Being someone else online
"Having an online persona can be an all-consuming and utterly bizarre experience." Photo: Getty Images
Twitter, hey? It’s what all the kids are talking about. I think. Actually all the kids are probably talking about some new fangled iPad app that can read your thoughts and make you tacos. But those of us too old or uncool to be in the proverbial know are still talking about Twitter so let’s just go with that for now. When Daily Life first asked me to write a column about my Twitter profile, my immediate reaction was “Hell no!” Firstly because I am a contrary b*tch and tend to react with swift negativity to everything asked of me; but mainly because I feared being labelled the Samantha Brick of social media. But after much coaxing and some sugary bribes I have agreed to tell my Twitter tale. It’s riveting, I promise.
I hesitantly started a Twitter account about 18 months ago, at the coaxing of a few Tweet-happy friends. I was hesitant because despite being an avid user of other social media platforms, I just didn’t see the allure of this whole micro-blogging fad. I am of course no stranger to the art of digital oversharing – I had a blog for many years; I treat Facebook like my own personal newswire; and I write online personal essays for a living – but to do so in 140 characters or less just didn’t appeal to my verbose confessional tendencies. And yet now I’m hooked. Or, as my Twitter alter ego would say: F*CK YEAH TWITTER!
Yes, lame as it may be to admit, I have a Twitter alter ego. Her name is also Nadine von Cohen but some people call her “The F*CK YEAH” Girl” (a moniker of which my late parents would surely be proud). The F*CK YEAH Girl starts every sentence with “F*CK YEAH”, swears a lot, rarely punctuates, and has never met an upper case letter she didn’t like. She talks a lot about cry wanking (or “cranking” as I believe the aforementioned kids call it), has an imaginary boyfriend, and requests all manner of goods and services from her followers in exchange for a touch of her bosom. She’s passionately political, deeply in love with Ryan Gosling, and she hates cupcakes. Lord how she hates cupcakes. She’s basically me, but without trifling social constraints such as boundaries and etiquette. I like to think of her as the shouty, clinically insane, raised-by-wolves, drunken woman who lives inside me and only comes out through the medium of Twitter.
There is no great story behind the F*CK YEAH motif, and it’s hard to not sound like a douchelord when talking about it. But basically when I sat down and opened a Twitter account the first thing I wrote was “F*CK YEAH TWITTER!” and it just continued on from there. Soon the marketing manager inside my head (my body is basically an identity share house) realised that this could be my “thing”, my gimmick, my way of standing out from the noise, and to a small degree it has worked. And by “worked” I mean I have a (very) modest amount of dedicated followers, a growing portfolio of work commissioned through Twitter and I recently won a shiny new computer for my contributions to micro-blogging and inanity. Plus I have been retweeted and replied to by some of my favourite people – including Rob Delaney, the Go Fug Yourself ladies, and Joel Madden – and met several people I would never have dreamed of encountering otherwise. So then who’s the douchelord now*?
*Me. I am the douchelord.
Having an online persona can be an all-consuming and utterly bizarre experience. I imagine it’s like being a celebrity but without the money or the fame or the parties or the free stuff. On the one hand it’s really fun to play pretend and make up stories and live vicariously through a character entirely of my own creation; it’s fun to tweet everything that comes into my head, no matter how stupid or offensive, under the guise of this semi-fictional character who does not believe in self censorship; and it’s an undeniably wonderful feeling/ego boost when people tweet me to tell me they enjoyed one of my columns, or related to a personal anecdote. For what is Twitter, or in fact social media in general, if not one big cesspool of crowd-sourced self-esteem?
There are of course some downsides to living a kind of digital double life in the Twittersphere. I am not too bothered by the haters – and there are many of them – because in tweeting content that is offensive, opinionated and sometimes just annoying, I accept that not everyone is going to like or agree with me. Plus, since I think of Twitter Nadine as a fictional character, I am somewhat cushioned from the blows. I try not to take it personally, and I have a general policy of non-engagement, but occasionally someone will hit a nerve and I’ll bite. And the other main hazard of excessive Twitter usage – apart from the constant ridicule from my friends and family – is dealing with those people who think I’ll automatically be their best friend/girlfriend/Oedipal mother figure in real life simply because I interact with them on Twitter. As mentioned before I have met some wonderful humans through Twitter, however these were isolated incidents with extenuating circumstances, and I am generally loath to take Twitter relationships offline. It spoils the mystery.
And on that note I will retain whatever modicum of mystery/dignity I have left after this particular adventure in online oversharing and invite you all to visit me on Twitter sometime. I’ll be the one ranting incessantly about some perceived injustice most likely concerning the lack of hot chips in my immediate vicinity. F*CK YEAH GOODBYE NOW!