Ludere verbis

As you may have noticed, I’m not a regular blogger. I don’t blog about how wonderful the stew I had last night was, and how the cow that provided the meat didn’t exactly die of hunger. I also don’t blog about the fact that I’m wearing my belt in the same hole as 45 kilogram ago. Or my never-ending quest for the perfect booger…

What I’m really trying to say is that I will only consider blogging about something that is or has been a significant episode in my life. Things like being admitted to a mental institution. Twice. Or part of the tale of my being admitted to a mental institution. The only real diatribe coming from my keyboard was about the proliferation of “significant days”.

But enough of that. I’m not here to bore you with the insignificance of my measly contribution to the electronic bullshit of today. This evening I want to write about the effect that social media has had in my life the past few years. I got my Facebook account in 2007 (I might be wrong). I got a Twitter account early in 2012, but only became active towards the end of 2013. The main reason I (along with most people at the time) joined Facebook was to keep in touch with family, old school friends, in some cases even teachers you had twenty years ago. And let’s not forget those stupid blasted games for which all Facebookers get invitations more often than Taylor Swift gets new boyfriends.

The reason why most people got Twitter was to follow the pithy contributions (140 characters max) that celebrities, opinion makers and random interweb trolls spew forth, only to realise that Twitter has more “genuine” people (the Yiddish concept of “mensch”) than Facebook.

On Facebook, where you are under the scrutiny of friends and family, the realistic expectation you have of themis that these people would support you through the bad times and share in your happiness. There are a myriad options to choose from regarding saying what your favourite books, TV shows, movies, authors, relationship status are. You can also say what qualifications you have, your employment history, who are members of your family, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. You also control who sees what, and if you don’t want to share any of this, you really don’t have to. Twitter, on the other hand, gives you almost no options. You can write a short biography (160 characters max), share where you live, what your personal or favourite website is (of which you may only share one). Your privacy options are two: share everything with the entire interweb, or only those followers you approve. Two totally different approaches.

The biggest problem I have encountered on Facebook is that you are under the intense scrutiny of your extended family, the dominee, and Mevrou Dominee. If you’ve had a bad day and dare to utter anything not consistent with the construct they have formed about you, there is swift reaction. “How dare you say something like that.” “You should be ashamed of sharing that post!” That’s not the way your parents raised you!” Then there are the fierce shouting matches about insignificant matters. And as there is no real limit on the amount of characters or words you may use, people throw everyting, including the kitchen sink, the “antique” wardrobe and the grand piano, into the fray. And if that doesn’t work, the multiple punctuation (“!!!!!” “?????” and the “!?!?!?”). are deployed. If all else fails, the Tsar Bomba of the interweb explodes: the dreaded CAPS LOCK!!!???!!!??? And stumbling along like Sancho Panza after Don Quixote, ar te people wu typ lyk dis, Or LiKe ThIs, punctuated by “lolz” (is that a laugh that goes to sleep hallway through?)There are of course redeeming features, like groups of people that share the same beliefs you do, groups with an educational purposes, alumni group, and hence so forth. However, the majority of interactions are those in which you are pushed into a box inside another box locked inside a vault more secure than a Swiss or Bahamian bank account.

Twitter is another brand of weirdness altogether. The character limit (140 characters) on each post forces you to properly think about what you are trying to say, and say it as simply as is humanly possible. Of course there rants, and  flaming arguments, but it very difficult for an argument to be sustained within the allowed in the limits. And I am very thankful that only one of the more than five hundred people I follow types like a sixteen years old stoner chick who has just been kissed the first time.

And what about the idea of “mensch”? It’s simple really. A while ago I was in hospital because I some kind of overreaction the meds the neurologist had prescriber earlier that week. Of all the people with whom I am friends with on Facebook, less than ten came to visit me in hospital. Whereas three people I know only through Twitter, which I had only met a few weeks prior, came all the way from Hartebeespoort to visit me in hospital.

Strange, isn’t it, that people who are virtually strangers show more compassion than people who’ve known you longer than you can remember. I beseech you to remember that are my experience of social media. Yours will differ, that I can guaranty.

Best wishes from house to house.

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