I, Twitter Curator
April 4, 2013 § 4 Comments
Pablo Piñero Stillmann, author of Life, Love, Happiness: A Found Essay from the Twitterverse in the March 2013 issue of Brevity, reflects on the origin of his essay and his peculiar fear of The Screen:
Every few months I have a panic attack re: The Death of Literature and/or The Death of the Book and/or The Screen Completely Taking Over Our Lives and/or You Get the Point. Even though the symptoms of these attacks are always kind of the same—anxiety, dread, pacing back and forth in my bedroom regretting a decade committed to The Obsolete, compulsive podcast-listening, etc.—my reactions/neurotic solutions to them are ever-changing.
For example, I once wrote a short story that I really liked. (This happens .0034% of the times I write a short story.) My reactions to writing this piece were, Hooray, I wrote a short story I’m proud of. Too bad short stories don’t exist anymore. I might as well have become really good at Atari. I’m a complete failure.[i] So as I took a nervous walk in the upstate New York woods, completely lost (figuratively), I called a friend and asked her to convince me that Literature was not yet dead. “Talk me down,” I told her, as I’ve told so many of those close to me before and since then. “God save you if you talk me down.”
Sometimes I respond to my fears by just lying in bed or eating a lot or both (a.k.a. feeling so, so sorry for myself). At one point I completely freaked out and decided to stop reading and writing fiction forever, a vow which lasted for almost a year. But come with me to the other end of the spectrum: sometimes I respond with an angry defiance. If I want to be A Serious Writer—I thought in the summer of 2012, during one of these waves (tsunamis) of self doubt—I must not ignore The Screen, but rather wrestle with The Screen, become one with The Screen. (Mina Loy: “[T]he Future is only dark from outside. Leap into it—and it EXPLODES with Light.”) My way of facing The Screen, instead of continuing to run from it, tears and snot covering my face, was to edit a series of found essays from the twitterverse, of which “Life, Love, Happiness” was the first.[ii]
The strangest thing I realized after spending hours scrolling through hundreds of strangers’ tweets was that Twitter has a voice— a self-centered, scared, aggressive voice that wants to come off as funny. (As I write this I feel a bit of anxiety about Twitter completely doing away with humor.) I learned while gathering the material for the piece that 72.8% of all tweets are about Justin Bieber. Also, the process of “Life, Love, Happiness” taught me that a good number of tweets are about being in love with someone or being dumped by someone or dumping someone or a friend not understanding s/he needed to dump her/his certain someone. In short, tweeters be triflin’. (I’m almost certain I’m not using that word correctly.) We’re all so horribly alone and Twitter seems to be a good escape valve for that feeling.
But don’t get me wrong— I’ve enjoyed being a Twitter voyeur. Behind all that anger, snark, humblebragging and selfies of duck faces is a deep sadness and a feeling of being adrift that I completely relate to. Even though big chunks of the twitterverse are only concerned with Unimportant Superficialities, deep down all tweeters are human and most of the time they can’t help but to let it show. The Screen, like anything, looks scary and evil from afar, but vulnerable and playful once you get it into the ring.
[i] According to my therapist, as soon as I somehow stumble into feeling good about myself, I immediately find something to bring me back down. She’s smart, my therapist.
[ii] I have a Twitter account, but it’s a secret Twitter account with a fake name and misleading tweets.