Everything we’ve said and done
Can be so easily forgotten
You can always change who you are
— Against Me!
Twitter put simply is fun, fantastic, and all about the here and now. The fact that I can’t even search my own feed for past things I’ve said makes it exist almost entirely in the present tense. The people I follow are people I know, people I work with and live near, but also a good dose of random comedians, musicians, and celebrities I’ll never meet. The things everyone tweets about are mostly jokes or things that make you smile, either random things that popped into the writers’ heads or comments on current events.
There’s no memory at Twitter: everything is fleeting. Though that concept may seem daunting to some (archivists, I feel your pain), it also means the content in my feed is an endless stream of new information, either comments on what is happening right now or thoughts about the future. One of the reasons I loved the Internet when I first discovered it in the mid-1990s was that it was a clean slate, a place that welcomed all regardless of your past as you wrote your new life story; where you’d only be judged on your words and your art and your photos going forward.
Kottke has some interesting remarks as well. But as much as I’d like to be sympathetic to this perspective — as much as I am sympathetic to the transformative potential of the vast information on the Internet — this glorification of novelty for its own sake just sounds more to me like something akin to the movie Memento. It also makes me think of D’Angelo Barksdale’s impression of The Great Gatsby:
The past is always with us, and where we come from, what we go through, how we get through it; all this shit matters. I mean, that’s what I thought he meant. Like at the end of the book, you know, boats and tides and all, it’s like you can change up, right, you can say you somebody new, you can give yourself a whole new story, but what came first is who you really are and what happened before is what really happened, and it don’t matter that some fool say he different cause the only thing that make you different is what you really do, what you really go through. Like, you know, like all the books in his library, now, he frontin’ with all them books but if we pulled one off the shelf ain’t none of the pages ever been open. He got all them books and he ain’t read one of them. Gatsby, he was who he was and did what he did, and because he wasn’t ready to get real with the story, that shit caught up to him. That’s what I think, anyway.
The only thing that makes you different is what you really do, what you really go through. You don’t have to be permanently defined by your upbringing and your high school friends, of course, but if you never allow anything from your Twitter feed to stay with you long enough to deeply engage with, if you’re too compulsively seeking stimulation to ever spend time shaping context and perspective to put it in, you’re conflating perpetual motion with transformation.