Life in Manhattan is like living inside a gigantic Twitter stream. What you
get to know about people you don’t know simply by accidental adjacency is
astonishing. For a few years, a guy who lived in the building across the street
from me practiced piano every day in the nude. He had double-height windows in
his apartment and had positioned the piano to take advantage of the nice western
exposure, and would plop himself down every afternoon and begin his etudes
wearing not one stitch of clothes. I had an unobstructed view of him from my
living room. I wouldn’t have recognized him on the street and I didn’t know his
name, but I knew him, or at least knew his body, and knew this odd habit of his.
To put it in social-media terms, it was as if @weirdneighbor were tweeting, “I
like playing piano in the nude. Whatever.” Because of the slant of the sun and
the size of my windows, I don’t think he could see me, so our relationship, as
it were, was less like Facebook, where the exchange is mutual, and more like
Twitter: in other words, I was “following” him, but he wasn’t following me.