Monday 27 May 2013

Inner monologues made outer

The #followateen meme sat somewhere between patronising and creepy. Adult Twitter users were encouraged to find and follow a teen user, and then report on their Tamagotchi-like charge's behaviour

Gawker tracked the #followanadult backlash launched by teen icon Tavi Gevinson. Meanwhile, Helena Fitzgerald wrote a terrific piece on the trend for The New Inquiry about how #followateen makes explicit one of the great appeals of the platform
Twitter is a self-curated world of choose-your-own-adventure voyeurism. It becomes interesting when you realize that you can just sit behind the scenes of someone’s life and listen to them talk to themselves, when you realize how many inner monologues — those of friends, celebrities, strangers — are waiting there naked-faced in a neat backward scroll. Voyeurism is not widely acknowledged as useful, and social media are constantly being asked to justify their efficacy. Although Twitter succeeds as a mechanism for self-promotion and offers a way to connect with strangers or friends of friends, its main utility is as entertainment. We have all wished at times that we could be there for someone else’s argument, gossip session, or first date: Twitter gets us pretty close. Twitter is where we go to be creepy, and #followateen demonstrates this: It is precisely what has made Twitter so popular, so successful, and so addictive.
It's not exactly inner monologue though, is it? Anything that looks like this is usually a carefully crafted public interface to a private thought or moment. Sure, people might exist who appear to have no filter - but then, they're the same people who have no filter in face to face conversations.

I think I happened upon that article (my first introduction to the meme, which had thankfully not been picked up by the 200-ish people I follow) on the same day that I found Scientific American's coverage of anthropologist Andrew Irving's attempts to capture the inner monologue of New York pedestrians.

He does this by approaching people in the street, miking them up, then following them with a camera as they walk and talk. How this can really be anything other than performative, I don't know. This is the same 'inner monologue' as one gives on Twitter: revealing, yet in a controlled, edited, publishable manner. The risks you take are the ones you have chosen.

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