I know you from Twitter.
Aren’t you the one who tweets all the time?
I just wanted to say hi, I follow you on Twitter.
I was ten years old when we got our first home computer.
It had a 14kpbs Internet connection. I have sentimental feelings about the static hum and screech of dial-up. I could sing it for you now, like a song I know all the words to. I remember that the connection was tenuous and dropped frequently. I would clasp my hands together in hope that the connection would hold, and I silently willed my family to keep from picking up our phone off the hook.
My first chat room was The Space Bar, a black-and-white Telnet box. It was 1996. Most ten-year-old girls weren’t on the Internet talking to strangers. But that was fine with me. I wasn’t like most girls anyway. The following years brought all the good and bad the Internet can bring. I filled out FAFSA and college applications online, and I learned everything I could about where I wanted to go to school. I wrote all my thoughts and feelings on OpenDiary, then on Livejournal, where I met my first husband. And sometime after I graduated from college, I joined Twitter, but I didn’t know anyone who used it then.
It’s been almost two years since the election, since my Twitter use turned from casual observation and friendly banter to anger, despair, and breathless, paralyzed scrolling.
I’ve been holding my breath, waiting for the breaking news that would somehow change everything, reverse course, undo what has been done.
It never came.
It’s why we go to the movies and watch TV and read books. The comfort that, when things seem the darkest, the story will change, the narrative will shift, and the tension will be relieved. We’ll talk about it excitedly later over coffee or frozen yogurt, examining the foreshadowing in the plot, the layers of the characters’ motivations.
But there are no rules here. This is not cinema or fiction.
While theatrical, this is not theater.
Catastrophe strikes and other people tweet about it.
People die and other people write clever protest signs about it.
With every new relevation, I think: No one is coming to save us.
When I was four years old, the first song I ever tried to memorize the lyrics to was “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. It was always burning since the world’s been turning.
What I’ve been looking for is hope. But there’s no hope in BREAKING NEWS, the rage and the outrage about the rage, the endless headlines and the ensuing hot takes. I find comfort in artists, writers, queers, librarians, all of them fighting and raging and loving and living, too. It feels good to remind me that they’re here, that we’re all still here, somehow.
This is what comforted me about chat rooms when I was a lonely, awkward teenager: there was always someone there, no matter the distance.
And what is distance now? I measure it in time, not in miles. How long until I see you again? Time zones are a function of the shape of the Earth but not a reflection of my feelings about you. Can you hear me? I’m still here.