No, this post is not about Elastica stealing the opening riff of Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba” from Pink Flag. I’ve already made my peace with that.
This is about social connection. I was just thinking about this earlier this morning…I’ve had this nagging feeling for ages that there was an actual reason behind my wasting so much time refreshing my Twitter feed. The obvious answer is that I like staying in touch with all my friends, especially now that they’re all on the east coast and I’m on the opposite side of the country. But there’s got to be more than that. I’m usually on top of my stupid occasional timewasting addictions — playing with my mp3 collection, watching YouTube videos, looking up what’s playing on the station I’m currently listening to — and I know that my threshold is about fifteen to twenty minutes before I automatically start guilting myself into getting some actual work done.
But what is it with Twitter that I keep wanting to update the feed so frequently?
I think I figured it out, and I wrote it down in my personal journal: Twitter today is lunch period back in high school.
It’s definitely got to do with staying in touch with my friends back east, there’s no denying that. A lot of these friends are connected to my circle of friends from my junior year in high school, either directly or indirectly. And back then, back when I was a spotty nerd weirdo wearing Cure and PiL tee shirts and having given up on trying to fit in with the popular cliques, the lunch period was the primary time I could hang out with said friends when we were in school. I really looked forward to hanging with them, even if it was just for twenty minutes a day.
Sure, we’d cross paths in the hallway, or meet up during a study hall. The occasional after-school get together and the weekend trips down to Amherst were a bonus. Back then we didn’t have the instant gratification of social media on the internet — hell, my family didn’t have DSL until 2000 or so — so we made do with the moments we were given.
We never quite lost touch in those pre-social media days, even when we were no longer nearby and some of us were too broke to stay with AOL, let alone make a phone call. We emailed, even snail-mailed each other occasionally, and I would even make a few roadtrips out their way on my vacations.
Live Journal changed that, when I reconnected with a large number of them on a social media level. Then, a few years later, Twitter and Facebook made the contact more immediate, and it’s been like that ever since.
This social evolution took so many slow and deliberate steps that it’s just like anything else I do over a long period of time. I don’t always notice the subtle changes and the current level I’m at. So it’s not as if I’m stalking all my friends or have no IRL of my own…we’ve just been connected at a consistent level for so long, I don’t always notice why I keep refreshing the feed. Passive addiction.
This lends itself to the ‘stupid timewasting addictions’ I spoke of earlier…I get into a habit of doing certain things that I don’t immediately notice if I’m overdoing them. This is why I’ll also speak of ‘unplugging’, where I’ll just back away cold turkey for a while. It’s not always due to the occasionally frustrating online conversations that pop up, or what have you; it’s just that it’s the only way I know that I’ll break those addictions and reset my life. Plus, it’ll give me more free time for contemplation and working on the projects I need to work on.
I do find it interesting how, in this age of instant and continuous connection, the lesson we should really take out of it is moderation.