Originally published at Giro.org. Please leave any comments there.
I have to write this down because I need a place to put it. The problem with Twitter is that things move quickly, and it’s a bitch to nail down something I find funny or poignant or important. This is Twitter’s curse and its triumph: it’s a snapshot of what’s going on, a place to collect mental warmups and the ephemera of our lives.
It’s also a place for clueless asshats to gather and steal time. If you’ve gotten a link to this through a reply from me on Twitter, it’s because I think you’re one of them, and I want you to know how much what I think you’re doing is wasteful and wrongheaded and it requires me to sit you down and point out the mess you made on the carpet.
It’s like this: I like that random people follow me. It’s just like the early days of the web, when a comment was like finding a nugget of gold in the pile of sand someone had dumped on my desk. That spark of recognition, that light that goes off in my soul when I know another human being has read what I’ve written and it’s meant something to them: that’s a marvelous thing, and it makes a tool like Twitter that much more special. It brings a little warmth to a world that is always growing colder.
And you ruined it.
That’s right, you ruined it, because I got an email saying that you followed me on Twitter, and I clicked on your profile, and I found out that you call yourself a social media maven, an online marketing guru, a SEO expert.
You are none of those things.
You are a murderer.
You have killed a few of my precious seconds, and all because you think your link farm or your blog or whatever twaddle you’re pushing is worth my time, my limited time, my never-going-to-get-it-back time, my time that I could spend with my family or writing or on my bike or connecting with another human being or making the world’s greatest sandwich, and for what?
You follow me, because you hope I’ll follow you back so I can hang on your every word.
Don’t lie to me. You follow a few thousand people. You think I’m going to believe that you really pay attention to all of them?
No, you follow them in the hopes they’ll follow you back. You’re preying on the protocols of Twitter. You are a parasite, a leech, a tumor on the Body Internet, and I feel sorry for you.
Why? Because you are that most awful thing: you’re boring.
You’re boring because you only care about trying to sell stuff. I don’t care if it’s your services or your thoughts or a new website about cheese; you are trying to sell me something, and we both know that what you’re peddling is worthless. That’s why marketing was invented: to convince people that the shit sandwich they’re being served is actually tasty roast beef.
I should know, because that was my job.
“Aha!” you cry, “hypocrite! You self-loathing loser!”
But there’s a difference between the stuff I sold and what you sell: I knew my audience. I went out and hunted for them. I used tools to speed up the process, but I knew who I was looking for. I knew what I was selling was something that people would want to know about, if they only knew about it. Nine times out of ten, I was right.
But you? You have a tool that scans Twitter for keywords and follows automatically, and those keywords are boring. “Marketing.” “Social media.” “Online.”
What’s worse is that they devalue both of us. They turn me into a commodity and your words into so much bland mush. You don’t care about me except that I could be one more number on your Followers list, and that’s a sad, sad thing. You measure your worth in how many people are engaged in the sad game of Pay Attention To Me.
You could be so much more.
That’s why I’m sending you this link before I block you. It’s not that I’m angry at you; it’s that I’m disappointed. You seem to get how Twitter and the web and the online world all work, yet you’re wasting it all by trying to get me to pay attention to you.
What if you spent all that energy into doing something that was worthy of attention on its own? What if you turned off the auto-follow tools, sat down, looked hard at your life and found that brilliant, amazing thing inside you that wants to shine? What if you worked like mad honing, shaping, polishing that thing until it was so fucking bright that people couldn’t take their eyes off it if they tried?
What if you want tried to make things better?
Most of you who get this link won’t get very far. You’ll write me off, continue checking boxes and going about your boring business. That’s fine. Within twenty-four hours, I’ll have blocked you, and you’ll be out of my life.
But some of you will read this, and it’ll gnaw at you. You’ll roll it around, like that bit of corn stuck in your teeth, and you won’t be able to dislodge it. It’ll drive you nuts, and that’s because, deep down, you’ll know I’m right.
An oyster needs a grain of sand to make a pearl. I hope yours turns into something beautiful.