I read with amusement Monday’s Washington Post column about “Twittering” and now everyone seems to be getting into the act.Somehow, somewhere, we all want to know, minute by minute what each other is doing... Do we? I can understand some of the occasional useful aspects of networking and canvassing large amounts of people instantly, but to me most twittering is voyeurism cloaked as social networking, navel gazing re-cast as information gathering.
Well I say let’s stop the madness. I’ve stayed by the sidelines with one eyebrow arched as social networks have begun proliferating like algae first among my tweens and teens and then spilling over into full blown adults who almost sheepishly tell me they now have a Facebook and I should too. Yeah, and I’ll be sure to post a picture of my latest nipple piercing as well as the time I got completely blotto and stuck a cigarette in each nostril.
How have we let social interaction pare us down to fewer than 140 keystrokes?
LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook and now someone sent me an email to join “My Butterfly,” which to me sounded like a new kind of vibrator one might find in Manhattan’s East Village. Still, it was time to venture into the brave new world. Being somewhat current and having two teenagers, I finally learned how to text message and I’ve succumbed to the “LinkedIn” network. Now reunion.com is haunting me but so far I have resisted. I figure if I’m desperate enough to dig up new people from my past who remember me in a hideous ‘70s prom dress with Farrah Fawcett wings, then I have a bigger issue.
OK, I get it. I’m not that square or that old. We all want to be connected to each other in a kind of giant kumbaya. We all want to know what our friends are doing or we like to realize that “gee—celebrities are just like us.” But here is what I want to know: Who in the hell has time for this stuff?
I can’t stay on top of my emails. They pile in faster than waves lapping at the shore; work items, emails from my kids’ schools, sports schedules, old friends who are bitter about the fact I only type back a few lines. There are the jokes, the SPAM, the deadlines.
When I read about news anchor David Gregory of NBC plunging into the world of Twittering to tell us he is eating a bagel or ABC’s Terry Moran ripping off a Tweet as he boards a plane, geez—I wonder—who are these people on their hand-held devices or home computers glued to this cliff-hanging action?
How far are we from the minutiae of someone’s stomach virus, a lost button on a favorite pair of corduroys or, to steal loosely from the late John Updike, the announcement of a perfectly coiled bowel movement in the bowl after the morning’s first cup of Joe?
And while I do love you, David Gregory, honestly—announcing that your wife is off skiing with a kid and you are home watching Dumbo on the couch with your twins is like an open invitation to a stalker or pedophile to come on over (after they Google the address) hit you over the head with a fitted pipe and drag one of your youngin’s into their lair. Didn’t this happen to David Letterman? And he was just minding his own business.
I guess Twittering is supposed to make us feel all up-to-the minute, all warm and fuzzy as part of a greater, universe of folks out there. If I want to feel warm and fuzzy, I’ll get horizontal on a couch with my elastic waistband and fast forward the Thelma and Louise DVD to the shots of a young Brad Pitt. I don’t need to know that someone just visited their office vending machine for Doritos or that they are about to take their Shit-zu for a walk. I don’t want to know that kind of info about my own husband.
Again, who are these people who are Twittering back? If they are employed, shouldn’t they be (particularly in this economy) putting their noses to the grindstone? Shouldn’t they be concerned for their jobs, laboring away at their desks, working the phones, hopping to, rather than twittering away about last night’s bad Chinese food?
And what if they aren’t employed? What if they are kicking about at home, maybe a wife or hubby just hanging out while the kids are at school, or someone in transit on a train or bus. Don’t these people have better things to do then telegraph their where-abouts? Isn’t there laundry to throw in, some real news to catch up on online or a good book to read? Books. Remember them? They came off a printing press. What about a little do-gooding in the community, English as a second language to teach, a PTO board to assist. How about, God forbid, an honest good old-fashioned moment of repose and reflection?
How have we let social interaction pare us down to fewer than 140 keystrokes?Or is it that rather than really connect with the people we already don’t have time for, rather than truly finding the energy to engage in more meaningful conversation and in-depth questioning, we’d prefer to read about how eggplant gives someone gas or help a cyberspace acquaintance decide if they should cut their bangs.
I understand the need in this instant society for an instant consensus—“Ok- I’m going to interview the president what should I ask?” But honestly, if your J-school education and previous years covering the White House didn’t prepare you for the fact that it’s the economy stupid, and then maybe you’d better get a job at Weekly World News.
I think Twittering is largely about vanity. It’s about the fact that in this crazy, noisy, hustle bustle world, we can get people to listen. Someone is out there. And as we spend ever-increasing amounts of time as a society on line, isolated in front of some sort of screen, a sea shift begins to occur.
We raise a generation unable to concentrate on anything long and involved, on Homer’s Odyssey, Harper Lee’s classic or even a live performance of The Nutcracker. Our kids become bored with following a longer thread of dialogue in a simple movie like Mary Poppins (not enough action my 9-year-olds, say) or classics like Dr. Zhivago with less interesting camera angles and no fast paced MTV edits that slash across the screen like Clockwork Orange torture.
We lose the art of crafting a thank you note, or the impact of a well-written sympathy card after a loved one dies. Remember letters? When was the last time you sent one? And I don’t mean a Hallmark card. Our communication now is ephemeral. We leave no footprints, have no aha moments of composition or putting forth our strongest work. We speak in LOLs and BFFs and TBDs.
I’m not gonna go all retro on you here. I know I sound a bit like Archie Bunker. I’ll be the first to admit that instant communication has a premiere place in my universe. My BlackBerry enables me to stay slightly on top of the pile while out of the office. And I’m not saying I’m never, ever going to join Twitter—I learned long ago never to say never. But people—let’s use a little moderation here. Get back to your desks. Go read an article in the New Yorker. You remember those, don’t you? Magazines?
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Lee Woodruff is the life and family contributor for ABC’s Good Morning America and the author of In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing.