I am still just dabbling in Twitter. I have come to it quite late, past the time that it was actually new. I opened my Twitter account only a few weeks ago – spurred by HASTAC, by my goals for this year. I am still in the earliest phase: followed by less than a handful of people, in all honesty, I still can’t quite figure out what to tweet. (I’ll tweet a link to this blog post, so there’s one more down.) I haven’t figured out how to condense my thoughts enough for the short space. Inwardly, I still scoff at many of the #hashtags and neologisms like “tweetiquette” and “tweetheart” that everyone else seems to have embraced. This is my ninth year of Facebook (unimaginably!) but I’ve only ever posted about four status updates – looking for apartments, thanking for birthday wishes, and one that was ‘donated’ to Barack in 2008. I am fascinated by social media, but don’t quite know how to break into it, how to balance a healthy sense of privacy with a desire to take part in these conversations.
My relationship to Twitter changed in August, when I saw these tweets on the account of author Eleanor Henderson:
A few questions sprung up. Why did the student not mention this in person – or, better yet, in class? Is something lost when pedagogy takes a turn towards literature comments that are less than 140 characters? I mentioned this to colleagues, who nodded in recognition, talking about turning away from Blackboard towards Facebook for information for a large course. In spite of some shock, I am slowly seeing that social media could play—is already playing—a role within the classroom.
Beyond the reality that a lot of information about the projects that colleagues are undertaking is coming to me via Facebook (the professional turn for a site once used to show pictures of friends at big parties), Twitter is starting to play a real role in my thoughts and work. I see in the notes for my dissertation (about modern and contemporary art in Morocco) increasing quotations from Twitter. Conversations like this one, from 2 September 2012, are more to the point and certainly more critical than a lot that is published about Moroccan politics.
There is a certain cast of characters that get into these kinds of conversations, both about contemporary political events and in response to articles that are published about Morocco, pointing out (briefly) the strengths and concerns. There is a lot that is lost by the turn to Twitter, and the sharp downturn in nuance and deep information bears repetition. But I am convinced that there is enough to recommend it that slowly, I am trying to find a way to be part of the conversation.