One evening last week, I actually ended up in a pub in Westport having a drink with some friends. This is highly unusual for me. Mostly, I’m at home, on the couch or here on the computer, tapping away.
I don’t really do pubs or even (heaven help us) friends very much anymore. So, yeah, this was unusual and very very nice.
The conversation turned to Social Media and there was some interest from the four people there about how long I have been using Twitter and how, once upon a time, it had been quite an integral part of my life.
One of the people was one of those type of people who we all know, a great guy but somebody with no interest or understanding whatsoever about the meaning or value of any Social Media of any description. I can understand this completely, if I'd never got into them, I don't think I would understand them either. Hell, I probably still don't. Anyway, faced with this online disdain, I nimbly sashayed into my default 'Peter the Apostle' position and started to actively deny the depth of my own acquaintance with Facebook and Twitter.
“I hardly ever…”
“Doesn’t really matter to me…”
“Never heard of ‘im guv’nor.”
That type of thing.
It’s hard to defend Social Media usage to non-believers. It's so much easier to play it down and get back to the news of the day as smoothly as possible.
As Jack Nicholson said in ‘Terms of Endearment’, “I was that close to a clean getaway,” when one final question was dropped in.
“What do you do on Twitter.”
“I mean, what do you actually do?”
I thought about it a bit before I answered.
“I don’t do a quarter of what I used to do, that’s for sure. Mostly I just read people’s tweets, I say one or two things myself, and I reply to things here and there. Oh, and I say ‘Goodnight’. That’s the thing I do most these days.”
The rather terse silence that followed told me that I had probably revealed a little too much for comfort.
“Say goodnight, yeah.”
Now that I’d said it a second time, I realised with even greater clarity how stupid it sounded.
“How… how does that work?”
How it works is like this;
I rarely tweet or do Facebook stuff from my phone. Generally I do these things late in the evenings when I’m on my computer at home. I enjoy leaving both windows open and peeping in from time to time to see what people are saying and doing. Sometime after midnight, when I’m turning my computer off for the night, I tend to send a tweet that says ‘G’night’ then I go to bed. I’ve been doing it for a while. There’s no great intent or logic to it.
What keeps me doing it, night after night, is that some people, somewhere, usually says goodnight back. Not very many, it’s not a deluge of goodnight wishes. Often it’s two or three people. Sometimes it’s only one. Occasionally, but not too often, it’s nobody at all. That’s okay. People are busy. People are asleep.
What also keeps me doing it, is the reaction of some people when I have neglected to do it for a while and then suddenly come back to it. People who I really don’t know much about have expressed pleasure that I have started to do it again after the hiatus.
Not a lot of people will get this reference and certainly even less will care but, when I say it like that, ‘G’night’, I am channelling somebody from my tellybox. For more years than I can count, the American TV Show ‘Survivor’ has been a constant family viewing pleasure. At the end of each ‘Tribal Council’, near the end of the show, Jeff, the presenter, says ‘G’night’ to the participants as they grab their symbolic torches and head off into the dark and back to their camp. So that’s why I say it that way; ‘G’night’.
It’s nothing, really, this 'G'night' thing, it’s just another tiny connection to the wide world.
But, oddly enough, it’s become a bigger thing as it’s gone on and on. There’s only one reason for this. All the other aspects of Twitter have got that much smaller. There were times when I would tweet an awful lot more than I do now. There seemed to be a loose cohort of people who would casually interact and subtly give support and a sort of virtual companionship. Doubtless these cohorts still exist all over Twitter but I think when you’ve been a part of one and it eventually fades (as they always inevitably will) it is hard to find another to match it.
So my Twitter has become a lesser thing in my life than it used to be. That’s no harm. I miss certain people and I miss chatting casually to them but there are other people and they are precious too. I guess I’ve just moved on a bit and I think that’s a good thing. So, where once, a simple ‘G’night’ was a tiny element of an often alarming flow of tweets, it may now comprise 50% or even sometimes the entirety of my day’s contributions to the medium.
So I’ll keep doing it, for now at least, and I’ll keep smiling whenever a night-time wish drifts back to me from across the ether. And (a small confession) some nights, when no reply materialises, I may sit for a little longer than is seemly to see if one might come in.
We are all odd, in our way.
We may as well embrace it.