Some time ago, I wrote a skeptical and a rather critical note about joining Twitter to mark my debut as a Twitterland citizen. It’s been a month now since I officially received my passport from it. A month worth of engagement may seem like a baby-walk experience compared to those of the millions who have joined it and become its engaged citizens for years. But it’s not been an infantile kind of learning curve at all for me. Being a mature adult who grew up in the non-digital age and whose experiences and expectations have mostly been formed outside the virtual worlds, becoming a Twitterland citizen is like entering a foreign land whose language and culture are …, well, “foreign” — “alien in character: not connected or pertinent” as one of the definitions in The Merriam-Webster Dictionary puts it.
As many would probably feel when entering a foreign land, my first few days there was somewhat disorienting. I hardly knew anybody and, frankly speaking, was a bit lonely. The landscape was unfamiliar, and finding my way around was quite a challenge. Fortunately, however, the officers — the were robots — were very helpful. Based on my entry documents and custom declaration, they suggested a few names and sites that I might know or be interested in exploring. And voila! In no time, I began to find my way around and meet a few personae that I had personally met where I came from.
But getting to know the place and discovering familiar names is one thing. It was quite another thing to get involved and have the feel of the culture. The language spoken here was different. The customs were different. And even the personalities — whose names and faces I had known from the land I had come from — did not speak the same language and follow the same customs here. They seemed to have completely adopted the language and the customs of their new land.
It is the rule here that people only speak briefly, which I found difficult to follow at first. Being a teacher, I — by habit — have become a ‘wordy’ person. I often rely on words to explicate difficult and abstract concepts so that they will be easier for my students to comprehend. By disposition, I am also a reflective person. And reflection — as you all know — requires that we juggle words to give forms to the thoughts that otherwise would remain fluid and formless like the air. This rule of verbal efficiency, to me, initially felt like straitjacket. It restrained not only my words, but also my ideas. My eloquence was — for a time — gone. I was stuttering: I had lots and lots of idea-bound words, and yet was not allowed to use them as I wished. With time and some keen observation, however, I began to learn how to speak like they do. And, to my own surprise, I began to become as verbally efficient as they are without losing much of my eloquence. Cut and cut and cut and trim any unnecessary verbal twigs — that was the key!
Thanks to this learning experience, I believe I have now become a verbally more efficient thinker when the situation dictates. I don’t — and would not wish to — get rid of the more verbose language I am used to speaking at home, of course, because I believe it too has its own uses in the right time, the right place, and the right task — like what I am doing now — writing this essay.
Rule of language brevity aside, I also learned that Twitterland is the land of eternal youth. Nobody gets old here — or so it seems. Everybody sounds and looks energetic — like the youths should. Everywhere there is a level of dynamic that only juveniles can show: constant chatters, constant motions, constant changes — all taking place in minutiae span of time. Everybody is in a rush, is moving, is producing chunks of abbreviated thoughts and words that keep their world (this land’s little world) moving. Sometimes it is not even clear who or what these words are being directed at. They don’t seem to care even if these words were thrown in the air and never came back, or smashed onto a wall and shattered into pieces, scattered all over the places never again to be recovered or recognizable. They don’t even care if their speech act sounds like a monologue spoken to no one in particular, not even oneself. Its constant chatters not unlike the tweets of birds (perhaps this is why this land is proclaimed as Twitterland).
And so, here too, I feel young (again). And it feels wonderful. Where else can you go to be transposed and transformed — spiritually, at least — to a space-time realm where youthfulness is all there to be had? Where else can you have the experience of rejuvenation without having to suffer from memory loss? Without having to leave behind all the years of experiences, knowledge and wisdom you have gained along your real life?
Ah, perhaps I have just overstated all this. I might have to reconsider later when the honeymoon period of my culture shock with the land has run its full course and brought me back to an equilibrium of normal point of view — unclouded by the euphoria of the newness of the experience. I might. But for now, I think it’s not bad at all!
Illustration picture source: MD WebPro