Summer ILC: Weeks 8 & 9: Social media is a strange, terrifying, and magical land

I was an 80s/90s kid, so I grew up with the Internet. I remember the dial-up sounds of connecting to America On-Line back when the Internet was nothing but chatrooms and email. I laughed at the original Hamster Dance. I loved Neopets and LiveJournal, my first exposures to massive online communities.

Somewhere in adulthood, my exploration and embrace of new online communities lessened. Moving from MySpace to Facebook was the last major bandwagon I hopped on, and I stayed there happily for years. I swore I would never join Twitter. I didn’t understand reddit (still don’t). I’m not on Instagram. I only joined Pinterest recently. Same with Twitter, and that was out of necessity for professional networking.

And I’m constantly astounded. I’d been on Twitter for a week when someone at the PNWA conference recognized me from a retweet. People I’d never heard of began following me. I’m like a newb in an MMO but there’s no FAQ page—I just have to figure everything out on my own.

“What is #PitchWars?” I wondered. “What is #MSWL? Who is Franzen and why does everyone I respect seem to hate him? What are the #HugoAwards, and who are the #SadPuppies?” I found the answers.

But I’m learning quickly that if I actually read every tweet and accompanying article, I’d never have time for anything but social media—I’d never write. Which people do I let my eyes skim past? Which articles do I bookmark for later? Which rabbit holes do I let myself fall down?

Half the people I see walking around this magical land are people I’ve never heard of, and the other half are celebrities I’ve admired for years. And they’re right there—I can reach right out and talk to them, though they probably won’t talk back.

Except sometimes they do. When The Bloggess followed me back, I just about fainted. Neil Gaiman retweets worthy causes all the time, just to boost the signal—because he can.

Across thousands of miles, we connect with family, friends, and complete strangers. We find that we are not alone. (Cue You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) debuting at #3 on the NYT bestseller list.)

If this is like an MMO, that means I get to create my avatar however I want. I’ll gain experience, buy cool armor and weapons, and make friends—all of which will help me when I am inevitably beset by trolls.

“Your generation would probably ‘livetweet’ the apocalypse” you say, and you laugh
You mean it as an insult, and I understand,
Or you don’t
because the word lies awkwardly on you tongue, stumbles as it leaves your lips, air quotes visible
You meant it as an insult, so you don’t understand, when I look into your eyes and say “Yes”
Because we would.
It would be our duty, as citizens on this earth
to document it’s end the best way we know
and if that means a second by second update
of the world going up in flames, or down in rain, or crushed under the feet of invading monsters
so be it.
It would mean a second by second update of
“I love you”
“I’m scared”
“Are you all right?”
“Stay close”
“Be brave”
It would mean a second by second update of the humanity’s connection with one another,
Proof of empathy, love, and friendship between people who may have never met in the flesh.
So don’t throw the word ‘Livetweet’ at me like a dagger, meant to tear at my ‘teenage superiority’
Because if the citizens of Pompeii, before they were consumed by fire,
had a chance to tell their friends and family throughout Rome
“I love you”
“I’m scared”
“Don’t forget me”
Don’t you think they’d have taken the chance?

(Source: herrsassyfras on Tumblr)

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