Every time I read a post that says, “Goodnight tweeps. See you in the morning,” I wince. It seems unspeakably sad to think that people who are strangers, connected by 140 characters of communication, think it creates a family connection, and feel obligated to tell all those connections goodnight, to assure them they will be back the next day.
What would happen if they weren’t back the next day? Would anyone notice? If you follow 10,000 people—or even a fraction of that amount— and have as many follow you, how long does it take you to check up on them all in the morning? And is that really how you start your day–by seeing who checks in and who doesn’t?
Do the people who sign off so tenderly do the same for the people they share a house with? Or do they use Twitter (or Facebook) because they are lonely? And if we can have a Second Life can we also have a pretend family?
There is no judgment here, just curiosity. When I was a teenager, we listened to the radio—to our favorite DJs, and to the songs they played on dedication hour. It was a community of strangers, much like Twitter, but it was run by one personality day after day, and the main purpose was to listen to popular music. We listened for dedications we had made and those that mentioned friends we saw every day at school.
The people on Twitter don’t know their thousands of contacts personally, so isn’t the connection an imaginary one? Like the imaginary friend my son had when he was five years old?
It’s a new meaning for social networking. It’s a new definition for social. And perhaps its connected with our willingness to give up privacy for security.
Someone will point out that blog posts are no different, but I think they are. (Of course I think they are, I’m writing them.) But while I’ve gotten to know many of the people who leave comments, there are a handful of regular posters, and I don’t think they are my family. If no one read the blog, I’d still write it. I write it for writing practice, to think things through, to settle my logic.
But it’s an interesting thought: as we get drawn closer to strangers we will never meet, we still feel a huge need for connection in the most personal way.