Funny how a brief glimpse of light and color catches our attention more than seeing the ridge brilliantly sunlit all day. I often recall a story my stepfather, Leo Kennedy, used to tell. He and some other guys were at a strip club. (Yes, this is absolutely the kind of story he would tell in mixed company. Everything in life was interesting to him.) They were sitting around a table when the waitress delivered the drinks. She bent over to set the drinks on the table and every guy leaned forward to catch a glimpse of her cleavage where her blouse gaped open. Even though there were several naked women dancing ten feet away.
He said it was an example of the hidden having more allure than the fully exposed.
He was also a former Catholic priest, so he may have told this story to encourage me to dress more demurely. At any rate, I think there’s truth in this.
This morning, I saw one of those perennial articles about how writers should handle Twitter, the balance between promo and “other” and yadda yadda yadda. I say all of this with great irony because, although the information is oft-repeated along various themes, clearly I still click on and read the articles.
It’s something we all want to know and still don’t quite understand.
I tweeted about the article (of course!) and snarked about the advice to “have a personality” on Twitter. Terrible advice, right? Terrible as in Utterly Useless. This is like your mother telling you as you leave for a party to just be yourself. Like this is such an easy thing to figure out. Especially when most of us – raging egomaniacs may be excuse from this conversation – harbor the deep conviction that “just ourselves” isn’t very interesting at all. After all, just being myself usually entails things like not wearing a bra or makeup, ignoring everyone and indulging in various bad habits. You people have no idea the lengths I go to, cleaning up my act for you.
Joking aside, most of us are grownups now and have developed, if not personalities, at least socially acceptable personae. We might not go to parties and “just be ourselves,” but we can generally get by without being hated by everyone. (Again, raging egomaniacs? we have a roped-off section in the bar for you!) But just “having a personality” doesn’t mean we know how to show it on Twitter.
The perky @AmaraRoyce, sister Kensington author, replied with:
Okay, I get the “don’t just bombard with promo” but…dammit, I have a personality! How do I show that in 140 char? 😉
And this is always the question, right?
I think it’s all about the striptease.
Twitter is, by nature, suited to the small glimpse. 140 characters is the hint of the curve of a breast through the open blouse. It’s the flash of thigh revealed by the slit in a knee-length skirt.
So, here are Jeffe’s Random Five Bits of Advice for Having a Personality on Twitter:
- Give fun and brief insights into your life
People like to be snarky that Twitter is all about what you ate for breakfast. It’s not, but the fun things you do – including the meals you enjoy – show who you are. And, like with sex, people are pretty much always interested in food, detractors notwithstanding. People like to hear about funny incidents or amazing sights. Think cocktail party conversation
- Leave your health and assorted bodily functions out of it
Conversely, people are really not interested in your health problems. Even your friends, when they ask about how you’re doing with Your Horrible Disease, are asking out of concern for you and not because they really want to hear about your latest funky bowel movement. See? You flinched just reading that, right? No one wants to hear about it
- Don’t show everything
A striptease is about tantalizing, about the hints and intriguing glimpses. Once people have seen everything you have to show, they lose interest. Besides, hanging it all out there is a bad idea. Twitter is not your confessional. People are not there to offer you therapy. A friend of mine somtimes comments that “such and so’s entrails are showing.” You know the image she’s thinking of – the poor wounded animal whose entrails are hanging out, and who the pack will soon turn on. Don’t rely on the kindness of strangers. If you’re wounded, go to your friends. Don’t let the others catch the scent of blood.
- Don’t be a Debbie Downer
A little bit of complaining is okay. Heavens know Erma Bombeck made a career of it. A lot of comedians have. And that’s the key: comedy. If you can make your whine funny – especially if it’s a complaint you know a lot of people share – go for it. But be judicious. People want to be entertained by you, not depressed. It’s fine to tweet about a low moment – @AmandaPalmer did this recently and received an outpouring of support – but not non-stop. Amanda Palmer can get away with that because most of the time she’s upbeat, interesting and gives fascinating glimpses into the life of a rock star.
- Share the things you like
The things in life that give us joy and rev us up are what make us most interesting. Don’t worry about if it’s deep or will have a lasting impact on the Human Condition. If you’re happy about a new pair of shoes, tweet about it! If you’re in love with a new band, share that. I really believe that, in the end, it’s what we love most that defines us.
And, if all else fails? Just be yourself!