I love Twitter. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that; if you didn’t then I’ll just mention that I’m much more garrulous over there. But there’s one thing about it that bothered me until very recently: my stream’s tendency to not simply be all over the map emotionally, but be at highs and lows at the same time. In face-to-face conversations, it’s pretty rude to be laughing and joking at the same time as talking about serious, depressing matters, but that’s what Twitter presents me with all the time, and it’s often what I present to the people who follow me there.
Until recently I had felt quite uncomfortable with this, and even a little guilty about my contribution to it, but I’ve had a complete change of heart. What changed was the realisation that this is a much more honest account of life than the tactful way people [usually] communicate in person. Right now, for instance, I have friends going through terrible, difficult things: illness, divorce, bereavement, unemployment, despair. I also have friends who are falling in love, bringing up children with joy and love, and changing the world for the better. I have my own struggle with despair over how humanity is fouling its own nest and anger about how cruel we are to each other. But I also get to go skiing and see the world like this, and a dear friend cooked me a delicious lunch today, and others will make me laugh with their awful puns and their artisan upcycled banana slicers, and it’s all part of life.
The strange part, really, is that it took me so long to become comfortable with this. After all, until I decided it would be useful for people from the internet to be able to recognise me face-to-face, I used this image as my user icon everywhere:
I never quite articulated it this explicitly, but I love that image because it expresses how most of life feels. Joy and sadness always live together, and it must be so. I wish never to forget that there is suffering in the world, but I also wish for it never to eclipse or extinguish the joy.