I read an interesting piece about experiencing vs. spectating our lives. It reminded me of this irritating woman I follow on Twitter who leaves upward from 60 to 100 tweets a day. She’s a high school English teacher who does, I admit, leave a scads of good education links in some of those tweets. Every single time I check Twitter, she’s unloaded another fifteen to twenty more links, comments, insights, and hourly whatevers. Fine.
Yes, I know I don’t have to follow her. There’s this strange combination of connection (she’s a codirector of a group I’d rather not name, just like me) and fear of Bad Manners. Southern twitterers must bump into this dilemma all the time. UNfollowing someone, especially if you have a connection of any kind, feels a lot like walking off in the middle of a conversation at the grocery store. It’s rude and ungracious.
Yesterday, as the cloud of grades and final exams finally blew clear, I opened my Twitter to actually leave one. I don’t do this often enough to be remotely interesting to anyone, so if you follow me, well, it’s going to be a little dull. At any rate, I opened my account and there she was, this high school English teacher twittering away about this and that and filling up my whole page.
And then it occurred to me…this was a school day. She was at a high school somewhere up north with a rotating classroom of students every hour on the hour. I counted, and she sent over forty tweets between 8:00 and 4:00. That’s a little over five tweets an hour.
When did she teach? I’ve been a high school English teacher myself, and I know averting your eyes from the crowd at hand for more than ten seconds can be A Very Bad Idea. I also remember nonstop teaching, planning, conferences, lunch duty, and grading during those hours. I also remember the four or so hours at home each evening dedicated to most of that list. Teaching high school English is an all-consuming vocation.
At what point does she push away from the computer and teach in the moment? or at all? And why on earth do I need a running string of electronic teaching ephemera from someone who only twitters teaching?
Here’s the bottom line. Experience needs the luxury of time and reflection to fully explain its multiple layers and provide real meaning. Twittering bypasses reflection and allows us to forgo internal monologue and true understanding. It happens too instantly and is discarded too quickly. Twittering also eats up the moment; constantly narrating our lives turns us into spectators without actual experience. If we Twitter five times an hour we can’t be doing anything.
I’m going to set my Southern upbringing aside and UNfollow this poor woman. My guess is she’s tied up in a broom closet right now, 25 to 30 teenagers laughing and texting each other as they run to their cars.