2023-04-18: mute the young

as much as i've been trying to stay off twitter (given, and i'm just picking a few: when he welcomed back all the white supremacists, then when he made verification worthless, when he labelled cbc as '69% government funded' [yeah, he did it for the 'nice' reason, he's twelve years old]...), i can't quite quit it yet because a handful of people i want to keep in touch with refuse to get on anything else. and that's frustrating: the site is clearly dying, and staying is enabling a bunch of the worst people in society. but despite all that, twitter is still the best place to be for quite a few things. and so, we're all still there, for a few more days, or weeks, or months, watching as it slowly falls apart.

and it's funny because after quite a few years on the site, you can partition your mutuals pretty neatly: there's the people you added when they added you, with whom you've never interacted once; the people whose tweets you've liked maybe once or twice; the people you interact with regularly, and will miss; and the people you interact with regularly, and won't.

that last category's particularly interesting for me because there are a number of people i've fallen into a kind of orbit with where, our tweets are getting sent to each other's timelines, and we like some of each other's tweets, but when i think about them as a whole, i realize i wouldn't miss them if they quit the site tomorrow.

and there are a few. the peers who are doing interesting work but maybe aren't particularly interesting themselves (no knock, i'm probably one of these). or the ones who're there for the pure engagement, the likes and RTs rather than the people. or, the embittered nichers who spent years working on projects very close to them, with which they are deeply in love, and which have never caught on. but the one that stands out for me is the designer who i first followed when she was a grad student student in a different area, but who was also interested in a bunch of academic topics related to my rough area of work. once she got her phd, she jumped straight into the industry, working immediately on major projects on the strength of some existing collaborations/contacts. the sort of things some people work towards for years, but never reach.

i've taken the time to go through some of her work: it's strong, but not exceptional, though it's clear my views differ from other people's.

her posts are full of that supreme, ball-clackin' confidence you have in your 20s when you're still young and quick, processing and internalizing everything that wider culture is aiming at your key demographic. where you've only ever left jobs for opportunities, rather than be laid off; where, having only worked for a handful of years after school, and still young, you haven't yet found yourself wondering what your younger colleagues are talking about. where you're clever, and people make sure to tell you you're clever.

people who are star-touched, who have never failed, are boring. i'm not going to quote that malcolm gladwell article on late bloomers, because i think it's reductive and flawed, but i'm really uninterested in the art and conclusions of the confident young. because those who find their touch early, who burn suddenly and intensely bright, often don't move much beyond that. how many great artists who figured things out early are remembered for what they did later, versus the thing that set the world on fire? i'd wager not many. no, give me the late bloomers, the plodders, the people who need time, a lot of time, to figure their shit out. robin robertson, the great scottish poet who didn't publish until his 40s; john burnside, another scottish poet who wasn't winning prizes at 21, instead stuck in a soul-killing job as a system analyst. even better: someone like anton bruckner, the choral composer and symphonist, who toiled in the austrian provinces as an organist, an outsider to the establishment whose enormous, ambitious symphonies got better and better, and his arguable best, the massive 9th, left unfinished and dedicated to god.

in the end, to say: i should probably just unfollow her, or at least just mute her again, which i've done on several occasions. perhaps again today. why let someone take up headspace that could be spent on something legitimately useful?

if you detect a note of jealousy, you're right. i've been at this long enough to see that people who make lists early tend to keep making lists, that there's a form of recognition and inertia and quid pro quo (spahr, young, and grossmann have famously tracked prestige and lineage and networks as part of their literary research), and if you think i've never made those lists, you're right again. the last five years i've been coming to peace with my place in each of my communities, understanding that i've always been a jack-of-many-trades and will always be a wanderer at the fringes. but that acceptance is a little wobbly. days like today i lash out, switch from the uninteresting guy to the embittered one, and post all this under a pseudonym instead of my real name. i wait for a gradual silence on the other end, a recalibration, as failure and rejection break and remake her, in the same way that happened to me. and i know i'll wait forever, because for the star-touched few, the accolades really are endless, and such moments never seem to come.