the twits

Does anyone remember The Twits?

Mr and Mrs Twit, I mean, from the Roald Dahl story published sometime in the eighties. “Mr. Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.” Ditto Mrs Twit.

They’re basically a nasty pair of seniors who spend their lives playing disgusting tricks on each other and their long-suffering pets, the Roly-Poly birds and the Muggle-Wump monkeys.

If you wanted to psychoanalyse them, you’d probably say that they’re pathologically lacking in empathy.

Their crime is a total lack of imagination.

Which is why I keep thinking about them when I think about Twitter.

I’ve been grappling with Twitter for a while. I signed up ages ago. Then, like most people, I burbled out a few tweets about Not Knowing What To Say, realised I was pretty shit at being witty in 140 characters, then got bored and forgot all about my account.

But I’ve been persisting. Now that I’ve got an iPhone – a device that makes Tweeting much less effortful, being naturally more immediate and intimate and convenient than a computer – I think I’m starting to get it.

Twitter’s not about narcissim (sic); it’s about empathy.

It’s not about me – it’s about you.

According to Fast Company, Twitter, in fact, causes the brain to flood itself with oxytocin – the ‘cuddle chemical’ responsible for bonding mother and baby, close friends, and partners. “E -connection,” says neuro-economist Paul Zak, “is processed in the brain like an in-person connection.”

I definitely felt this when, after Tweeting for months and months, I got my first retweets, and direct responses, from followers. And that in turn prompted me to plunge deeper into the conversation myself.

Yup, cuddles all round.

But the thing I really love about Twitter is that you get to pick and choose which brains you’re gonna cuddle. You’ve probably never met them, but despite the anonymity there’s a good chance you’ll catch the edge of a thought that’s interesting, inspiring, maybe even brilliant.

It’s like an idea-transfusion, drip-fed direct from a series of foreign brains into your own:

That’s why, when I think of Twitter, I think of the Twits.

Especially how, at the end of Dahl’s story, stuck fast by Hugtite Glue to their upside-down chairs, The Twits collapse in on themselves, “until there is nothing left of them but their clothes.”

Because I’ve been finding that whenever I feel like I’m gonna implode like that – stuck fast in my own subjectivity, maybe bogged with something for work or just scrambling to muster the oomph to actually write something – the best solution is checking out some other, radically different species of subjectivity.

Subjectivities about kids and biz(@deemadigan), “architectural conjecture” (@bldgblog), everyday twenty-something-ness (@marksdodds) and just plain hilarious drollness (@thesulk) are like the antidote to misanthropy.

@RoaldDahl, can you hear me? I think what the Twits really needed was a Twitter account.


3 thoughts on “the twits

  1. I had an English teacher in Year 9 that used to read to us from the non-childrens stories of Roald Dahl. The experience of being read to outloud as a non-child and stories that are … bizarre and clearly unsuitable for small ears was eye opening to me (and one of my favorite memories from secondary school). This post reminded me of that.

    I am no longer on Twitter (I simply couldn’t keep up with it in any meaningful way). It’s part of my 2011 attempt not to be such a slave to the screen…

  2. I love those stories! Funny, I think I also first encountered them out loud in a classroom… and for that reason Roald Dahl’s narrator for me will always speak in the voice of Mrs Wheeler from Artarmon Public school…

    I agree about feeling flustered in the attempt to keep up with Twitter – that was exactly my sense until I got a smartphone, because it removed at least one of the hurdles (inconvenience) to tweeting. But there’s still a sense that Twitter is impossible to keep pace with. It’s a maelstrom. I think I kind of like that though – there’s a feeling of the infinity of ideas and people out there, the elemental hugeness of it. It makes me really get the phrase ‘surfing the internet.’

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