Friday, 27 February 2009
Incommunicado: Four Days No Twitter
A warm log cabin, wide veranda stretched along the edge of idyllic wetlands. Mornings spent exploring the Island, walks and museums and parks – ours alone in the quiet off-season. Evenings devoid of television, playing Gloom in the clear night air, accompanied by good whisky and the brassy impertinence of geese…
Sometimes, you need to stop.
Recently, I passed the epiphany that was Tweet 23,000: shocking myself slack-jawed as I totalled out 230,000 words. Two novels (or half a Neal Stephenson) – and my two-year twitterversary next month… How much time have I spent?
I plead sophistry – I can tweet while looking after my home and family, wheras writing requires concentration – but that number grins too stark to be denied.
Hence, my holiday has been totally Incommunicado; leaving my phone in the office was both unintentional and perfectly timed. Before I left, I sent everyone and his cat a panicked email to explain my silence – more for my benefit than theirs, I know – and then turned to face that cold, beady-eyed turkey…
The world without the web.
On the first day, I wanted to tweet everything – the hovercraft ride, the cabin itself, the great food in the local pub – I was bereft, reaching, craving to share.
On the second day, I found distractions – a veranda-breakfast with ducks and moorhens, watching the cormorant pose like the Angel of Death – I involved myself with family and outings and allowed the hankering to recede.
On the third day, it had almost gone – I walked through an eternity of mud, saw a red squirrel in an ancient wood, made friends with an ocelot kitten – and Twitter was a world away, another life. My universe was smaller – yet each thing in it was precise and significant. Real.
On the fourth day, I reached for a RSPB book to discover what a Marsh Harrier looked like… and realised I was cured. No longer dwarfed by epic, breaking news or world-shaking media achievement, there was enough silence in my heart to be looking at the little things.
And understanding why they matter.
Call me a Social Media heretic if you will, four days Incommunicado has not only upped my wordcount (and my confidence to produce it), it’s also reminded me that red squirrels and ocelot kittens really matter – even when, especially when, they’re not validated by an audience. In the greater amphitheatre of Social Media, the mass-onslaught of feedback and information can deluge us, bury us under Significance and take our eyes from the things right in front of them.
Just like wordcount, just like Twitter itself in fact, we should remember – if we’re going to build BabelTower 2.0?
Even the biggest things are made up from the little ones.