Column: Arts

by Holly White


Column: Arts

I Think I Use Twitter as an Archive for My Emotions and Maybe I Have Only Digital Emotions, like Lana Del Rey

I want to try to explain how Twitter could function as sort of a “digital feelings archive” for me. It actually might function like this for everyone, but I only know about me, so that’s where I’ll start. I’m going to try to explain this by comparing my art practice to my use of Twitter because in some ways I think they perform a similar role, and I want to explore that a little.

Saying that the two can be compared suggests that my Twitter practice and my art practice are separate. They are, but it’s complicated. And they’re not; it’s not complicated. I use Twitter, and I also make art. But like a lot of my friends and other people on the Internet, my use of Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and any number of other social networks and blogging platforms, inevitably becomes an integral part of the things I make and are also embedded in the processes I use to make them.

I probably use Twitter for loads of reasons: because I’m bored, or to meet people, for inspiration, to share my work, to share my band Goth Tech’s music, because everyone else uses it ... or maybe another reason that I’m not aware of. I don’t feel capable of defining it. But one thing I have found increasingly important about Twitter is that it is creating an emotional archive of my life, or, more correctly, an archive of my emotions in chronological order. And usefully enough, this in turn can be material to use in art projects. My real life and emotions and relationships and interests all bleed into Twitter and they get saved permanently in chronological order in a way my art couldn’t do. It’s such a cyber punk dream.

I incorporate my tweets into my videos, cellotape them into my sculptures, then I put them into fortune cookies (like “i wish everything you posted on tumblr was subtweeting me” (cringe lol)) or I screen-print them and post them on my Tumblr (“i had a dream where i got failed delivery notifications for every email you never replied to, i was relieved, it explained everything :’(”). (I’m finding it really embarrassing and hard to write out my old tweets btw). My Tumblr isn’t art either, but I do post my projects on Tumblr sometimes. And sometimes I just blog pictures of my face or cat. I also use Twitter to message my friends and tell them to bring a mini USB cable with them to dinner. So basically it’s a complex mesh of interactions, which is sort of what art is. Or isn’t. There’s a lot of movement. But as online profiles they aren’t artworks in themselves—just movement.

At the moment, the starting point in a lot of my projects, like my art or Goth Tech, is when I make an attempt to define the things around me that make me feel something—but this is also what I do with Twitter. As soon as something makes me feel—it could be Taylor Swift or not—I tweet it, and then Twitter traps all the sporadic outpourings of honesty into a digital database, as text. But I tweet pretty freely, and I try to be honest, but sometimes that means quoting other people, people that make me feel, like Taylor Swift makes me feel. Sometimes I speak the truth but pretend I’m only joking. It’s not as honest as I’d like, but neither am I in real life.

Once I tweeted because I heard a song in a shop and it made me sad. The song in whatever shop had lyrics that were about whatever heart-breaking thing and I realized at that moment I was going through whatever heart-breaking thing. I was shopping for socks. I was just struck by the power of music, or shopping, and the two together made me cry, or the two being separate made me cry. But I tweeted. And then I was struck with how easy it was for me to tweet at a time like that. And so I wanted to hold onto that moment when the shop had the ability to make me feel like shopping for socks was heart-breaking. But it was confusing, and I guess I can only really make sense of those experiences in retrospect, not in the moment when I’m just feeling sad or manipulated to feel sad. Anyway, I tweeted about it. I’d prefer not to overanalyse my underlying immediate motivations as to why. Maybe it was a bit of a gross thing to do, I don’t know.

So what all this comes down to is maybe at a later date I can understand better what I was doing when I really didn’t have an idea. Or I sort of think maybe I’ll look back on all the tweets and realize how problematic what I was doing was and I’ll realize I was wrong or that I have no idea now, and I won’t later. Maybe it’s what everyone is doing and we’re all wrong. Who knows, but right now considering Twitter as some metaverse filing cabinet keeping track of all the times Lana Del Rey has made me cry is sort of comforting. I think I liked being comforted.