Three Ways Of Chronicling Your Life On Twitter

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I had a particularly strenuous workout at cardiac rehab, on a cold morning where I had been seriously tempted to pack it in.  So my post-workout reward of one (1) Dunkin’ Donuts decaf iced coffee was exceptionally satisfying.
And I was tempted to Tweet my one word of triumph:


Which would have been a valid thing to Tweet.  I mean, there’s no invalid thing to Tweet.  It’s your social media, and you define your voice.
But my voice is generally not in-jokes, and that’s what I think of an in-joke Tweet – it only makes sense in context.  If you know me well enough to know my mild addiction to Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee, my fulminating rants about how Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in Ohio is never quite as good as it is in New England (which is stone-cold truth), and my joy at finding one, then you’d know this all-capped shout is some sort of joy.  If you knew me really well, then you’d know this was early morning on a weekday, and I must have just finished my workout, and thus would be able to piece together the context of this joy.
But otherwise?  That’s not a Tweet for an audience.  That’s a Tweet I posted for me, and maybe a secret signal to a select handful in the know.
That’s an in-joke Tweet.
And I see a lot of that mysterious social broadcasting going on, particularly on Facebook – which works really well for those who do know these people, and that cryptic cry of “DUNKIES” often leads to conversational threads like “…whup that treadmill!” and “Check the hottie!” and reinforces a small and exultant culture.  For these kinds of social profiles, you really had to be there.
But to those of us on the outside, a constant stream of “Jerry said what?”s and “The tuna boat: incoming”s and so forth make literally zero sense.  And I don’t know whether people who primarily interact with their social page of choice realize they make no sense to much of their audience – because quite often, I’m their friend and I have no frickin’ idea what they’re going on about – or simply don’t care, because to them Twitter is just a place for them to blurt out random things from their brain whenever they see fit.
As for me, though, I usually try to be a little more informative, so that Tweet might read something more like:

Just finished a brutal cardiac rehab session.  Soaked in sweat, will soon be filled with delicious iced coffee from Dunkies.

Which is definitely contextual.  It’s also pretty mundane.
Weirdly enough, this second sort of Twitter-broadcast – which I call the factual, as opposed to the in-joke  – gets a lot less response.  If I post DUNKIES WHOO, then the handful of jamooks who got the reference feel an urge to reply to show me they’re one of the club, and as such the in-jokes pile up replies.  But if I frame it all in context, then what I have here is pretty run-of-the-mill.  I mean, it wasn’t an exceptional workout – no medical injuries, no breakthrough treadmill times – and I do it three times a week, so maybe I’d get a scattered “Go you!” or two, but mostly people would nod their heads and e-move on.
It keeps you in touch with me, for sure, so when we meet you’ll have conversational grist for the mill – “How’s your rehab going?” – but as far as inspiring a network of online interaction, it ain’t much.  But you’ll at least be able to follow what the hell is going on in my life from a distance, unlike the in-joke world.
And then there’s the performance Tweet.  This is what John Scalzi and many other popular Tweeterers specialize in, where you take the mundane thing you’re doing and make some kind of joke out of it, like:

Just worked out to clear the fat from my sclerosed veins. Now in line at Dunkies to get iced coffee to refill said veins with coffee-flavored cream.

No, wait, that’s not terribly witty.  How about:

My post-workout ritual: double-cream, double-sugar iced coffee from Dunkies. I AM THE KING OF UNWISE IDEAS.

No, not punchy enough.  How about –
– and so on.  Which is the problem of the performance Tweet – you feel a little stupid if you spend more than a minute or two thinking up a Facebook post, because crap, it feels all kinds of egotistic to spend fifteen minutes composing The Perfect Tweet.  You worry you’re becoming the Plus 97 Guy, pouring ridiculously amounts of effort into something nobody cares about.  And then if nobody responds, man, have you lost your edge?  Where’s the validation in social media?  Man, I’m down twelve likes from last week, what do I need to do to grab these people?
Which, you know, stupid.  You’re not writing for How I Met Your Mother, you’re talking about a goddamned iced coffee.  Idiot.
But there I am, waiting in line at the Dunkies, composing…
I usually oscillate between the factual and the performance Tweet, starting by trying to say something terribly witty and then degrading gracefully (as they say in the web biz) into a mere factual Tweet if I can’t find a funny spin that fits in 140 characters.  And honestly, I’m probably a worse Tweeterer because if I just used the sweat of my brow to put in the good time, devising a truly funny joke before I dare hit post, I’d be magnificent.  But I go for the cheap joke, and man, where is my commitment to the form?
But that’s the downside, isn’t it?  When you’re a performer, you’re a performer.  And I’m not entirely sure I do want my Twitter to be performance art.  I want it to be me, and I want it to be inviting so that you’re welcome to become a part of my online world, and if you want to know me, well, ‘ere I am, JH.
(That last bit was an in-joke.  But that was a movie reference.  SOMETIMES I DO THAT OKAY?)
So I dunno.  It’s just odd to think that hey, for a throwaway line on Twitter to chronicle the oh-so-pressing business of my coffee consumption, I can think of at least three serious approaches to spamming 3,000 people with covert Dunkin’ Donuts advertisements.  There are probably more.

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