"@siriusjay is great on the stern show. J kaplan, master under the bus thrower, we speak ur name" - @scarylawyerguy's 1st tweet, 8-19-10
And with those rather ignominious words, my life on Twitter was born. I joined Twitter on a lark, as a way to help pass time in the Cold War setting that was my marital home in that weird interregnum between separation and my wife moving out. My "social media" footprint until then was practically nonexistent. I had no Facebook account (I do now, but rarely use it and never post information) and understood what Twitter was in the most general of ways, but I quickly learned that the genius and difficulty of the interface is the blank screen that stares at you - what do YOU want to say, what do YOU want to put out into the world.
"Fucking dinner w/my family is like some sort of bar scene from jedi" 10-9-10
"5 articles from todays NYT - both stories on Mercury cars, Dodge mansion in NYC, ballerinas in black swan, 62 year old female ref" 11-28-10
My early tweets were some combination of random pinging of celebrities and reporters, casual observations and clumsy attempts at humor, cheekiness and a grasping for how to get people to follow me. I quickly discovered that translating the experiential into the bloodstream of Twitter in real time was essential. I also remember searching for a signature, something that the few people that did follow me would associate with my feed. As a religious reader of the Sunday New York Times I started tweeting information about interesting articles from the various sections of the paper, but without posting links, I am guessing there was little point to the references. Live and learn.
"CNN - addressing the world- VP stepping down? AfPak? Has to be serious ... A little freaked out ..." 5-1-11
The night we "got Bin Laden" was when I truly came to appreciate the power of Twitter. Out-of-nowhere tweets from news organizations about a late Sunday night Presidential address from the White House left many in my timeline (and me) puzzled at what President Obama was going to tell us, but it was obviously REALLY important. As it turned out, the news of Bin Laden's killing broke on Twitter a good 15 minutes before any of the news networks went public with the information, affirming for me the value of Twitter as a real-time reporting mechanism.
"I'm secretly happy not to be spending thanksgiving w/my family .. oops, I thought this was @postsecret" 11-24-11
Even as I was languishing with 100 or so followers, I tweeted my little heart out. This bon mot got about 20 (?) retweets and was my first brush with the Twitterverse finding my little corner of it and reairing my thoughts out into the ether.
"I don't get into too many Twitter-scrapes, but @amaeryllis blocked me b/c I had the temerity to suggest she do some pro bono work in Newark." 6-17-12
Nearly 2 years into my Twitter life, I had become more fluent with the interface, the language of the platform and my own voice. I had begun tweeting more about politics, something I am passionate about, but also started finding random people out in the world with whom I would communicate with from time to time. Lawyers being a verbose lot, it was unsurprising that many found their way into my timeline, and @amaeryllis (who I still encourage people to follow!), an attorney in New York City with a strong and witty voice, is someone I began to follow and, from time to time, respond to. I observed how she and others with larger followings than me tweeted, what they said, how they shared things and tried, in my way, to emulate them. Then I ran afoul of @amaeryllis and got blocked. While I thought the punishment unfit for the crime, it was an awakening for me that I began to see from the other side of the equation as I started blocking people for being inflammatory. My general rule? Disagreement is fine. Personal attacks are not. The latter gets you blocked. Sorry, @amaeryllis!
"My prediction for @MittRomney running mate: http://t.co/WiD9XHMF","http://scarylawyerguy.blogspot.com/2012/07/veepstakes.html" 7/29/12
This was my "humblebrag" moment of accurately predicting who Mitt Romney would select as his running mate (a few months later, I would narrowly miss the electoral vote count in the Obama/Romney race by a whole 1 electoral vote.) But more so, 2012 was also the time where I found my Twitter home, sitting around the collective interactive living room with other obsessive political junkies as hours of The Rachel Maddow Show, Up With Chris Hayes, and The Ed Show flowed across my television screen. When truly global events happened like the Olympics or the Presidential debates, it seemed like the whole world was on Twitter, riffing on everything from outfits in the Opening Ceremonies in London to whether or not Romney brought a tip sheet with him to Denver.
“The President assured me on the phone that we’d get his immediate personal attention.” - Chris Christie #Sandy 10/29/12
Speaking of communal experiences, unlike the Bin Laden raid, which was a story that came out of nowhere and was over quickly, I had the good fortune to make it through Hurricane Sandy largely unscathed (never lost power) and monitored the storm making landfall in real time on Twitter and television as people in New York posted photographs of walls of water flooding tunnels, coming over piers and submerging streets. It was eerie and surreal. NYC had essentially been shut off from the rest of the world (all bridges and tunnels were closed) and the TV coverage focused on a swath of destruction that eradicated entire sections of the New Jersey shore. The days that followed were largely snark free in my TL, as people surveyed damage, gathered with loved ones and expressed their gratitude for the generosity of their neighbors. It was a reminder of how communities, be they in real life or virtual, come together in a time of need.
"She had me at 'I do my grocery shopping at 7 o'clock Sunday morning to avoid the crowd.' #goodfirstdate" - 4/22/13
After immersing myself deeply in politics throughout 2012, my Twitter focus started to shift. In large part it stemmed from disillusionment with my view that Democrats' hard fought victory in 2012 was squandered in end of the year compromises that looked embarrassingly favorable to a party that had its ass handed to them and in part from exhaustion over the he said/she said Kabuki dance that political chat shows typically engage in simply to draw viewers with a script every bit as planned out as WWE wrestling matches. And so I started tweeting more about my life. Doing so has allowed me to share parts of myself I don't ordinarily get to do in my "real life" but provides a cloak of anonymity that allows me to vent about things I can't during the course of my day. I also think it has humanized me in important ways as someone who does something other than go off on political harangues.
So, after 3 years, what has Twitter taught me? The thing I love most about Twitter is its exposure of the full range of the human condition. Sure, people embellish, couch, and opt to minimize or highlight things for effect, but the struggles we all grapple with, the tough ones of wonky familial or romantic relationships, or the mundanities of Dilbert-esque office politics resonate because they are familiar and communal. People expose personal details, share intimate moments and express their hopes and fears in ways that can be uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. Yes, Twitter can be ugly, bigoted and prejudiced but …
Twitter is also entirely self-guided. You can tweet (or not), choose who you let into your world (or allow total access), block those who bother you and follow and unfollow with a click of the mouse. The lingua franca of Twitter is also infectious and evolving. Personally, I will slip #willywonkafont into a tweet anytime I can ("wait.stop.dont. #willywonkafont RT @legal_mistress I own 53 pairs of just 5 inch heels & i still can't stop buying more .. need intervention" - 4/13/13) but other conversational totems, the "cc" on a retweet to a favored follower or someone you follow, the hashtags associated with TV shows or ones that go viral, the oneupsmanship of overlaying a clever quip on top of someone else's tweet are great fun. And that is what any social media platform should be - fun. I *really* try not to mix it up with people who disagree with my politics (I won't lie and say it has never happened) and if people say things I find offensive, I block them. I also try not to take myself or my tweets too seriously (again, I won't lie and say I have never gotten a little chesty at something someone has said).
When people new to Twitter ask me for advice, I encourage them to do a couple of things: (1) follow a lot of people, if for no other reason than you are probably a person with a lot of interests - some Tweeters only tweet about one specific thing, or mainly about one thing that you really like or are passionate about, but there are a lot of other interesting people in the Twitterverse that are worth checking out; (2) don't base who you follow on how many others follow that person. Some of my favorite follows have < 500 followers, but are every bit as insightful, funny, and clever as people with thousands and thousands of followers; (3) many public figures use their Twitter accounts strictly to promote themselves - don't follow; and (4) do not be a slave to Twitter or your follower count. Whether 1 person or 1 million follows you, be your authentic self, tweet about what you want to and enjoy.
And for those of us who do not have someone to share the observation that the lint trap in our dryer looks like Amy Winehouse's beehive (which I did, on 2/26/13 - "Lint trap in the dryer bears a striking resemblance to Amy Winehouse's beehive. #bachelorlife), Twitter is an invaluable outlet for our random thoughts every day. I'm looking forward to many tweets to come.