@SafyHallanFarah on the Moon, Making Friends Online, and the Goodness of Tweets

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Safy-Hallan Farah is a Minneapolis-based writer. She is moving to New York City and has a forthcoming collection of essays called No New Friends. This week Farah spoke with me about three of her favorite tweets, plus astrology, making friends online, and how value can get misplaced on Twitter.

Farah: This is one of the first tweets my friend Melissa (@sosadtoday) noticed of mine. She even interviewed me about it. Melissa’s like the queen of the sad people, so her noticing this tweet was like being asked to sit with the cool kids, if the cool kids, you know, had emotional depth. In the tweet, I’m mocking the phrase “check your privilege.” I think it’s a ridiculous phrase. Then again, I believe in astrology, so I’m not one to talk.

What has your experience been like making friends on Twitter?

Great! If not for Twitter, I wouldn’t have gotten to know Sarah Hagi or Guled. They both share a culture with me, but somehow don’t fill me with dread, which is pretty chill.

Are there other phrases or internet-popular attitudes like “check your privilege” that you especially like joking about?

“Stay woke.”

It came to me one night while panicking about how I hadn’t said anything funny on Twitter for, like, a week. I knew it was a good one, even though I’m usually pretty bad at gauging the goodness of my own tweets.

Do you often feel pressure to tweet something funny after a lull of non-funny tweets? Does the same thing happen with other kinds of tweets?

Not as much after this summer. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to tweet about things other people, not just me, would find relatable or funny. For some reason that never really meant relevant links or political content. It mostly meant clever or funny things, and sometimes the occasional fake deep tweet. Now, I’m under immense professional and personal stress, so I don’t really care to put a lot of effort into Twitter. I sort of love it this way because I can clearly see where I’ve mistakenly placed value for so long. Hopefully, I’ll keep more of my good stuff for longer works, now that I’m not tweeting everything that comes to mind.

Can you think of a time when you successfully predicted the success of your own tweet? Is that any more or less gratifying than being surprised by a tweet getting well-received?

I knew this would be well-received before I even clicked enter, but I never think any of my #sadtwitter tweets like this one will perform well. I think, whenever a tweet I didn’t expect to do well does well, I’m not really into it. I’m like, “HOW COME YOU DOLTS DIDN’T CARE ABOUT MY ACTUALLY GOOD TWEET!!?!” It really bothers me, to be honest.

I like that it’s one of my least corny puns. I don’t like that it’s too niche for my mom to understand. Another thing I don’t like is that it’s a reminder that I didn’t really tweet any jokes or relatable/sad observations all summer. In fact, my account was private for months. During that time, I felt really disconnected from the people I follow/who follow me. I also felt disconnected from myself because really who am I if I’m not being validated by strangers on the Internet? But then one day—after some weird stuff happened with the moon—this tweet came to me. Psychically I get why this tweet performed well re: moon stuff!!

Does your mom read your twitter? If so, what does she think of it/ do you talk about it with her?

No!!!! I’d die if she read my tweets. She reads my Facebook updates, though, and hates all of them. She once left a comment on a Facebook post I made where I was talking about my period. She was like, “Call me.” I think, if she read my tweets, she’d be very concerned. Occasionally, I will mention a tweet I made to her, but that’s the extent.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about Twitter?

I like that it’s the best way for readers and editors to stay in touch with me. I don’t like that it makes everyone so vulnerable to harm. I don’t like the fact that it’s really easy for people to decide whether you’re of value to them or not. I remember when I mentioned my bylines in my bio, people were more inclined to follow me. Also, before I had more than 1,000 followers, the truth is a lot of editors would just ignore me. Sometimes people will ignore my awesome writing friends because they’re not popping on Twitter, and that’s just really sad because their writing is popping, which is what should matter. Just to leave this on a positive note, more favorite parts: @333333333433333, @THerwees, @sosadtoday, @jazzedloon, @PRobinsonComedy.

Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny Or Die.