WHAT WOULD TWITTER DO?

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Welcome to Week 4 of What Would Twitter Do? in which ten of my favorite people on Twitter talk about their Twitter philosophies, their do’s and don’ts, and what they make of the medium in general. This week I speak with the poet Mira Gonzalez (@miragonz) who was born in 1992 in Los Angeles. She is the author of I Will Never Be Beautiful Enough To Make Us Beautiful Together (Sorry House, 2013) and her tweets and her poetry share a world: drugs, sex, loneliness, laziness, recklessness, self-loathing—she writes about these things in an extremely humourous and warm manner. 

I wasn’t sure to what extent her performance on Twitter was just that, so was surprised when (asking her to contribute to a book I was putting together) her email reply was prompt, professional, incredibly polite—the opposite of what I would have expected from how she appeared online. It seemed we were suddenly living in a strange and backwards world, where a person’s public persona might be scattered and dissolute, and their private persona, professional and straight. A recent popular tweet of hers: “‘success is the best revenge’ seems horrifying. id much rather just egg someones house or something.” 

Her feed is brilliantly open, spontaneous, artful and unabashed. I was eager to speak to Mira for this series.

- Sheila Heti

SHEILA HETI: What do you think about before you tweet? You once told me that you tweet what makes you feel uncomfortable. So which tweets do you reject, which do you accept?

MIRA GONZALES: I wouldn’t necessarily say that I tweet what makes me feel uncomfortable, I think it’s more that I feel comfortable tweeting things that I would never feel comfortable saying in a real life conversation, or even in other places on the internet. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, Twitter is a place where I don’t feel ashamed to say my most shameful thoughts. And, generally speaking, I think my most shameful thoughts are the things people relate to the most, because everyone has questionable thoughts sometimes, and it’s easy to feel incredibly alienated and lonely when you feel like nobody else is having those thoughts too. 

I often get asked by people ‘Is your Twitter real?’ and things of that nature. I’m never sure how to respond to that. My Twitter account is completely ‘real’ in that everything I tweet is something I have earnestly thought or something that has actually happened to me, but of course there are a ton of mundane and non-humorous things that happen to me, which I don’t tweet about because they are not entertaining or interesting. Obviously my twitter account is something that I want to entertain myself and other people, so I avoid tweeting things like ‘Just ate dinner’ or ‘Gonna go pee for the 3rd time today’. Usually the tweets I reject are things that I feel aren’t entertaining or interesting or in some way personally satisfying. 

SH: Who do you imagine your audience is? What kind of relationship would you like to have with this audience?

MG: I guess this would depend on what I’m tweeting and when and why. I will sometimes post tweets that are about a specific person or people, in which case I will imagine the people I am tweeting about to be my audience. Sometimes I will tweet things without an audience in mind at all, just because I want to say something that I don’t feel I can say otherwise. Those tweets have a specific sense of desperation to them, because I write them when I feel like I don’t have anyone else to talk to—as if Twitter is the only thing that will accept my insanely inappropriate thoughts without judgement. In that case, I like to imagine there is no audience at all, because I often tweet things that I would feel too horrified/embarrassed/ashamed to say to a friend or loved one, even though most of my friends and loved ones read my Twitter account. 

To me, Twitter often feels like shouting things into a two-way mirror that I know has people behind it, maybe even people I know, and they are definitely listening, but mostly remain perfectly silent.  

SH: What makes someone good on Twitter?

MG: I really like when people do ‘stream of consciousness’ tweeting, or when people’s tweets come across as sort of manic and mostly unedited. It feels intimate and life affirming to me when someone tweets things that appear to just be insane thoughts they had and typed out then tweeted immediately, with little or no regard for how others might perceive them, simply because they were in a state of emotional desperation and felt like they didn’t want to express those thoughts to anyone else. 

I enjoy twitter accounts that are meticulously edited just as much as I enjoy twitter accounts that aren’t edited at all, but it can feel kind of disappointing to me when I see that someone is editing their tweets out of self-consciousness. Some of my favorite twitter accounts right now: 

Tao Lin (@tao_lin)

Sarah Jean (@sarahjeanalex)

Mark Leidner (@markleidner)

Melissa Broder (@melissabroder)

Maggie Lee (@maggie44)

New York Tyrant (@nytyrant)

Lorian Long (@lorianlong)

Ashanti (@ashantivevo)

Preteen Gallery (@preteengallery

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

MG: Probably people who use Twitter only as a tool for self-promotion (not to say there is anything wrong with self-promotion on Twitter, I do that too, but it can become boring if that’s the only thing a person is doing). It also seems really irritating when someone connects their Twitter account to their Facebook, so everything they do on Facebook is tweeted. Unless the things they post on Facebook are thoughtful and funny, which seems rare. Zachary German (@uglyfacekillah) actually does this on his Twitter account and I think it’s funny.

SH: Do you think Twitter is an artform? Do you use it that way? 

MG: Yes, absolutely. I view twitter as an art form as much as I view poetry or fiction as an art form. 

SH: To what degree do you think of it as a tool for self-promotion? How about a tool for making friends or building community? 

MG: I think it is one of, if not the most important tool for self-promotion that exists in my life currently. Without having Twitter as a way to promote my writing I don’t think I would have gotten published in like 95% of the places I’ve been published. Twitter also seems like one of the single most valuable things in my life for making friends and building community. I have met most of my best friends through Twitter, including my editor Spencer Madsen (@spencermadsen) who published my book, as well as countless people who have been supportive of my writing. I have also discovered a lot of my favorite writers through their twitter accounts.   

SH: Is it a poetic medium? Does it allow for poetry?

MG: I would definitely say Twitter is a poetic medium, although the content that I post on Twitter tends to be different from the things I would write in a poem. That’s not to say one is better or more important or ‘less poetic’ than the other. I can express things on Twitter that I wouldn’t feel capable of expressing in a poem, the same way I can express things in a poem that I wouldn’t feel capable of expressing in a short story. 

Week 1: Kimmy Walters

Week 2: Kate Zambreno

Week 3: Teju Cole

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