Written by Katie Killeen; Media by Kelsey Kuethe.
“Hey Katie, this is Dad. I was just updating my twitter account and I saw your account on there–that you are following me–so I looked into seeing how things are going for you on Twitter. You’re up to nine follwers now and among them is Congresswoman Ann Wagner. Ann Wagner wants to know what’s on your mind, so you better start tweeting. Take care, I’ll see ya.”
The man who required the family to sit through many meals listening to a chorus of phones throughout the home because who ever was calling could wait, family is family and we need more family, is calling me on a Tuesday night to update me on my twitter account, wondering why I don’t tweet and enticing me to tweet by giving a report of my most important followers.
Meals spent listening to my friends leave long messages on our answering machine while rearranging green beans on my plate and mumbling memoirs from my day has changed me. I hold strong to the conviction that intentional interactions (most often face-to-face) are more meaningful and rewarding than those had through other modes. So I leave my account (created by a friend, as a joke) barren. Twitter is an intimidating force, changing the way we communicate, value fact and opinion, process relationships. What I fear is not the change in our thinking, but our failure to think critically about these changes. Ultimately, it is less rewarding as we are less intentional about this communication. We are without rules or any sort of set of etiquette for this new form of expression.
Unlike other forms of communication, we are not explicitly explained the “rules” of tweeting. Answering the phone was a privilege in our home–we were given a strict script to follow and scolded if too loud, casual or personal with our victims on the other line. I have never heard such rules for tweeting established or discussed, nor have I witnessed a tweet-inspired scolding. It is easier to fall into bad habits when you are not immediately reprimanded for your comments through messages as you would be in person. We are given the opportunity to express ourselves in an instant, but without seeing the immediate reactions of others that should keep us in place.
You will be scornfully judged for the things you put on twitter and, in turn, you will be given the opportunity to scornfully judge others. But eventually, I will admit, retribution will come. Perhaps a friend will let it slip that no one really cares about your emotional breakup (or at least, the majority of your followers don’t and your friends who do care have already talked to you about it in person). Your mom might mention that she heard from your aunt who heard from your cousin that your “Tweeter” has some rather explicit material. Or maybe you’ll make a comment akin to something you would send out to the world from your phone and find that people don’t react the same way that you had imagined they did, and that the things you had perceived as funny are actually downright rude. The benefit of the doubt is yours, but at some point–though maybe not as immediately as in face-to-face communication–someone will reprimand you and you will be forced to change your social interactions in someway. What we tweet is not completely other. It is still part of the “real world” and someone is eventually bound to confront you about how you express yourself online, or you will make the connections yourself about how what you send off from your phone changes your character.
Unless, that is, you hold the key to an anonymous account, the sort that has become ever so popular within the last semester on our campus. Some are clever and cute, but some are hurtful. Whether making fun of a professor or a peer, it can still be damaging to that person and to the GC community. Heavens, I sound like a mom. Do we really need to be having this conversation? With an anonymous account, there is no hope for possible confrontation, which is doing a disservice to your personal growth and that of our community. Whether or not you think it’s okay the first time you read it, the fifth or sixth time you “lol” and “rolfl” (now I really sound like a mom) at a message from Gnorm Hall, your laughter validates the rude comment. You are negatively affecting yourself and your community from behind the curtain of some silly @Twitter_Name.
With great power comes great responsibility. This is why “killeeningitup” has never tweeted. Maybe this is a cowardly decision; maybe it is a courageous plan of action. Change is not bad and Twitter is not inherently evil. But maybe you should get rid of your account. Learn how to be mean in person and prepare to be called a bully–if not for your own character, then for the character of others. You are not just responsible for how your language changes who you are, but also how it changes others. Be intentional about what you tweet, who you follow and the face-to-face conversations that follow. Twitter can be a wonderful way to keep in touch, to share thoughts, to keep your self accountable in our every-second-matters world. Call your congressperson and call your father, and ask them what’s on their mind.