A phenomenology on Twitter

An excerpt from my Philosophy paper on Husserl dated August 21, 2011

SOCIAL NETWORKING has been quite popular today, especially among people my age. With the advent of different social media tools, Twitter rises as the not-so-new kid on the block but still escalating in terms of the number of members who subscribe and those who are active users.

Twitter is a useful tool for quick and efficient information dissemination – some use it to update their friends, to set up meetings, to share jokes, advice, or anecdotes, to learn the latest headlines, and even to get to communicate with their favorite celebrities or political figures. Whatever the end goal might be, Twitter says it all in less than 140 characters. Sweet, simple, concise, and yet meaty: that is what Twitter is.

This social media tool comes off to me as a breakthrough in communication. Since I am a college student majoring in this field of study, I instantly became inclined towards it. There was no need of convincing me that it was revolutionary, I knew it right away. Needless to say and in my opinion, Twitter has been one of the greatest inventions to date. Nothing has ever topped my appraisal for Twitter – it has changed the landscape of communication for me.

I joined Twitter in 2009, just when my first college semester began. Since then, I have tweeted 5,974 times, followed 176 people and been followed by 254, both friends and strangers.

My usual platform for tweeting used to be from my trusty laptop, and so I only got to tweet when I was either at home or when I’d bring my laptop to school. Mostly I would talk about food, or my day, or schoolwork in general. It was nothing really; I just updated my site with whatever mundane thing that could have happened to me during the day. Out of boredom, I even once tweeted Demi Moore (@mrskutcher) and instantly received a reply! It was an unexpected experience for me. I was really surprised.

My addiction began with that Demi Moore encounter. After that incident, I signed up for a text-to-Twitter service called Tweetitow so that I could send tweets through my mobile phone. Now, I could tweet from wherever I was. I would tweet during class if I found a certain quote from my professor interesting or perhaps even during a date with my ex-boyfriend. From reading a book to tucking myself in at night, I would tweet through my cellphone and I just wouldn’t stop tweeting. The problem with Tweetitow, however, was that it could only send in tweets and could not read the feed from those I follow. It was what it was, purely a one-way SMS Twitter client.

However, things changed. Two months ago, I got myself a BlackBerry as a post-birthday gift. I split the money with my parents and used a chunk of my savings to replace my wonky old Nokia unit. Even though a part of me wanted a BlackBerry because my smartphone wasn’t doing enough, a huge part of me also wanted it because of its convenience. BlackBerry had a portable social network platform available for Instant Messaging, Facebook, and of course, Twitter which strongly pushed my decision to get a unit of my own.

I applied for Globe’s BlackBerry service, and voila! Tweeting has been made even more convenient for me. With Twitter for BlackBerry, I am able to upload photos, see recent tweets, monitor my friends’ whereabouts, coordinate dinner meet-ups with my peers, and see the latest mentions (equivalent to when someone tags you on Facebook), trending topics (top news all over the world), and recent followers who add me up. Twitter was literally in the palm of my hands. I was unstoppable as ever.

Early this afternoon, I found out something I shouldn’t have. It’s not that I entirely regret hearing about this issue, but then again I could live without knowing otherwise.

Since my break-up, a handful of my tweets have been about my thoughts on relationships and moving on, basically stemming from my past experiences. The tweets I post are leaned towards the reflective and more emotional side of me, with a couple of banters between my friends and I. Generally, it was about my recovery and the process of healing after going through tough situations…nothing really changed in my Twitter behavior. My tweets have just become more of my soft side and screamed so much of what I couldn’t say out loud.

http://twitter.com/karasantiago — at web address that serves as a record of my daily activities and emotions, but serves as a different platform for a few. Who knew Twitter could go so far from being just a social networking site?

Looking back at my natural approach and reaction to Twitter, I wouldn’t say that I uphold it too much at this point. After experiencing what I did this afternoon, I felt like Twitter betrayed me in so many levels – showing me that deceit lies in the things we least expect them to be. What seemed to be a sanctuary for my thoughts became a hell-hole and source of judgment.

I admittedly pushed Twitter’s limits to more than just a social network – I have made an extension of myself out of it. In retrospect, I really am not in approval for the media construct I’ve parallelized my life with. It became hard for me and perhaps others as well, to draw the fine line between my online self and my real identity. There was no distinction between the little thoughts I tweet about and the real way I was living my life now (which is, quite frankly, a much happier life compared to when I was still in a relationship).

Why does one tweet anyway? I tweet for freedom of expression. Being a girl who has been caught up in a strenuous four-year relationship that somehow took away my voice, Twitter has become an instrument for finding my inner self. I can now speak of myself without the fear of anything holding me back. Again, don’t get me wrong here. That relationship was never a mistake — things just didn’t fall into the right place in the right time.

A single incident on Twitter erratically changed my views on this social media platform. Although Twitter is the quickest source of news and relevant information, I have also come to realize that it is an even quicker source of judgment and false information. In life we come to think about the many purposes as to why something exists – but sometimes along the way, we stumble upon a latent reason behind a phenomenon that’s happening and it won’t always be a good thing. We can expect to get something, but what comes to us in return is a completely different representation of our wants.

However, what comes with freedom of expression is the same amount of freedom wherein one can wrongly contextualize a meaning of a tweet. In the same light, people may also get judged for creating his or her own self – even though the person tries nothing else but to be real.

Given the following, then, could one say that Twitter is evil? For someone like me, I guess the answer is pretty relative. But honestly, now it’s more of a 60-40 deal for me – with the bigger chunk leaning towards the cons of this argument. With its convenience and speed, Twitter isn’t really at all bad. But if one looks closer, where do you draw the boundary of yourself and your Twitter account, or any other web identity whatsoever.

Does my life read like the New York Times? No, I don’t have headlines. Does my daily routine affect other people’s time? No, I am not C5 or SLEX that needs to be monitored by the @MMDA account. I know for a fact that I am not as important as any of those I mentioned, but what hit me is that I tweet because I feel like someone is there to listen.

I cannot operationalize my attachment to something that is inanimate yet seemingly a source of my sense of security and reassurance that someone is there. It gave me a pseudo-feeling of being able to literally run to somebody (or in this case, something) without any limits at all. It presented itself as something that you’d always come back for even if you do not illicit a response. Because the secret to this feeling relies precisely on the non-responsiveness – it makes you think and feel that it will not ever judge, it won’t look at you the wrong way. I guess I liked that Twitter was “there for me”, whatever being “there for me” even meant anyway.

I should learn how to rely on solid foundations of relationships to trust my emotional sanity with – not some site that offers an unsafe haven for my deepest of thoughts. Sure, Twitter gave me a fun ride and shaped me as a person, but it also had the tendencies to break me as well. I guess it has come to a point where I need to begin building an identity apart from my virtual alter-ego. I need to show who I am as a person without hiding behind the comfort of a keyboard and screen – and in the process, finally create who I am as an individual, not just banking on being that girlfriend of some guy.

I am actually considering the thought deleting my Twitter account to start over. After all, Twitter should help me in defining myself and not define my entirety altogether.

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