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.