My online world is composed of sub-worlds—primarily the universes of Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Instagram, and Tumblr. Twitter is my favorite of these worlds, and the most carefully and heavily curated of all of them. For the past few years, I’ve followed less than 100 accounts, and my Following list is ever-changing, week to week—a flow of information, ideas, and chatter that mirrors my interests. Indeed, I could be less rigid about it all, follow more handles, and use Twitter lists to filter my feed. But I don’t want to.
And that’s the wonderful but also odd and fascinating thing about Twitter, or really anything else on my Internet: I am the creator of this world.
On Twitter, I talk to friends, and also strangers who have become friends, as well as strangers who remain strangers—avatars kept at a distance because, well, that’s how the Internet works. I use Twitter less as a social space and more as a network built on ideas, but there’s a stream within Twitter, my Favorites, that I use in a specific way. While liking on Facebook, Instagram, and WordPress; favoriting on YouTube and Flickr; and clicking the ♥ on Tumblr are generally actions for someone else, favoriting tweets is a different process. I compile and save juicy, intriguing mental bits primarily from people I don’t know, and personas whose identities are a mystery:
Admitting you have a problem is the first step to successfully ignoring it.
— The Bosha (@TheBosha) March 4, 2012
Whew! Another long day in LA of pretending to be happy for other people's success.
— Damien Fahey (@DamienFahey) May 15, 2012
Do pinterest users' menstrual cycles synchronize?
— Christopher McMahon (@dreamersawake) May 13, 2012
We all have different reasons for favoriting a tweet. It may be practical (saving a link to an article to read later), or swift and silent acknowledgement: you have nothing left to say to someone, but still want to nod.
For me, favoriting tweets is less about someone else and more about me. I don’t view this list of favorites as a stagnant archive or Twitter backwater, but rather an active, evolving place that reveals my headspace. While some tweets I favorite are clear, complete thoughts, I notice most favorited tweets are fragmented and ambiguous, and I wonder if the people who write these tweets ponder why I favorited them, especially inside jokes and ones not meant to be understood. But that’s the beauty of it: I sift through these mental bits, interpreting and appropriating them as I please. Plucking from this mind and that one, creating meaning and context, compiling a public list that only makes sense to me.
But as I peruse these favorited tweets, I notice many are negative, even contemptuous. And I wonder: Am I really the mean-spirited, pessimistic person reflected in these tweets? Where are the tweets about rainbows and unicorns, about love and hope, about the good in this world?
I *am* drawn to positive tweets, too:
Love is like a butterfly. It goes where it pleases and it pleases where it goes.
— Moses Hawk (@MosesHawk) April 16, 2012
Love is when you don’t want to go to sleep because reality is better than a dream.
— Paul (@forces2) May 17, 2012
But a fair amount of my favorites are cynical or arrogant in tone, and ultimately depressing: bursts of bleakness, reminders of how harsh this world is. I’m not quite sure what this says about me, or the universe I have created by enmeshing the ideas, hopes, and flaws of others. Curating these tweets into one stream also feels like I’m molding a single being—each click of my mouse a divine action, a step further in shaping an übermind.
And this is why I have grown to love Twitter. In the beginning I ★ed tweets, simply because I liked them, but the process has evolved into something personal, meaningful, and telling of something bigger—how I see the world, how I want it to be, what I accept about myself. I identify with a stranger’s struggle, I accept his or her flaws, and in turn I embrace my own.
In a way, my favorited tweets reveal my own ups and downs and struggle to be a” better” person, whatever that may be: a list that somehow captures all of my successes and imperfections—a record of fleeting moments of empathy, of what it means to be human in a big, impersonal world.