Today I’m reviving a series from my pre-baby days: Rubbernecker, in which I focus on groups of people I love to – well, spy on, basically. My first two Rubbernecker posts dealt with Internet mommy forums (DH! DS! Baby dust! DTD!) and transpeople (don’t call them trannies; that’s very rude.). Today: Strangers on Twitter.
I love following people I don’t know on Twitter. Is that creepy? Probably. If you know me, though, it makes sense. (But is also probably still creepy.) I love to study people. Ever since I first got on the Internet, I’ve been finding people’s online journals, the more confessional the better, and watching their lives unfold. I used to read a mile-long list of blogs. Now that it’s possible to make money blogging, most of the people I read have stopped sharing the intimate details of their lives. Instead, they post collages of expensive furniture their sponsors want you to buy, or they cease blogging altogether. I moved to Twitter, where people were still spilling their guts, and found new people to spy on. I follow paranoid schizophrenics, people with multiple personality disorders, collared slaves, pro wrestlers, the young and chronically ill, cholas from East LA, food truck visionaries, art students from Irvine, African-American college students from Georgia, and a group of teen moms from rural Maryland.
When it comes to conducting anthropological research – or, since I’m not a real anthropologist, when it comes to my spying on people – Twitter’s even better than online journals, because you can see an entire group of people’s interactions with one another. It’s fascinating to see a community and all its interconnected relationships. If researching this stuff were my actual job rather than my guilty pleasure, I’d love to design a giant map of interactions and connect everyone together with pushpins and twine. (Not literally. That would be Silence of the Lambs-level creepy.)
I usually find interesting people by examining Twitter’s trending topics – for example, I’ll read people’s responses to a hashtag like #ConfessionNight or #IHateItWhen – and start following people based on whether their tweets interest me. I then see who they talk to, and through following those people, I work out what relationships exist within the community. Again, If you know me, you’ll be aware that, in addition to being a people watcher, I’m also a lover of slang. I’m learning all kinds of new words from my Twitter explorations. For example, this weekend, I’m going to my neighbors’ party and I’m going to get turnt up.* **
*Turnt up is the new crunk, if you don’t know. And I’m guessing you don’t.
**I’m not really getting turnt up this weekend. I haven’t done anything even remotely close to getting turnt up since I was about 19; I’m sure as hell not going to start again now.
You may ask why I don’t just watch reality TV – because I generally don’t. I find the narrative of most reality shows to be forced (no duh! I hear you say.). Story arcs on Twitter meander and change direction, and include all sorts of interesting, infinitely interpretable details that a reality show’s editors would leave on the cutting-room floor. It’s also cool to see how much personality most of these people can cram into 140 characters. Many of them probably have no clue that they’re very talented writers.
I would love to mention some of these people and begin to tell you their stories, but that would feel like an invasion of their privacy. Their tweets may be public, but I doubt they want some stranger discussing their lives on her website. (Or, if they did want that, they’d also want money for it. Fair enough.) Here’s one thing I’d love to say to two of them in particular, if I didn’t feel as though actually speaking to them would be breaking some weird journalistic fourth wall: Ladies! That guy you’re fighting over? He is LAME. Seriously. He can barely string two words together, and on the rare occasions he manages to, those words are always about weed. He is GROSS. Find a proper boyfriend. Actually, find two, so you can each have one.