Twitter as back lane

60 Somerville

I grew up in the heart of Montreal; the 24 bus hurtled along our street, a restaurant and convenience store were kiddie corner, and I could walk to the heart of downtown. You might imagine a childhood in the heart of the city fast paced and frantic. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our house, along with 9 other houses, backed on to a lane which provided space for unstructured and unscripted goofing around. In the lane you could show up, no invitation or reason needed. Maybe someone was there, maybe not…it didn’t matter. The space allowed for interactions, interactions  grew connections, and connections made magic happen.

Want to start a volleyball game? Sure! Ok lets see who else is around…
Let’s go exploring and collect bugs…Let’s run a vet center for baby birds…
Should we put together a Christmas play? Yes! I’ll ask my mom if she can help.

For 2 minutes or 2 hours, regardless, you could show up…hang out, muck about. Time was open and the space empty, to make of it what you wanted. When we had to jet away (aka a mother’s shout out the back door) we left, no questions asked. When we showed up again, a week or a month or an hour later, it was like we never left.

The lane is where I discovered my love of planning elaborate events. The lane is where I began to dream. The lane is where I discovered caterpillars, ants, and my love of biology. The lane is where we discovered ourselves, what we liked, what we didn’t and then changed our minds.


danah boyd explains teens use social media to find places to mess around and roam free. She believes children are reacting online primarily to social changes that have occurred off-line.

Perhaps children aren’t the only ones who miss roaming free and unstructured down time? Maybe adults caught in the schedule trap also crave spaces to hang out, a place where invitation or planning is not required?

For all the talk about life in this age speeding up…Twitter slows my life down. I come to Twitter to hang out, to roam a bit, to shoot the breeze …to discover. In the midst of a life that feels over scheduled and full of must do’s, Twitter is a reprieve. Twitter affords a pace I miss and recognize. This pace moves me back in charge of discovering what interests me…and perhaps the opportunity to connect with others who have the same interests. The pace stops the internal dialogue of “I should be interested in this” to I AM interested in this; I have the opportunity to hear my internal ping of interest. The space affords time and permission to watch, listen, interact, how and when appropriate….without pressure or expectation.

While information and buses continue to rush by….there is a place for us to hang out, dream, plan, or just be.

See you in the lane peeps…


5 thoughts on “Twitter as back lane

  1. Thanks for the trip down memory “lane”. I grew up (some sat the contrary) in NorthEast montreal, with the same sort of experience. I’m not sure about the analogy to Twitter…

  2. Hi Carolyn,
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts and what Twitter feels like for you. I have felt the “back lane” or “show up and learn” kind of feel to it too, but I know it doesn’t feel like that for everyone, and even for myself at times. It can also feel more friendly than a back lane or local community as well.

    As you know, I have been pondering that article by Danah Boyd and about the impact of online experiences on teenagers. There was another article in which the author seemed to suggest that Boyd was blaming parents for the choices and habits of teenagers… like there was something inherently bad in time spent online vs offline… and blamed needed to be passed along (but I don’t think that was her intent). Yet, as you described, it may be the change in where we spend time, how we can spend time and maybe even a conscious choice to do so by teens and adults. Our society has changed along with how we access information and people with the information, insights, and common interests we often seek out. Yet online connecting is still met with much judgement – on adults and teens.

    Your post also led me to thinking about how time spent in the “back lane” as youngsters could be easily ended by the call of parents (in the past and present), and how different that “call” might be to end time involved in online spaces.

    Always a lot to think about … how these online spaces change our experiences, change us and how we interact and change the spaces.

    Thanks for describing it this way though!

    • Hi Sheila, some great thoughts! I have been mulling over danah boyd’s article for awhile now too. i found her ideas thuoght provoking and compelling at the same time. I am not sure about the blaming parents part (as in I don’t think it’s our fault per se just how society has changed and parents with it). But her point about children not having places to roam free and to explore rang true for me as the freedom to wander is very much a thing of past. I know my daughter at her age has done lots less exploring around the city on her own than I had at her age. That said though, I think she his much more worldly due to the ease of access to information she has grown up with.
      The time online I have spent connecting both to information and people has given me some appreciation of the joy of exploration teens must feel, especially if in “real life” they have little opportunity to explore interests or ideas for themselves. I have to say before I did spend time online myself, I did have a lot of fear of this unknown space. As you mention, there is a lot of judgement placed on connecting online as somehow less desirable or less real. I am not sure if this is a natural reaction to something when it is unknown.
      Can we call our children back from their online lives? I remember when I did come in for dinner I could not wait to get back out again and bolted out the door the first chance I got. But it does seem their lives are being defined by tech in a way my life was not defined by anything. But is it good or bad…or neutral?

      I have also been thinking for awhile how Twitter feels more like a space to me (and so how I came to the lane comparison). There is the large open space but also lots of smaller private spaces that happen via DMs and sidebar conversations. I have also noticed how Twitter has expanded and broadened my taste in topics. Both these attributes reminded me more of time gone by, than of the fast paced modern world.

      This whole topic fascinates me just as it confuses and confounds me. Definitely one that will keep us talking for awhile yet 🙂
      See you in the lane Sheila!

  3. Thanks, Carolyn.. I went a bit off topic, so thanks for adding more thoughts. Good point to ponder… tech defining. I will ponder in the “slow lane” 🙂

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