Thursday, February 21, 2019

Falling Down a Pasthole: Me and My Timehops

As any of the dozen or so actual humans who follow me on Twitter knows, for the past year I have been using the TimeHop app to dredge up some of my best tweets. Also my worst tweets, which are often the same things. The app has my entire Twitter history loaded onto it, and permits me the ambrosia of showing me every tweet I made on this calendar day on each of the past nine years of tweeting. It's been... a trip.

At first, I downloaded it out of idle curiosity, wanting to skim my own archives despite Twitter quite deliberately not having an easy way to do this. Then after the first time I used it, I found it was keeping track of my streak. Well, I thought, that sounds like a challenge that's fun for both me and my adoring followers, eager to hear my greatest hits again.

Every morning - because I got into the habit of opening that app over breakfast to ensure my streak lives on - I spend maybe 15 minutes going backwards through my years. Back through the beginning of my current relationship, through two long-term retail jobs, across various blogging projects that I promoted on Twitter, back to my college years, to the beginning where I am frequently, optimistically, referring to things that I am writing, only for my decade-older self to look back and go "Hah, good luck with that."

I've been on Twitter since July 2009, and in that time I've somehow managed to expel 41,000 of those bad boys into the world (I know, I know, you've got more.) I've done them from the comfort of my home, from behind the counter of the retail jobs I've worked, from my desk at my current job. I've tweeted song lyrics that popped into my head, described interactions with customers, and probably participated in more @Midnight Hashtag Wars than I should ever admit. I've bickered with randos a little bit, but mostly just conversed with the same small group of friends that I made online around the time I came online.

I skim over a lot of it - quotidian stuff, "This sandwich is so good," "Good night everyone," "@leask Yeah, I think so," that sort of thing. Thousands of fweets like that. But there's some good stuff. Yes, my jokes lack what you might call "broad appeal," but every so often I am responsible for a tweet that I think must be the one that goes viral and gets me a book deal and a Bravo reality show, but thankfully my followers have made a pact never to retweet anything I say so as to protect me from such a fate. Fascinatingly, I've discovered several instances of "Time is a Flat Circle" (as first outlined in the Matthew McConnaughey vehicle, "How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days.") Sometimes I discover something on TimeHop that is shockingly relevant to today's headlines, or that I had personally been thinking about days earlier, or - most eerily - that I tweeted about on the same day years apart.

Throughout all this, I've been able to briefly glimpse, and even slip back into the shoes of, the lives I've had before. As someone with a famously poor memory for the events of his own life, it has helped me to leave a trail of virtual breadcrumbs back to my best times - or even my worst ones. Like Guy Pearce in Memento, I've always needed reminders of the life I am actually living. Before Twitter it was the personal blog I started in high school (I won't link it, but if you know where it is, it's still there.) I particularly appreciate all the transcripts of times I sassed customers at my retail jobs (or more likely dreamed about it) or was otherwise nonplussed at the left-field nonsense I was putting up with daily. Sometimes it feels like I was being too hard on good people who were doing their best without the context for issues that arise in the store that I would have, but I largely stand by my former self as giving people the benefit of the doubt, only to be frequently disappointed by those who come at minimum wage earning retail jockeys just spoiling for a fight.

I watch my opinions change and my worldview grow, my approach to the online sphere maturing. When I first got on Twitter I was a 22-year-old University Kid who was wowed by the fact that some of my favourite celebrities and creative people were now in front of my face and, if I tweeted just the right thing at just the right time, stood a chance of @-ing me back or RT'ing. It was basically the 21st century equivalent of a 70's coke party at Robert Evans' house.

Nowadays I don't really follow anyone famous, or even noteworthy in their field. I really just follow a small collection of decent folks with usually good sense in what to retweet into my timeline, so that keeps me up to date on various media I don't have time for, what horrible thing the President of the United States has said or done, what to be outraged about, how cultural mores are constantly changing. I don't @ too many people, and when I do I usually don't expect to be @'ed back (although a well placed one to a prominent tweeter can get me some sweet, precious likes.) Twitter has become far too stratified, and the people who tweet the good stuff know better thsn to indulge the riffraff like me.

I like having Twitter as a way of making dumb jokes to nobody in particular (this is also why I love being in a relationship but it turns out there are limits to what a partner will put up with.) I like using it to find out about the world. I hate that it is mostly a platform for bigotry and oppression, whose keepers refuse to do anything to de-platform those who visit evil upon the world. But outside of that it works for me. It's where a lot of my past, my identity, and my future lives. Some days it feels like the only thing keeping me connected to the world outside my apartment walls and my cubicle.

t's not all there, of course. Like any biography, it's well curated. I very rarely tweeted anything about the co-worker I dreaded seeing until he quit/got fired. I didn't like to tweet excitedly about dates I'd been on in case they went badly. Most of the juicy stuff, and certainly more detailed thoughts, made their way to other platforms. But there is a lot of me fawning over my now-fiancée, all throughout the four years of our relationship. And prior to that I allude - constantly - to how sad my life truly was by tweeting how sad I was to be doing such sad things with my sad little life.

I knew even then that things needed to change. That nothing I was trying to do was taking me anywhere and so the whole thing is largely, implicitly, a build toward the night I met my partner (🎵ba baba baaa ba ba ba ba...)

Once my streak has hit 365 days - only about a week from today - it seems only fair that I stop subjecting myself, and my loyal fans, to these reruns. Yes, I will have one more year to relive, but it's probably for the best that, as I head toward a life of marriage and responsibility, I not dwell too long on the past.

What this experience has shown me is that, for all the frustrations and disappointments and compromises adult life brings, I'm happier and richer now than I have been at any point in my life. That and, I was super into live-tweeting NBC's Thursday Night Comedy lineup.

This all was a nice refresher, but I can let those echoes fade a bit now. Unless I'm, like, at the bus stop waiting for too long. Oh, and it would be nice to open it on February 29, 2020, since I missed out on any and all leap day posts.

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