In Which the Poet Probes the Mysterious Many-Armed Beast of Social Media

Results are mixed.  But generally the town squares of the day are square, or straight, or off the charts oracular, (and circular), intensely bent, or comfortingly bi-polar.

Twitter is built for brevity, but goes on and on and on.  It has the distinct feel of a house of footloose gremlins and their prickly spawn.  It's scarcely populated by poets, and those poets who are present tend to be the ones who object to Facebook on principle, and more power to them.  It's well suited to those with a quick wit and a pulse on the entire planet.  A particularly good place for the well-read, the clever and the curmudgeonly. And your basic egomaniacal ignoramus who doesn't know it.

Facebook is great for cats and memes and pokes and winks and those who like to engage, argue, and express their deepest fears, not with blood, or sweat, or ink, but with link upon link upon link.  It's the hub of social media, it's got the boomers by the short hairs, and it knows it.  And it shows.  Already it looks tired of itself.  It's always seemed to me a missed opportunity for creatives and carnies and poets, who tend to turn into sales people when they log onto facebook.  For all the material, and of course there are exceptions, there is very little real riffing or spontaneity, or dialogue.  Or creative weirdness.  But its familiarity and safety is its great virtue, and even a cloistered old poet enjoys stopping in now and then, comforted to find so many loved ones sharing links amongst themselves.  Or with themselves.

Snapchat is for YOLOs who toast their bodies and their beers without a modicum of fear, secure in the knowledge that everything disappears.   Although the Snapchat world is about stimulation and gratification and cartoonization, it's the most zen of the digital town squares out there.  Everything evaporates as soon as it's seen.  The caption, (the koan?) is king.  And the name of the game is fleeting.  Live in the moment, it seems to urge.  But, like most things zen, it's mostly pretty reductive. I confess I didn't stay long.  Best suited to the hungry yoot and the hungry ghost.  

Pinterest is excellent for horders on a budget.  It's eye candy, stimulating, and briefly satisfying.   Its distinctive feature and primary brilliance is that is puts buyers directly in touch with artists.  Facebook has no such feature, and is poorer for it.  In the world of Pinterest, every image 'pinned' to someone's board contains a link which leads directly to its source's contact information -- whether the artist has an account or not.  I've sold more work and had more inquiries from Pinterest sources than any other, and I've never had an account. A good place for visual artists and crafty types selling their wares to establish a presence.  Strangely enough, one's poems also end up displayed on Pinterest, particularly if they're short and deceptively cheery.

Periscope is awkward, terrifying, and weird.  It has promise, of what I am uncertain.  I didn't spend much time investigating, but it appears best suited for the brave, the bizarre and the ultimately shameless.  

Vine has the attention span of a gnat, which I suspect is its allure.  Another one designed entirely for the yoot. 

Instagram is all about aesthetics.  It seeks clarity of vanity, is not opposed to hilarity, and is very short on biography. The aesthete, the eccentric, the architect, the traveler, the juggler, the healer, and the obsessive compulsive are equally at home there -- so long as they take mighty good pictures of what they do. And post them sparingly.   No albums with 55 pictures of grandma's birthday party.  One artful photo of grandma fallen asleep in a dusty beam of light will do.  Skill is the name of the game. At a glance you can see what an account is about, and what its tenor.  All language here is visual, and the grid of the thing can be shifted and viewed with remarkable ease.  Only on Instagram can a meticulous artist create a mural with an interface that appears to be a grid.  The look is sleek and the thing is fast-loading, (they don't call it insta for nothing), and it has the best photo editing/enhancing features I've encountered.  No links.  Speak for yourself, it seems to say, sans words. It's the only of the digital town squares I investigated that hooked me, and my account remains intact.  Some of the best, most creative political commentary I've found were on Instagram, and they were wordless. No sharing beyond its borders, which is a real pity. Best suited for creatives, perfectionists, reductionists, and escapees of any kind. 

Meanwhile, down in the ravine tonight, a bunch of neighborhood cats, deprived of all social media opportunities, are having themselves some kind of orgy. 

Many campfires, one fire, indeed.  

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