A New Space

I feel I was lucky enough to go through rise of social media and experience many positives along the way. As a white educated male I’ve not had to endure any of the negatives that so many do. When I step away and think that experience can’t be shared by the 50% of the population because they’re female, there’s some something not right here. For people coming into social media in the last three to four years, it must have been a hell of a ride, and I don’t think they would have got any of the same opportunities that I got. When the networks weren’t so full of noise, when they weren’t so full of corporate ambition they really could connect and reconnect people.

I spent a year in Sweden on a student exchange and had lost contact with most of my friends there, but through Facebook was able to reconnect with many of them and watch their lives over the last decade or so. I was able to bridge the tyranny of distance and language and complicated technology to stay in touch. I knew I couldn’t be part of their lives, but there is something to be said about being able to keep track of what’s been happening in our lives without the luxury of proximity because I genuinely care about those friends.

Twitter was initially a way to vent and to put stuff out there. It was very much a tool of self expression. But it quickly developed into a way of connecting to other people. Twitter has became an important network that now spans the globe. It’s been built up virtually over time but opportunities have come along to meet people and connect face-to-face and there’s something magical about meeting someone you’ve known for so long online. Like running into Alan Levine in the main street in Davidson, a stroll through the Stanford grounds with Laura Gogia, a meal with the irrepressible Jim Groom or finally getting to meet Kate Bowles in California rather than somewhere closer to home. Working in this industry with my skill set was initially quite isolating. Where I am in the world tends to be far away from where their action is, let alone where I am in relation to the rest of the world. If Australia is the the arse end of world, then I’m somewhere near the arse end of that. But Twitter reduced that distance down to zero. Twitter allow me to communicate with other like minded people and to find the others as Timothy Leary said. What was refreshing was that there were out there people that thought like I did, or thought differently to me and challenged my ideas and my beliefs.

I feel bad that many people didn’t get to have those kinds of experiences. They didn’t get to see that side of social media, what they got was the shitty commercial bit, the trolling and the hate. They didn’t get to experience those kinds of connections, the kinds that can change your life.

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One thought on “A New Space

  1. That was a memorable day in Davidson, Tim. I’ve had so many of these kinds of experiences that some blur together. And yes, your trip was enabled by your employer. Mine was paid for out of pocket. Is that still privilege? Maybe.

    But I might push back that the real connective experiences are cemented in person. They are built upon layers and layers of personal interaction in the so-called wretched spaces of Twitter, but also in the less trendy places of email, skype, blog comments WhatsApp chats, real postcards. I go back often to what Clive Thompson wrote about “Twitter creating a Sixth Sense” or as he called it “social proprioception” https://www.wired.com/2007/06/st-thompson-4/

    It’s not limited by the platform, it’s what people do there. We do and should transcend platforms. I remember this happening way before Twitter, my first trip to Australia in 2000 was pretty much stitched together by connections fostered in email lists, web sites, and email itself.

    I reject the global assertion that “Twitter is Bad” — who has the breadth to see all of the experiences in there to come to that conclusion? People are engaging in making salient exemplars of their own experiences https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exemplification_theory as I might do if I judged everyone’s twitters experience by my own (It’s pretty good).

    Bad things, really bad things happen in twitter. They also happen in our cities, in the “big town” closest to me, of 14,000 people, where drugs, murder, domestic violence are regular news items. Does that make the entire place “bad”?

    What makes the difference are the small scale relationships that happen when we speak to each other as people, not as yelling into a well. And I firmly believe these can happen in many places, not just on a street in North Carolina.

    Sorry, I used your comments space to write a blog post.

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