Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Learning to Hate Twitter Less

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Learning to Hate Twitter Less

Article excerpt

I used to hate Twitter.

Actually, I still hate Twitter. But I don't hate Twitter the way people who never use it do, like Jonathan Franzen, frowning contemptuously at "the ultimate irresponsible medium." As Margaret Atwood quipped, "How would he know? Is he peeking?"

My objection isn't the usual "You can't possibly hope to say anything sensible in 140 characters." The trouble isn't the character limit. Most people have difficulty saying anything sensible in the first place. The limitations of the medium deserve only so much blame.

No, I hate Twitter the way you can only hate something you first loved, like a trendy haircut or your spouse. It's how Anakin Skywalker must have felt when he was being buckled into that Darth Vader suit. "Well," he surely said to himself, "I'm going to be stuck in this thing for the rest of my life. I can decide it's kind of cool, or I can be miserable forever."

Twitter lets us do things we couldn't do before. It's great for tracking breaking news, for watching TV with crowds of strangers and for shouting jokes from the back of the classroom. It's great for giving extremely public compliments. We used to have to write letters and emails to be ignored by celebrities; on Twitter, you can be ignored in real time.

Most of modern life is defined by the creeping fear that everyone else is hanging out without you, having a better time. And nowhere is that brought to life better than on Twitter, where you can watch your friends gleefully pile into canoes of jokes you missed.

The Wait But Why website recently noted that millennials are more expert at unhappiness than any previous generation because, while our predecessors also spent their 20s in an unfulfilled daze, they at least were spared the requirement of posting daily cheery updates about it. Sure, our ancestors died of plague, consumption and dysentery, but they never had to read notices from their friends that JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT JUST KISSED MY HAND AND IT'S ALL FOR THE BEST IN THIS BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS.

Before Twitter, you could suspect that other people had said everything that was worth saying faster and better than you. …

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