This piece by Peggy Orenstein in yesterday's New York Times Sunday Magazine gave me an 'a ha' moment as one of its passages made clear to me why, after setting up and starting to do Twitter posts (tweets), I've felt a real inertia about generating tweets as I came across interesting and sometimes self-defining bits of material. In a sense it feels like like I am violating my own privacy, and Orenstein puts it nicely as she notes blurring "the lines not only between public and private but also between the authentic and contrived self. Some clips:
Each Twitter post seemed a tacit referendum on who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be...Each put a different spin on the occasion, of who I was within it...it was about how I imagined — and wanted — others to react to them... How much, I began to wonder, was I shaping my Twitter feed, and how much was Twitter shaping me?(Funny thing... after writing this post yesterday morning I found myself yesterday afternoon mysteriously starting to send out tweets on articles I was finding interesting.)
Back in the 1950s, the sociologist Erving Goffman famously argued that all of life is performance: we act out a role in every interaction, adapting it based on the nature of the relationship or context at hand. Twitter has extended that metaphor to include aspects of our experience that used to be considered off-set: eating pizza in bed, reading a book in the tub, thinking a thought anywhere, flossing. Effectively, it makes the greasepaint permanent, blurring the lines not only between public and private but also between the authentic and contrived self. If all the world was once a stage, it has now become a reality TV show: we mere players are not just aware of the camera; we mug for it.