Self-censorship in the Twitosphere

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013


Using twitter at my given age and professional standpoint presents me with an inner conflict seemingly common to many of my twitter-using peers. I wish to keep my account open for reasons of public engagement, visibility and, let’s be real, wanting more followers. Existing in the public, however, means that technically anyone with access to Twitter can look at my profile. Those I fret most about include professors, relatives, potential employers, and current employers. Generally, the relationships I maintain with these sorts of “figures,” consist in an element of reservation: I want to conceal certain aspects of my lifestyle, perhaps tailor my language, emphasize the responsible, or intellectual, or well-behaved sides of my self. Of course, the way in which I position my self varies from relationship to relationship.

In the case of Twitter, though, @Buajitti is my sole vessel for self, and this vessel is accessible to all those for whom I’d previously self-customized. Anyone’s encounter with this account will colour their relationship with me. With this in mind, how am I to customize my Twitter? Am I to amalgamate customizations? From my observation and experience, the lowest common denominator is less-than-desirable: when I tweet as though the world is watching, I not only bore but also debase myself, and when I see my friends do the same, I feel a sense of longing and disappointment.

It so often feels as though Twitter is serving as the extension of a resume, rather than a medium within which to socialize. I acknowledge that from a professional point of view, having a venue in which to demonstrate your interests, your outreach, your network, etc. is totally advantageous. Would I opt to use the tool in exclusively this way rather than others? For the time being, I say no.

For the time being, I have told myself that I will not censor my tweets for the sake of the people who might see them. I swear, I say ditzy things, I tweet during work, I insult schools of thought I am “supposed” to support. Sometimes when I think about the way @Buajitti looks, I am mortified, and wonder about who might have read through my Twitter and subsequently thought less of me.

What I tell myself is that if people are going to examine my social habits, they should be ready to see me doing my thang. That I shouldn’t have to talk like a square just because I’m in the public eye. That my twitter account is a space of my personal leisure that people visit willingly, and so shouldn’t that retain some genre of freedom for me. Is this an entitled perspective? Reading over this paragraph, it really sounds that way. I’m not sure yet.  If I were to even call this an argument, there would definitely be holes in it.

The truth is: every time I try to reason around my activity within Twitter, I get so overwhelmed by the quickly blurring distinction bewteen public and private (cue Arendt). You can’t expect privacy with a public account, but you are using this public venue to carry out activity that once took place in the so-called private sphere. Clearly, the private and public have been mingling for some time now, but I think the prevalence of social media raises new questions about how we define these spheres, and the behavioural expectations we’ve attached to these definitions.  Do we need a new taxonomy? I don’t know. I do wish that people could let loose though.


One comment on “Self-censorship in the Twitosphere

  1. Thanks, Mel. I definitely think about this, and it’s great to have your input. I feel like I’m sort of stuck remaining pseudo-professional on twitter especially now that social media is kind of my job, and clients are starting to interact with me on twitter. I know what you mean, it’s good to interact with more people, but being on the cautious side is a bit of a drag.

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