Do you know the TS Eliot poem “Preludes?” It’s one of those early 20th century extended sighs where the sum of disjointed parts equals alienation. Walking through smoky London, we encounter a progression of fragmented images: “grimy scraps of withered leaves,” “broken blinds and chimney pots,” “faint stale smells of beer from the sawdust-trampled street.”
At one point, Eliot writes
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms
Oddly enough, Eliot’s lines came wafting up from the mental basement I had stashed them in as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday.
Before I wax unkind, let me say that I find Twitter a useful tool in information gathering. On election nights, it’s invaluable, providing returns much faster and more eclectically than broadcast television.
I follow mostly journalists and writers I admire, who hook me up (as we heroin addicts say) with links to The Guardian, The Economist, Mother Jones, etc.
And some of the personal stuff is cool. Yesterday, Emily Nussbaum and her husband Clive were drunk on Scotch wondering if they could pay people not to do podcasts.
On the other hand, some of the people I follow retweet “fellow resistors,” as they call themselves, seem needy as they plead for more followers (“I only need 650 more to hit 10K”) or whine about their lack of a birthday party during the quarantine or announce to the world that their parent or spouse or Pekinese has just died and that they are devastated. What they want, I assume, is an astronomical number of hearts illuminating their posts, equating quantity with quality. What do you say to a stranger who’s grieving? There’s, in fact, little you can say to a loved one. Hugs help, but I doubt that virtual hugs do much good.
Still others cultivate a cult following, young cynical clever know-it-alls who consider not wearing a mask the equivalent of assault and battery, the flip side of those who consider wearing a mask an act of ovine cowardice. You rarely meet anyone in the middle who might wear a mask indoors but eschews one sitting on a park bench by himself.
Anyway, it seems that many of these people spend the majority of their days and nights on Twitter, which to me conjures the lines above, though I should probably update them:
One thinks of all the thumbs
Keying internet messages
In ten-thousand domestic settings.