Social Media as Cocktail Party Chit Chat

My main issue with the idea of social media has always been that I’ve never felt that my experiences or the running commentary in my head should define any given moment in pop cultural history. I hear what I’m thinking 24-7.

Jan 30, 2013 at 9:55 am

A new study from GlobalWebIndex posted on reports that Twitter was the fastest growing social network of 2012, fighting off stiff competition from the usual suspects (Facebook and Google+), which means that for the first time, my usage (vote) actually counts in this new social media democracy that’s sweeping the globe. 

I remain staunchly opposed to signing up for Facebook, but as of little more than a month now, I’ve been a relatively active participant on Twitter.

Who knew? Well, my current 22 followers, a ragtag collection of intellectual ruffians, the likes of which the world has never seen. I’m a raw novice when it comes to using hashtags and, more fundamentally, tweeting about in-the-moment events. My main issue with the idea of social media has always been that I’ve never felt that my experiences or the running commentary in my head should define any given moment in pop cultural history. I hear what I’m thinking 24-7, and, to be honest, in most cases I’m glad to have the opportunity to tell myself to shut up while I listen to what someone else has to say.

I could care less about someone’s pictures from their last vacation or their third cousin’s 14th birthday party with the flourless chocolate cake shaped like a new iPhone with the Instagram app open and a photo montage of the kid’s first kiss on repeat. That’s what I imagine my “friends” on Facebook are posting and it makes me hate them because, in truth, these people are not my “friends,” nor have they ever been. My friends are the people I’ve shared time and real life experiences with for years and years and who, if push comes to shove, will collect enough money to bail me out of jail when I’ve gone too far on some rant about social media, insulted the “friend” of a “friend” and ended up in cuffs for arguing vociferously while black at The Oak.

I’m sure this type of situation would never occur on Twitter. How can I be so certain? 

I steadfastly adhere to this assumption mainly because I’ve lived with the fantasy that I was born in the wrong time most of my life, although the fantastic aspects involve far more elemental issues than time, which will become clear in just a moment. I long for the days — in that golden-hued sentimental way — when dinner and cocktail party chatter revolved around trading erudite quips about the latest novels of James Baldwin and Norman Mailer or seriously contentious debates about Socialist or Communist movements in the country (movements inspired by philosophical exploration of ideology rather than knee-jerk responsiveness to commentary from talking heads on television who might actually be smart — smart enough to play dumb for an audience that’s too ill-informed and unwilling to educate themselves). 

That’s my long-winded way of defining a world where I still would have been marginalized out of the conversation, but that’s my dream.

The thing is, though, Twitter has, in some small measure, created that alternative space for me, along with the WordPress blog I started (in order to archive my work in one online location) and the Tumblr blog I’m anticipating will allow me to lead a new revolution in film and cultural criticism (if nothing else, all of this has sparked a surprising bit of initiative and ambition in me). 

Twitter, as anyone who has been forced to listen to me proclaim, is that cocktail party I always wanted to host. Thanks to my loyal contingent of followers and the somewhat daunting flock of cultural gadflies that I follow, I am privy to an ongoing (and quite stimulating) dialogue on the issues that matter to me. 

I can enjoy (or find myself completely overwhelmed by) novelist Joyce Carol Oates’ seemingly endless diatribe about guns in America. Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there were moments when I wanted to tell her to collect all of her comments, reformat the narrative, and publish them as a book. 

Or I get to marvel at the recognized genius and unadulterated wit of author Colson Whitehead as he proclaims that people don’t bother him when he’s walking down the street wearing headphones because they realize that he’s listening to God. I also love that I can follow and celebrate a fantastic independent bookstore like Malaprop’s in my hometown (Asheville, N.C.) and have them reciprocate the love.

Twitter feeds my longing to be smarter, which to me is much better than having a bunch of virtual “friends” with nothing interesting to talk about. Do you follow me @ttsternenzi? 


[email protected] or @ttsternenzi