Twitter has been one of my best, worst frenemies for years now. He was rather mysterious and alluring at first: I didn't quite know what he wanted me say, what I would gain from sharing with him or why each of our exchanges had to be limited to 140 characters. Quickly, however, he grew into one of the most reliable buddies I have. Sometimes.
There are specific instances where my friendship with Twitter really shines. For example, during universally-shared events like the presidential election, #HurricaneSandy or @Beyonce's pregnancy, he gives me a place to vent my up-to-the-minute musings and connects me to a whole world of friends, my city, my favorite celebrities and a random Iowan #Belieber with a mean streak, all of whom are simultaneously experiencing an important happening together. Twitter can also be a rather expansive chum, one who exposes me to new ideas, articles, humor and music. He is supportive, helping to spread my new mixes and articles, as well as my most random notions ("New word to describe a hot mess: "Ke$hy"). He's always there to let all our mutual friends know where I'm spinning on a given night.
Sometimes, I even turn to Twitter in times of sadness and desperation, sharing versions of my inner-most thoughts about my overeating and under-sexing, and even pettier things like the requester that I'm cleverly trying to avoid at work or an unsavory encounter with an overeager, homeless crackhead. The retweets, favorites and "@" convos somehow make it feel better for a moment and it's even oddly reassuring to know that our mutual friend @Rihanna shares a similar relationship with Twitter (stop it with @ChrisBrown tho Rih, seriously. Twitter and I just can't with that). We laugh and cry together and it's all a rather beautiful thing. Sometimes.
On the other hand, Twitter can be a rather cruel and spiteful bitch. In fact, in most instances where everyone we know is off doing their own thing, Mr. Twitz morphs from a great source of comfort into the most insolent queen I know. He relishes throwing in my face the new friends my ex is hanging out with, all of the fun my friends are having out at Le Bain while I decided to stay in and work and the day-to-day actions and successes of my sworn enemies who get retweeted by pesky shared friends. This is all stuff of which, without Twitter, I would be blissfully unaware.
Twitter is also constantly letting me know where I fall in his very particular, but rather nebulous hierarchy: how many followers I have in comparison to everyone else in my friend group and in my professional world, who feels obligated to follow me back when I follow them and who doesn't, etc. Indeed, mine and Twitter's is that kind of confusing camaraderie where he makes me feel both loved and adored by my literal thousand of followers (yea, I only have 1,000 followers, it's whatever) and beyond, and then turns around and makes me feel like a completely worthless, under-followed over-sharer. 'WHAT ARE WE EVEN DOING HERE!?,' I furiously type at him in all caps, cheeks bright red, veins exploding out of my forehead.
So why do we stay in this twisted, painful, elated tango together, Twitter and I? I feel like every member of my generation shares an extraordinary love-hate relationship with our social media. While so much of our lives transpire on these platforms, information that we consume and relationships we cultivate often have a component that includes these channels, they also keep us in state of constant, destructive "comparative-itis." Often, we spend way too much brain-power knowing when that random bartender we met once in a club a year ago is planning to nap or that @tiNyTInA JUST MET ZACHARY QUINTO AT THE PAPER MAGAZINE PARTY!!!! or looking at pictures of my cousin's kinda gross-looking brunch eggs, sometimes at the expense of simply living our own, non-Twitter lives. Knowing everyone's thoughts in such constant detail can feel utterly paralyzing. At moments, it's like standing in crowded room with every single person you've ever met or admired or hated or slept with, all simultaneously shouting at you every time something pops into their heads. Thoughts, jokes, failures, accomplishments come at you all at once, non-stop, 24 hours-a-day. When you think about it that way, it's easy to see how this could drive even the sanest among us towards pure madness. Our own identities can easily get lost in the clutter.
There may be a backlash brewing in this respect. A friend of mine, a former heavy-weight tweeter, is deleting his Twitter this week for the very reasons expressed above (we'll see). Another girl, a blogger I met at a party a couple weeks ago, has ditched her phone all together merely for the reason that she can't spend another second wrapped up in social media and overaccessibility. When I told her that I had to keep my phone around at all times ("You never know when a job could pop up!") she responded, "I don't want any job that I could lose by not responding for a couple hours." I was floored.
Although I personally have thought about dumping my phone, along with that fickle vixen Twitter on multiple occasions, I don't know if I really could. Or if I want to. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, my buddy Twitter has become part of my self-expression, a way for me to connect with humanity. I don't know if I could ever fully excommunicate him, as much as I sometimes sincerely want too. Because Twitter has given me a place for people to connect with me, and I with them, it has become vital to my career as well as an important place to simply get things off my chest. Where else am I going to tell everyone I know about my idea to name my child Ginuwine Mandelbaum or that I've just passed Sabrina, The Teenage Witch's Aunt on 2nd Avenue and squealed audibly from excitement? Likewise, where else am I going to have a random, struggling gay teenager in Texas reach out to me and tell me how much my Huffington Post blog about coming out meant to him? Where would I be able to have direct conversations with some of my professional idols while chilling at home in my pajamas? Where else would I be able to celebrate with the entire (liberal) world after President Obama took the election? Twitter has gotten me jobs, created relationships with people that I really value, and has even helped expand my mind by exposing me to new people and ideas. I wouldn't want to lose those great things about our relationship just to avoid the bad aspects that I hate.
No. What I've realized is my relationship with Twitter has to be of the "mature adult" variety, not the "clingy middle-schooler" one. This is a friendship where we connect on the things that we need from each other, while accepting that we may not fulfill one another all the time. And that's okay! We can't hang out all the time and know every single thing that's going on with each other, Twitter and I. He may be charming, but he is also a little destructive. He brings excitement, validation and an immense amount of pleasure to my life, but is also a friend that you can't let get to close, lest he turn around and punch you #hardbody in the #stomach. And that's fine. I have plenty of real-life acquaintances who I have to keep in that same corner. So here's to you, my dear frenemy Twitter. May you forever be the dude with whom I give and receive things, big and small, all in 140 characters. Sometimes.