In my last post, I talked about the Twitter event Such Tweet Sorrow, a production of Romeo and Juliet being played out in real time over five weeks.
We're one week in and it's still a really tricky concept to describe. The biggest problem is that first, you have to describe Twitter itself which is still really hard to do for anyone who isn't already using it. Trying to describe the Such Tweet project itself, on top of that, before you can even begin to talk about how much you're enjoying it, what you think about it, how it makes you feel... it's nigh on impossible.
I'll give it a go anyway. I think Such Tweet Sorrow is most like an immersive fantasy game along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons or perhaps Knightmare. A bunch of people improvising within their given character descriptions interact with you; you are supposed to pretend that they really are those characters. Except that it doesn't require special equipment, like-minded friends, pens and paper, or time set aside to play, and it continues 24/7. As a Twitter user, it slots almost unnoticeably into the life which I am already living.
That's the bit that makes it a little disturbing. Due to the circumstances of my life - I am disabled, I work alone from home, I cannot drive and am waiting on a decent wheelchair - most of my interaction does happen online, and as such I do have several good friends (not to mention clients and suppliers) who I have never physically met.
There are also dozens, if not hundreds, of people who I consider to be part of my wider social circle. We're not friends in the sense of having heart-to-heart private conversations about our innermost feelings, but there's some shared interests, some common acquaintances, and we've had a couple of brief direct exchanges - we're friendly even though we're not bosom buddies. This is the area that the Such Tweet cast fall into. The stream of posts about whatever happens to be on their characters' minds - the progress of a football game, a trip to the pub, a crap day at school - is melding seamlessly into all the other incoming tweets about Dr Who, Mad Cap'n Tom's bid for Parliament, current affairs, Naidex 2010, and biscuit preferences. Every so often, I reply to an incoming tweet. Every so often, someone replies to one of my tweets. It's incredibly normal social networking and an outsider with no knowledge of Shakespeare or the Such Tweet project would probably not be able to pick out the fictional characters.
With it all being mixed in, the line between characters and real people gets blurred. I am reacting to the characters' tweets in the same way I would react to those of real people. The most striking example of this for me so far was yesterday, when @laurencefriar sent out a tweet about meeting some "courageous" disabled football supporters. Anyone who knows the Ouchers knows that the best way to get our hackles rising is to start throwing around words like "courage" "brave" and "inspiration" and I simply couldn't help the way it made me feel (ie: angry). I had to seriously remind myself that @laurencefriar is a made-up character who is supposed to be the sort of person who comes out with tripe like that. Then I thought, well, I'm supposed to respond, an emotional response to well-performed characters is entirely permissible and means the actors are doing their job right.
But it's made me start to worry about what's coming. The writers have admitted that they're not observing a religious adherence to Shakespeare's storyline, but it's safe to say that the basics remain in place - which means it's not long to go before there are a couple of violent deaths in my social circle.
If I find myself getting angry about "courageous" then who knows how I'll react to that?