artwork for Ellen Parker's introduction

#WhatIsThis?
Ellen Parker (@friggmagazine)

I’m not sure I can properly explain Twitter if you don’t already know what it is. That sounds elitist. Well, literary magazines are elitist. I’ve heard it said that the only people who read lit mags are the writers who submit to them. So this issue of FRiGG is even more elitist than usual—this issue might appeal only to writers who use Twitter. So instead of appealing to the usual readership of maybe (on a good day) 1,000 writers, this issue appeals to maybe fifty.

So much for building an audience.

Twitter is an online “social media” thing. Kind of like Facebook, but without all the photos. Without all the conversations. Without all the “friends.” It’s an introvert’s Facebook. (Although there are a lot of showoffs on Twitter, mostly celebrities or companies using Twitter to promote their “brand.” Generally, these entities are not interesting.) But you don’t have to “have dialogues” with anyone or post pictures of anything. You can do those things if you must—but you don’t have to. (And if you do post a pic, it’ll only be a URL.) Instead, you can use Twitter like standing in a closet and murmuring to the shirts. Opening a window and howling to the wind. I was talking to FRiGG’s chief artist, Al Faraone, about the special Twitter issue, and he said, What’s Twitter? I tried to describe Twitter—individuals, wherever they are, can tap tap tap on a device’s keyboard, composing messages of 140 characters or less, and, after shooting through the ether, these messages appear before readers’ eyes—and he practically shouted: Oh! Like a telegram!

So, yes, Twitter is like sitting at a desk and firing off a telegram.

SURROUNDED ON ALL SIDES STOP FOOD AND WATER GONE STOP ENEMY CLOSING IN STOP SITUATION DIRE STOP LOSING FAITH STOP SEND HELP NOW

Granted, Twitter can be used for admirable political purposes to deliver one’s message, unfiltered, to a large audience that might not otherwise have heard that message via traditional media. Groups of people who have gathered for good purposes (or even bad ones) can let us know via Twitter what they’re doing, in real time, in their own words—and no news organizations or governments or even just one individual can censor or edit that message. FOX News is out of the loop. Ditto Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Occupy movements, the Arab Spring uprising, Iranians disputing the 2009 presidential elections—these people, without access to traditional media, spoke to us through Twitter, and they shifted the world a little.

But Twitter can also be used by individuals who, when they’re tweeting, have no political agenda. They just want to say something. Only one person can post a tweet. Only one set of fingers can tap tap tap and send, and a message is out there in the universe, unadulterated, appearing in the exact characters you chose. If you fancy yourself a writer, does this concept not sound highly attractive? You can write whatever comes to mind and then you push send and, instantly, some people might see what you wrote! You might even get some people to follow you. Twenty. Hundreds. Thousands. Good god, millions. And you don’t even have to know who they are. You don’t have to be their “friend.” Moreover, if some critic sends you a snarky tweet, you can just block the fucker.

I happen to know that there are some writers out there who are going: This is golden.

I must add that most people on Twitter aren’t writers. (Which I love.) At least, they don’t know they’re writers. But you should see some of these people’s tweets. They’re brilliant. And I’m talking about all types of people out there, people you’ll never cross paths with, people whose voices are not heard in the mainstream media, people you will not see giving any fucking TED talks. People of all colors. Kids on buses. Ranty desk jockeys. Drunk teachers. Homicidal caregivers. Manic TV viewers. They’re all just spouting their stuff on Twitter and some of it is so smart, dumb, real, funny, profane, genius, ridiculous.

So I got an idea to ask some people I know are good tweeters to choose and arrange some of their tweets into short pieces that are like … what? Stories? Poems? I saw the writer John Minichillo do it, so I knew it could be done. He arranged some of his tweets into a short piece and I forget where I saw it. Fictionaut? His is here. Others are here, too, and their pieces take a variety of forms. All of the contributors here call themselves writers, and they were selected because the people I know online tend to be writers, but I want to make it clear: I love many people on Twitter who do not call themselves writers.

I think a lot of the things writers (and others) post on Twitter they’d rather not have a lot of people see. (Even famous people, like dumb Anthony Weiner, sometimes use Twitter like they hope no one is looking.) They’d rather their kids not see it, or their parents, or their teachers, or their students, their bosses. You get this illusion on Twitter that you can shout like you do onto the side of a house. It’s cathartic. No one backtalks. But you’ve put it out there. Pretend I’m not saying this: but some people really do hear. We take note. Shhh. Is anybody listening? Nah.

So these tweeters you see here: I feel kind of bad for having “outed” them. They might not even want more followers. On the other hand, maybe they sort of do. Twitter is the perfect medium for people who just want to say stuff, and get it out there, and, yeah, all these tweets are searchable, potentially millions of people could see them—but, then again, maybe no one will. A tweet appears on followers’ walls, but it’s there for only a moment before it’s pushed off by newer tweets. There you are, in your room, on the train, at your desk, in a bar, just your mind and your fingers, and you have something to say. Type and send. Huzzah! Your words are in the wind.

P.S. This issue doesn’t have much art. This is apt because Twitter is not pictures but words and keyboard characters. (Like, this is a hashtag: #. Never mind.) Plus, I and Al Faraone and a few others who have done art for FRiGG, well, we’re taking a little summer breaky-break. The art will return again in the fall, with all the colors.


Table of Contents




FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | The Twitter Issue | Issue 37 | Summer 2012