Tan Siok Siok: 'Twitter can lead to narcissism and delusion'

Tan Siok Siok: 'Twitter can lead to narcissism and delusion'

The Singapore filmmaker discusses the Twitter effect on not just our daily lives, but our identities, as explored in her film "Twittamentary," opening soon
Why use a fixer when you have 175 million Twitter users to call on for a tweet tip.

Twitter, some people use it to tell the world what they've had for lunch, some as a platform to muse aloud and others to dispel unhappy marriage rumors (hello, Demi Moore).

For award-winning Singaporean filmmaker Tan Siok Siok aka @sioksiok, she decided to use Twitter's 175 million users as "fixers" to help her make "Twittamentary," a documentary about the impact of Twitter on our lives.

In the film, the former executive producer for Discovery Channel in Asia profiles a wide range of Twitter users including a travel journalist turned twilebrity Stefanie Michaels, to a homeless woman tweeting from the public library to a woman using twitter as her personal GPS.

She tells us more about the experience.

TwittamentaryShe may not have a home but she's got Twitter. CNNGo: What was the most surprising tip given to you while making "Twittamentary?"

Tan Siok Siok: The most surprising story lead came while we were riding from New York City to Chicago.

We received a call from Mark Horvath aka @hardlynormal, a homeless advocate, who had seen our tweets asking tweeters to offer story leads. He told us that we had to interview Anne Marie @padschicago, a homeless woman in the Chicago suburbs, who has been tweeting from the public library. Anne Marie's story ended up being one of the most compelling stories in the film.

CNNGo: You've said this is a really bad way to make a film, what were the pros?

Tan: What I meant when I said "this is a really bad way to make a film" is that this runs counter to conventional wisdom about filmmaking. 

To rely so heavily on real-time story leads from strangers and acquaintances on Twitter is to open yourself to a lot of risks. But it makes perfect sense to make a Twitter documentary in this way as the film itself then becomes a story about the power of Twitter and how it works.

By crowd sourcing the stories, we also end up with a surprising mix of stories, stories that we would not have uncovered if we simply read books about Twitter or asked social media gurus for suggestions.

CNNGo: Do you think Twitter can change a person's life? 

Tan: I think the only thing that can change a person's life is that person's resolve to change.

Having said that, realtime social media tools like Twitter have a huge impact on our self image and sense of identity. On Twitter, we are essentially sharing our life stories, 140 characters at a time to a realtime audience, in this case, our Twitter followers.

While the individual tweets may seem trivial or even inane, the effect of the granular accumulation over time, of hundreds or even thousands of tweets, is that your identity starts to morph and change.

In that sense, Twitter can be a catalyst for reinventing one's life. But it can just as easily lead to narcissism and delusion. The spark of change lies within the individual.

CNNGo: Why did you choose to make this film in the United States? Do you think you would have been able to make the same film in Singapore?

Tan: Although I originally intended to make a global film, I found that shooting the film in the United States was the most feasible way of making a documentary about Twitter since the most influential and innovative tweeters are based there.

I knew that there would be a rich diversity of stories that would make the film compelling. Although Singapore has a very high Twitter penetration rate -- 13.3 percent according to a recent Comscore Report -- it would be difficult to find a wide range of Twitter stories here.

Singapore is a small and affluent country which places a limit on the geographic variation as well as the socio-economic diversity of Twitter tales. A pan-Asian documentary about Twitter, on the other hand, would be fascinating, with Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Singapore as key locations.



Hackerspace Singapore
70A Bussorah Street, tel +65 6297 7167
February 10, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets via registration.