Getting Back on Twitter
April 27, 2019
Author: Bianca Yang
I joined Twitter in April 2014. I can’t exactly remember why high school me thought this was a meaningful thing to do. In fact, I was so ashamed and bored by my old tweets that I deleted them all. Maybe I should have left that internet paper trail to inform me about my high school years. Regardless, I don’t think my Twitter usage really picked up until I got to Caltech. At some point, I was working for Scoutables on social media promotion. That got me a follow from Fred Claire, former Dodgers general manager, and an excuse to check Twitter to figure out the trends in the baseball world on any given week. I believe, around that time, I was also experimenting with figuring out how to Tweet Cool Things. I ended up following over 150 people and tweeting a bunch of drivel about random links I found interesting on the Internet. This coincided with my attempts to do the same thing on Facebook, for personal reasons and for the Global Goddess / Kanberra Gel campaigns.
That kind of tweeting was largely a failure. I actually didn’t even like that many of the people I was following, I wasn’t saying anything particularly insightful, and I somehow didn’t realize that being a link posting bot was not exciting to people. This period of exploring the Internet like a fiend overlaps with the period of time when I would obsessively subscribe to and try to keep up with newsletters. I subscribed to so many newsletters that I had to create a rule to filter them away from my inbox in Mail. That mailbox, at its peak, grew to something like 800 messages, all from internet newsletters. Most of these newsletters were actually exceedingly boring to me. But I refused to give up and would waste a lot of time on weekends catching up on old news. Sometime in my junior year or post-sophomore summer, I wisened up and cut back on the newsletters. I also started blogging around that time. Now, it’s not like I had anything particularly smart to say; I just felt like I had more smart and substantial things to say that I previously did. I don’t think that assessment has been false, and I hope you readers are seeing improvement in this blog. That moment when I cleared out my inbox and started blogging again really changed something fundamental about my thinking and life. I can’t describe it concretely, but I think I feel like I’ve made yet another leap and bound in my world perspective as a result of that shift.
Here’s some life improvements I attribute to that shift:
- I put up a whiteboard on the wall in my room, on which I write project ideas, inspirational quotes, a todo list, etc. This whiteboard has been a great way for me to offload my mental world and view it more objectively.
- I began to think seriously about procrastination and my work habits and digital distractions.
- I began to more seriously refine my thoughts about city design and the ideal life and relationships and financial independence and meaning of work and priorities.
- I began carrying around physical notebooks, onto which I could take notes while people watching or copy down quotes from reading materials or songwrite or draw.
- I started to explore and document exotic projects, like playing the harmonica, and, to a smaller extent, flying.
- I started documenting my life. This maybe sounds trivial, but it’s going to prove to be a huge boon for me to be able to look back and reflect on my old thinkings and old decision making processes. There’s a reason documentation is so important to experimentalists. How else do you know what you did? This implies that I see my life as an experiment, which I think is a half-baked analogy. We don’t have controls in life, no repeatability, bad documentation (history), bad practices which result in a tendency for falseness to propagate (fake news, conspiracy theories), etc.
- I’m less confused about my life. There was a point in my Caltech career where I was considering, on a scale of 1 - 10, a level 5 of applying to the Studenski Award. This Award is supposed to help students who are at a crossroads figure out what to do with their lives. I would have used the Studenski money to help me figure a way out of software, which I didn’t want to “end up in”. I’ve since resolved my fear of becoming a software engineer and existing among that technical crowd working on robotics projects and taking up flying. I’m not done blowing away this cloud of uncertainty that surrounds who I “really am” and what I “really want to do”, but for now, this path provides me enough happiness that I know I can make it to the next juncture. The one thing I am still confused and stressed about is achieving financial independence. But I know that will come in time and through a bit more research.
All those life and personal improvements and David Perrell’s recommendation to use Twitter as a way to maximize serendipity convinced me that I should get back on Twitter. I also recently read a couple of cool Twitter threads. Those also helped convince me that Twitter was a medium I could successfully use to propagate some of the “what I think is common knowledge but actually is just me” thoughts that I have. So, here it is, my Twitter page. I think the switch to 280 chars limit has also really helped me, because the pseudo long form tweet thread is what I think my natural style is. Building off my previous (failed and awful and let’s not talk about it too much) experience with Twitter, I know that people don’t just want to see a bunch of links from me. If I have links to share, I need to provide context, background, reasoning, the meat of how I see the world and why this matters. Maybe one day I’ll master the art of tweeting short, funny anecdotes about “oh I did this dumb hilarious thing today, teehee”.
As usual, I am open to email inquiries (see email at top of post). And now that I am back on Twitter, I am open to the Twitter DM. Happy reading.