Cannot Look Away

As a parent of young kids, I have often struggled with being present.  I demand of myself to not look away, to keep myself engaged even when I am cranky and feeling mutinous. Many days I am not present.  I drift to attend to other tasks like working or cleaning or facebook to keep myself going and often even relish a day working at the office as a way to not be so present. Many other times, there is no other choice but to be present.  Covered in vomit, forced to stay awake all night or endure a long trip together, now is all there is. So, not unlike other parents I know, I have turned to facebook and twitter to somehow either get through this experience or, as I would argue, experience this experience.

My baby will not sleep!  Why won't she sleep?

Twitter in particular is so instantaneous that its role in revolutions like the Arab Spring has become legendary,  although how pivotal its role has been in the eventual outcome has become a matter of debate: Facebook and Twitter's role in the Arab Spring.  However, it has been widely reported that there is no doubt that social networks facilitated the rapid dissemination of information by activists.  Currently, there are challenges with censorship and how that might affect the power of twitter in future scenarios. Without interference, this tool has the power to support efforts of people to be in the present.

My country is changing forever before my eyes.

This week, Lee Ann Cox wrote this heartbreaking article, Losing my husband 140 characters at a time, on  She writes about how soon after her husband's diagnosis she turned to twitter as a way to let out her feelings, 140 characters at time, about what she was going through. She states: "With a bit of distance I see my tweets as a record of how stress and trauma affected me." At one point, she tweeted how inadequate it was:

I guess “tweeting” is too gentle, like a birdsong rising into the skies. Is there a shouting social network? 9:57 AM Sep 11th, 2009 from mobile web

And yet she ponders:  "Maybe I did get something I needed from Twitter. With no one’s permission, I gave myself a voice. Sometimes tender, furious or frantic, sometimes quivering with fear from bed in the middle of the night, listening to the too-labored breathing beside me. I needed to say these things and imagine some heart in the Twittersphere absorbing my crazed reality".

Like witnessing revolutions that will forever change the status quo, witnessing a loved one struggle with a terminal illness or being truly present in any moment big or small, this tool allows us to tell each other what we're thinking, what we're seeing.  Unprocessed, raw and potentially not even what we even mean to say, we say what is on our minds in any given moment.    I cannot look away.  There is something here I do not want to miss.  It is big, it is scaring me, it is happening.  Maybe it is to hold onto moments, to report moments or maybe it is to understand them.  Some of us famous, some of us notorious, many many others of us who are and will always remain strangers update each other.

I am eating toast (right this second, or a few seconds ago or within the hour).

In her article, Lee Ann Cox, writes about how it helped her feel less alone because most of the time she was alone in her struggle. here with me, wherever, whoever you are.