How about that new Twitter interface! When composing a post, it didn't allow me to place the cursor at a point of my own choosing through the use of a mouse, but hey, let's not quibble. It performed well enough to deliver a private Tweet from a certain @wowiezowietuna.
I'm not sure how @wowiezowietuna came into my Twitter orbit. I followed him after he retweeted me—first because I appreciated the gesture, and second because anyone with a handle like @wowiezowietuna must be a wild and crazy guy. Right?
Not long after, I get a private tweet from a certain Mr. Alabaster Smooth, real name Karl. It was @wowiezowietuna. He asked me how I got so many followers. Here's my reply.
Gosh, the guy is really hurting, and all I could do was sound glib. I didn't even spend all my 140 characters. I'm a bastard.
As of 8.08 am CET on 12 December 2011, Karl had tweeted 2,713 tweets, and they earned him a measley 12 followers. By contrast, the Honourable Husband had published a meagre 172 tweets, and had 98 followers...hang on. Fuck. That dropped to 97.
(OK, which of my Twitter followers is in prison?)
The Honourable Husband is a run-of-the-mill private user of social media. He blogs. He facebooks. He tweets. He puts his LinkedIn profile at the bottom of his emails. He writes pompous reviews on TripAdvisor and booking.com, in the hope that hotel management will read his disgust at their flea-pits and offer free stuff to shut him up, or will read of his delight and upgrade him just to say thank you. Neither has happened. He is uncomfortable with check-ins and geolocator services. He's chuffed that someone invited him to A Small World. People don't find his amazon reviews very helpful. He's thinking about Tumblr.
On the other hand, the Honourable Husband is a communications professional, so he knows a little about the finer points of our new online universe. But he ain't gonna tell you those. Because the Honourable Husband's Rule #1 of social media is never blog about work.
Pleased to Meet You!
Let's look at Karl's dilemma. Here he is, in his Twitter debut.
Let's assume that your interest in death, Karl, is purely poetic. If not, click here.
God is Dead. Nature is Dead. Love is Dead. What's next? Make sure it's not you.
If you're a death-head on philospohical or aesthetic grounds, that's a different story. Tweeting about Poetry and Death is as legit as tweeting about Britney and Kittens. But find the right people to tweet at.
That means go to Vienna.
No, srsly. The Viennese love death. After a funeral, people go all gooey about the schöne Leich, or the beautiful corpse. (In Austrian dialect, the words for funeral and corpse are the same. How cool is that?)
The recent funeral of Otto von Habsburg brought the city to a standstill, and lasted five hours. Five. Fucking. Hours.
In over six-hundred acres, Vienna's central cemetery holds the remains of three million late residents—artist Andre Heller described it as an "aphrodisiac for necrophiles". Families often make a day's outing at the Zentralfriedhof, enjoying the buskers and hot-dog stands, even if they don't have a particular corpse to visit.
One of René Magritte's Seated Coffins, in the Vienna Funeral Museum.
Photo links to source.
The reason you should go to Vienna is to obey the Honourable Husband's Rule #2 of social media. Blend your online and offline communities.
Those online friends whom I have never met, I feel familiar with—certainly familiar enough to talk in the flesh when the opportunity arises. Neilochka, that treasured love-child of Mike Nichols and Bennet Cerf, is one example. We have followed each other's blogs for so long now, he even put me on a Twitter list called Dated in a Previous Life. He makes it a point to meet his online pals in 3D, and his online community is a place of generosity and love. The next time I'm in Orange County, we're totally going out to one of those Onion Garden places for a pizza and margaritas because that's what you Californians do, right?
Another example, the marvellous nursemyra. Why are we online friends? Pretty much the same reason we'd be friends if we'd met offline. She's warm, generous with affection and praise, knows art, loves human nature, likes to tell a good story, and looks hoochie-coo in lingerie. Nursemyra is a big fan of Magritte's coffins. You should follow her, Karl.
She and the much-admired Daisyfae, two women of like mind, began to comment on each other's blogs. They met in Barcelona one year, and have become regular travel companions. Young men quake before them, hovering between awe and arousal, as the pair cougar their way across the world every couple of years. I feel sure that when we're in the same city, we'll meet in person over a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or two. (Being gay, I am immune to their seductive weaponry. Ha! Take that, you vixens!)
Karl, you should seek online friends of the same calibre, and then make them your offline friends. But here comes the sixty-four dollar question. Will you find them on Twitter?
Karl sent me a pertinent follow-up question.
Obnoxious? Twitter is perfect.
Twitter seems to bring out the worst in people. JetBlue needs to remind followers that their Twitter feed is, in fact, not their complaints department. The little exchange in this link is the kind of venom that fuels Twitter, and it's only interesting if you're famous. All the @s and #s ruin the comic timing.
Who makes a success on Twitter? Justin Halpern, that's who. The guy behind Shit My Dad Says.
Probably, you've seen the TV show. But have you read the book, and the tweets? When Halpern was tossed out by his girlfriend, he went home to live with a father who did nothing but insult and humiliate him. If you are raised in a home like that, you become the kind of guy who...well, gets tossed out by his girlfriend and has to go home and live with his—there is no other word for it—abusive father. In the book, Halpern breaks up the onslaught of toxic tweets with anecdotes from his childhood, even more ghastly. The cleaned-up version of Shit My Dad Says lasted a single season on CBS, but on Twitter, it has 2.9 million followers. Sad.
Twitter culture? I stopped following @buzzfeed when it told me about the most extreme Bagel Bites commercial ever, and the king of Sweden watching a strip show.
Twitter holds few joys for a sensitive soul. And you're a sensitive soul.
Karl's Tweets: A Critique.
Since you asked, here are a few suggestions.
First, a bit of tough love. You need to think long and hard about tweets like this one:
- ABYSS END VEILED UNVEILED APEIRON TEHOM BOTTOMLESS DEEP VOID INFERNAL PIT EXODUS'D EPOCHE THE SUSPEND
Charming, perhaps, to the right audience. In a Haight-Ashbury coffee shop in 1968, after 11.00 pm and three bongs. And to the following two tweets...
- We don't have to be cryptic; we have to be beautiful
- Does everything have to mean something for me to say it?
...I reply yes, yes and yes. You might like to put aside the brown spirits when you tweet; you don't want to become a tweeting drunk. Or as the rad kids say, a twunk. Alcohol and Twitter, I suspect, can lead to downbeat blurts:
- I drink to get drunk like I write to get wrote.
- The world sucks, get over it; it always did.
- The Bell Jar isn't depressing enough
Of-fucking-course The Bell Jar isn't depressing enough, Karl! Get yourself into Philip Larkin. Compared to Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath plants tulips and plays with puppies. Larkin is man-sized maudlin.
You're in the middle of getting a liberal education. A liberal education demands a logical analysis of highly emotional subjects. Relentless logic will reduce everything to the absurd.
- Absurdity is possible because we have reasoned it so.
- Death is the nude absurd.
- The Absurd is an imperative for ontological purity.
- Is the idea of the Absurd rational? Is it rational to posit that such an idea is intellectually tangible?
I, for one, have ceased to be angry that our emotional investment in the world around us—with its beauty and joy and heartache—is pointless. I could not engage my old college buddies with the following tweets—even if I could do it in such a nice way, reminiscent of Gertrude Stein.
- Because I'm passionate and crazy about poetry all the same; because I want to rail against it, abrogate it and detest it and throw it away.
- Because I'm so torn and ensconced in the dialectic of confusion. Because it's cunning and petty and grandiose and rich, lofty and lowly.
- Because logic has utility but is the warper of logic itself. AND more of what-the-fuckness.
What-the-fuckness is an elegant and vivid way to say meaninglessness. But however elegantly expressed, Karl, it's snoozeville as subject matter. Everything, when you think about it, is absurd. That's what thinking does to things. Mankind spent much of the second half of the twentieth century kvetching about meaninglessness. The time has come to resurrect the meaningful.
I wouldn't go too far with the Gertrude Steiney stuff, either. I'm still scratching my head over this:
- I looked for you looked for you I tried to look for you and wherever you were found I tried to look for you.
- And if you were alone I tried to look for you and were found I looked for you I did not find tried looking for you.
- These what is becoming is becoming is looking for I tried to look for what is becoming is becoming, come.
Which brings us to the ultimate question: why should you tweet about Poetry and Death, when you could write actual verse? Every one of the following tweets show an exquisitely observant poetic sensibility. Each could easily make a short poem.
- Proportioned judiciously, we eat enough to die
- Ghosts are just doing their job
- Antique sounds, boots clopping on concrete
- The morning yokes everything left behind in the night
"Eating enough to die" describes so many dieters, and their relationship to food—food as both life and death feels like a theme of our times. The images we might see in a working world of ghosts demand a poetic description; the cubicle farm as haunted house. Who makes the antique noise, and does he know how old-fashioned his footwear makes him sound? Is the strong clop of the boot, worn mainly by men, a statement of how dated strength as a measure of masculinity has become? I wish I could write stuff like that.
Karl, when you do land a zinger in classic Twitter style, it's highly refined. Again, these seek to be sentences in a larger, more involving work.
- Never say: "I'm confused," Always say: "I'm not following you."
- Work is a Christian ploy to tire us for sex.
- One does not always need violence and destitution to live in a terrible neighborhood.
So, Karl, if you want to get the most out of the world of social media, don't seek a Twitter following. You're too good for that. Poems rarely fit in 140 characters. (Unless, of course, they're haiku. But don't get me started on haiku.)
Get a Tumblr. It's the perfect venue for poetry. Use it to find a community of like-minded souls who will enrich your art. Then seek to meet them offline. Go for quality friends, not quantity.
And as you say in a particularly nice tweet: Do not underestimate the value of simplicity and precision.
Didn't mean to bust your chops, Karl. But you did ask. All my love to you, ol' cyber-buddy.