down for others to read?

And there's another problem. If you do bust through that barrier of self-consciousness and start believing that somehow your words are important, it becomes all too easy to act before you think. I've written my share of ill-advised letters and emails in my time, but have almost always had the good sense to check them through before sending them, which has usually resulted in severe modifications or the letter in question ending up in the (virtual) shredder. But I've made more stupid verbal comments than I care to recall, many of which have led to unfortunate consequences, and it takes so little time to bash out and post a Twitter comment that it inevitably sits a lot closer to the rashness of spoken communication than the more considered caution that comes with letter writing. And the ease with which it enables you to broadcast your views makes it a dangerous option for an occasional hothead like me, as I recently discovered when our interview with Brandon Cronenberg was blocked by the very people who had supplied us with the clips that were the cause of the block. It had taken a great deal of blood and sweat to get that interview together and procure the clips, and I was mighty pissed off with what struck me as an absurd situation. But instead of taking the reasonable course of action I'd have once been forced into – wait until the next morning and give Momentum a call – I bashed out a complaint on Twitter. This certainly had the desired effect, but did little, I'll wager, to sweeten our relationship with the distributor.

But having taken the plunge I do feel strangely pressured to try to come to terms with my insecurities and my innate disinterest in the lives of others and try to engage with the damned thing on some level. So every now and then I'll give tweeting a try, and who knows, over time I may get better at it. Hell, I may even start to enjoy it. But even if I do I'll remain convinced, deep down, that no-one is reading a damned thing I say. After all, is anyone reading this? Thought not...

Slarek tweets occasionally and sometimes incoherently at www.twitter.com/jagd_slarek

 

* As several people were quick to point out, the Michael Haneke Twitter feed is a huge gag. I'm so crap at Twitter I didn't even realise. Well at least I know someone read this.