What Would Twitter Do?

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In this new ten-part series, ten of my favorite people on Twitter talk about what they do on Twitter and why—their Twitter philosophies, their do’s and don'ts, and what they make of the medium in general. First up: kimmy @arealliveghost whose Twitter feed is unique and moving and poetic and wonderful. One of her most popular tweets (and one of my favorites) is: your body is a ghost factory that takes one lifetime to produce a ghost. Kimmy Walters lives and writes in St. Louis. Her poetry can be found in FRiGG, Plain Wrap’s Quarter, The Chariton Review, and other publications. 

Sheila Heti

SHEILA HETI: When you are on Twitter, who do you imagine your audience is? What kind of relationship would you like to have with this audience?

KIMMY WALTERS: I try not to think about my audience too much. If I do, I get nervous. I don’t know who they are and I mostly have no idea how they’re reacting to me.

SH: What do you think about before you tweet? How do tweets come to you? Do you just think about them or do they appear sort of spontaneously? Which do you reject?

KW: I trained my brain to work in a certain way long before I ever used twitter. Like many of my friends, I am prone to sadness, which always feels like a dark thread running directly down the center of my body. Making myself laugh is a way to hula hoop around that sadness. My brain helps out by spontaneously producing thoughts that are funny to me. I have been laughing to myself pretty frequently for as long as I can remember. It didn’t occur to me before I started using twitter that other people might also enjoy my thoughts.

SH: What makes someone good on twitter? Which are some of your favorite accounts and what do you think they’re doing?

KW: Not everyone knows how to be brief and still convey everything necessary. It’s actually a very rare skill. Some of my favorite tweeters write tweets that are like perfect little globes. A few people that come to mind as being extremely skillful are Demi Adejuyigbe (@electrolemon) and Patricia Lockwood (@TriciaLockwood). I like when I can tell that a person is having fun with their account. Bryan Lee O'Malley’s (@radiomaru) tweets are also some of my favorites. I imagine him as a huge god sticking his hand directly into language and just sort of ruffling it up a bit.

SH: What are the most boring or bad things people do on twitter, that makes you roll your eyes?

KW: I don’t love it when people explain my own tweets to me. People also used to tell me I was funny “for a girl.” This type of dude will always have the strangest facial expression in his avatar. It’s like his eyes aren’t even aware that they belong to a mammal. I recommend blocking him immediately.

SH: Do you think it’s an art form? Do you use it that way? 

KW: It can be if you want it to. Sometimes I use it that way; other times I’m just messing around.

SH: To what degree do you think of it as a tool for self-promotion? How about a tool for making friends? Building community? What is its purpose, in your mind?

KW: Twitter has been great for making friends and building community. It’s weird and surprising and cool and frustrating to discover people so similar to you living all across the globe. I have probably seventy soulmates and most of them live between 1,000 and 10,000 miles away from me.

It’s been effective for self-promotion, but that mostly happened by accident. I did not start using twitter expecting to accumulate any significant amount of followers. It’s been weird.

SH: What is its relation to poetry, to the joke, to the story—for you?

KW: I didn’t write a whole lot of poetry before I used twitter. People started telling me that what I was tweeting was poetry, and my initial reaction was “fuck you.” Then I found out that poetry is not all written by rude men who want to crush me under a glass of whiskey. I’m learning poetry now, and tweets are often starting points for poems.

There are a lot of people who are so innovative on twitter. That’s why it’s so puzzling to me when someone like Jonathan Franzen is like, “twitter is murdering literature with a gun!” Twitter is seen as a millenial thing. Naturally, older people assume we only use it to send thousands of disrespectful selfies to God, or whatever the stereotype is nowadays. There are limitations with twitter – even people who have never used twitter seem well aware that you only get 140 characters per tweet. Lots of poetic forms also have limitations, but you’ll notice that fewer people are claiming that the sonnet is murdering literature with a gun. Hmmmm. Hmm.

SH: Do you have any simple do’s and don'ts?

KW: Unless you’re being a bigot or harassing someone or otherwise being a jerk, I’m not sure there’s a wrong way to use twitter. Blowing your nose and doing calculus and drawing a portrait of your ex-girlfriend are all valid ways to use paper. Twitter is just another tool. Do what you need to with it.

People who don’t understand it always ask, “what, so it’s just people talking about what they had for lunch?” And yes, it’s okay, you can tweet about what you had for lunch. I love lunch very much.

Week 2: Kate Zambreno

Week 3: Teju Cole

Week 4: Mira Gonzales

Week 5: Tao Lin

Week 6: Christian Lorentzen

Week 7: Patricia Lockwood

Week 8: Crylenol/Sadvil

Week 9: Various

Week 9 ½: Melville House

Week 9 ¾: Roxane Gay

Week 10: Kenneth Goldsmith