Earlier this week, I was struggling to come up with an article idea for my column. Well, not so early this week. I began brainstorming when I technically should have finished my article. There seems to be a latency issue with my this semester. That’s very weird, but I hope that’s acceptable?
My last column on surveillance culture is only tangentially related to arts and entertainment (I won’t even try to deny this), and that prompted my consideration of a possible rebranding of my column. No, that was my excuse for being late this week. I definitely didn’t say that to my editors shoutout to my editors for tolerating my very capricious pattern of submission all the time).
But to be honest, I was really desperate for inspiration. I’m craving something not just new and exciting, but also relevant and relatable. This should not be the Rewiring Technoculture nonsense. To be honest, how can you rewire technoculture? I don’t even know.
As I was frantically trying to find a way out of my writer’s block, I turned to Twitter for support. Panickingly, I tweeted: “What should i write abt for my column in the sun send help im gonna get fired.” Yes, that was the tweet on the front cover that tricked you into clicking on this article.
As I idly scrolled through my Twitter feed, waiting for responses, it dawned on me that this is the culture I’ve always attempted to articulate through my words. Cornell Twitter is our very own internet subculture, own very own attempt at rewiring, tinkering and repurposing our technoculture.
For those who are unfamiliar with Cornell Twitter, think of it as a space made of loose affiliations of Cornellians. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a community, as the notion of community tends to be associated with the romanticized connotations of anticapitalist social connection and family-like kinships that emerge outside of home. In the case of Cornell Twitter, there is no obvious identity marker that signifies one’s in-group status; everyone is just “kind of in it,” based on shared ties within the social network.
The looseness of such ties echoes the postmodern notion of “neo-tribe” proposed by French sociologist Michel Maffesoli. Similar to subcultures, identities in neo-tribes are constructed through shared fondness toward particular lifestyle choices. What is novel lies in how the concept reflects the transient, fluid nature of late modern sociality among youths.
Contrasting the youth subcultures of the past decades — like mods, skinheads, punks and emos — that are highly visible and play a significant role in the youth’s identity construction, neo-tribal identities are often just one slice of our multifaceted selves. The sociality of such youth culture can be illustrated through the following saying: “You meet people here and there, and you kind of become friends with some of them, but also not really.”
When Maffesoli theorized neo-tribes in the 1990s, the most prominent example of such is the emergence of rave culture. During that time, participants of rave culture would quickly bond with complete strangers at their favorite clubs. They formed friend groups after spending two nights out together, but such friendships typically won’t last more than a few weeks. Some may find their new “best friends” at other clubs and ditched their old pals, while others simply moved to a new city. Everything is so transient and loosely tied together; the only thing that remained was the spaces. Fast track to 2021, many of the qualities of Cornell Twitter echo this pattern of sociality in electronic dance music scenes. People may come and go, but Cornell Twitter will always be there.
While some of your friends might be on Cornell Twitter, you will certainly not find all your friends in the space. This aspect of Cornell Twitter affords people some sense of anonymity as we construct our identity in Cornell’s Twitterverse.
Oftentimes, people only recognize one another by their pseudonyms. You may follow, or even talk to Allie and Jessica on Cornell Twitter, but it is likely that you have absolutely no idea about their life outside of Twitter. Chances are you don’t even know their real names.
And what do people do on Cornell Twitter? Mostly shitposting. Borrowing Urban Dictionary’s definition, the action refers to “ironically posting something which to the average person looks just like a cringy or weird or stereotypical post conforming to a norm, but is intended to mock, insult, or amuse.” On Cornell Twitter, the way people tweet is similar to how people would text their friends about the mundane things in their life, but with an underlying craving for (not really) public attention.
There’s magic to this collective action of shitposting. People bond over shared struggles and joys. It is exactly through shitposting that people build a sense of solidarity on Cornell Twitter. It’s an acknowledgment of our shared experiences, and if not for Twitter, we may never know that others share a common sentiment toward a collective experience.
Now you may be wondering how you can find Cornell Twitter. Cornell Twitter will find you. Cornell Twitter is neither marked by a group or an individual — it’s marked by our shared and open dialogues. The space has so much to offer for everyone. While I would absolutely love to further delve into the nuts and bolts of life on Cornell Twitter, I also acknowledge that it’s only ethical for me to honor their desire for anonymity. Please go check it out yourself.
Alright, if you have reached this part of the article, it probably means that a) I have successfully finished this article, b) my shitpost-inspired writing has been accepted by my editors and c) I have not been fired yet. Well, @cornellsun, I hope we stick together for the time being.
Anyways, I hope everyone is doing well. If not, please free to tweet something like this:
Stephen Yang is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] Rewiring Technoculture runs alternate Thursdays this semester.