Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sound Bites

I established both a Twitter and a Facebook account last April, as part of preparations for what's now my current mode of work. "I want you to become an expert at both of these," one of our directors noted, and over the last few months, I've concluded that this was because they were both likely to figure into future initiatives.

Said line of work, however, ended up eating into my writing time for most of the year. When you're juggling multiple projects each day, and generally waiting on a client who can toss you a last-minute business-oriented task at any time... well, you usually don't have that much time left to think of other things. Like, say, metaplots and characterization.

The strange part is that Twitter, Facebook and their ilk have provided adequate replacement within this time. With their character limits and such, I originally thought it difficult to place one's thoughts in a single post... unlike, say, Blogger and/or Multiply, which allow you to write however length you wish. You can't, for example, tell an entire story on Twitter. You can't write an entire treatise on Facebook. You simply don't get enough characters to be able to tell it like it is.

One of the keys, as I've found so far, is injecting a little mystery into the whole affair.

I can't write a classic seven-hundred word blog article into any of these shorter posts... and after a while, I realized what the bother was. A venue that's made for 140 characters is made for 140 characters, after all — it just means that I've had to fundamentally alter my way of thinking in order to adjust. You don't think "how do I fit seven hundred words into 140 characters", but "what thoughts do I have that can be expressed in 140 characters".

In short: Twitter's for those short snatches of conversation. Facebook is for those anecdotes you tell over a glass of wine. Blogger and Multiply are for those all-out, full-blown stories that you wouldn't mind reading in the tabloids. (If you want those massive novel-length treatises, you can still go out and buy a, well, novel... or something.)

That, and I find that you don't necessarily have to say everything. I usually come with the assumption that every person I talk to needs absolutely all the facts with regards to every story. Twitter and Facebook don't just put a cap on that sort of thinking on my side; so far, they've convinced me that not every bit and piece needs telling. The result so far has been a string of subtle posts... perhaps even too subtle in some cases. (I've had to explain quite a few things to some of my contacts, particularly the one about the feminine hygiene wash.)

In fact, my only concern right now is that I seem to sound snarkier than usual when it comes to these things. I'm not exactly a photo or a video person, and I'm only a passable web-gamer at best, so what most people see from me are direct quotes like "Bubu, the god of monitor screens and speakerphone conferences, is amused." I get a lot of raised eyebrows that way.

To be honest, it seems less like adjustment and more like attempted mastery of a different medium. It's an accessible medium, mind you, especially to anyone who's been writing on the Internet for a while now — but it's one of those things that you can't quite put your finger on within the first few days. Think 700 words in 140 characters here.

Over the last few months, my Facebook posts have greatly outnumbered my Blogger and Multiply posts, and that's because it's simply a lot easier to come up with a snarky backhand comment sometime in the middle of the day. That doesn't mean that I'll completely ignore my "proper" blogging yet, but it does mean that I might have to reassess my targets. I can't exactly expect to have time for each and every one of these accounts, of course.

I've got a two-week break coming, and I suppose that I'll try to play some catch-up then. As much as the two services have been quite useful this year, I'm not sure how much sanity I should really invest in reading those feeds all afternoon long. I mean, there are longer stories to write.

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