First off, I admit that the title of this post is intentionally provocative. Even so, I’m not lookin’ to step on any toes here. I openly admit that what follows is a scathing rant from a possibly change-weary, future “Get off my lawn” curmudgeon, but Twitter can kiss my butt.
Some folks I know and admire Tweet like there’s no tomorrow and I certainly mean no disrespect. I adapt to new technology reasonably well–am as “plugged in” or more so than many folks but discovered long ago that just because something’s popular doesn’t make it essential, enjoyable or socially acceptable.
For example, take cell phones (please!). No doubt they’re convenient, even life-saving devices in certain moments of crisis but try to recall 1990. Cell phones were owned and used a “fortunate” few. “Calling from ones car” often meant from a limo–or a “bag” phone. The smallest cell phone of the time, the soon to be ubiquitous Motorola “flip” phone was slightly smaller than a woman’s size 9 shoe…still too large to be comfortably worn on one’s belt. (We did it, but it was extremely awkward). The world nevertheless communicated without every man, woman and child walking the streets hand to ear or blue tooth bound, gabbing away loudly and gesturing wildly or even yelling at an unseen communicant engaged in an obviously mortally essential exchange.
Fast forward to today. I’m convinced that before I die, a jury of my peers will acquit a defendant accused of committing violence upon an ill-mannered public cell phone user–even if he or she is a helpless “tween” or senior citizen…no sympathy. And if appealed, it will fail. There…I’ve said it.
Think about computers, which despite all the good they do, also make it extremely hard for underage kids NOT to see –perhaps inadvertently– graphic porn. Even with safeguards in place, enterprising porn purveyors are quite good at jumping through technological hoops to increase profits. Computers, good; elementary school porn, bad.
Chronic computer users suffer carpal tunnel and other side effects. Auto dial programs harass land line owners and currently creep into the cell world. Radiation emanates from cell phones, potentially microwaving our grey matter. We can be tracked nearly anywhere we go and our conversations are easily monitored. Anyone monitoring my calls deserved what they get. My conversation can put ME to sleep.
We feel the need to network incessantly. Networking can indeed be extremely useful. But it also can consume an inordinate amount of time and even become counterproductive. That so many social networking and content sharing programs interact reduces the time one must spend to convey ideas/thoughts to wider audiences. But how freaking “plugged in” must we be? When does it become obsessive? How MUCH do we need or want to know about one another? Alas, my purpose: Twitter.
Watching cable news the past several months has been burdensome for numerous reasons, but in my opinion, one the most annoying aspects of it has been its obsession with “Twitter.” I get that it’s a hot technology. I get that people want to share their lives and feel that their activities are meaningful but son a of a b**ch! How many layers of communication does it take before we realize that NO ONE’S REALLY communicating? Inherent in communication is transmission and receipt. Receipt ignored is communication failed. When we’re BURIED by multiple sources–by layer upon layer of messages, many superfluous, we spend far too much time screening and sorting through them to find/actually respond to meaningful communication. To keep current, we type cryptic, borderline gibberish that woefully endangers the use of language itself.
Understanding this as I’ve stated, I beg any reader to justify why, when President Obama was making his first “State of the Union” address, countless eyes in the room weren’t fixed on him. Rather, heads down, the frantic fingers of our elected leadership tweeted maniacally.
Were these critical “tweets” about a new war breaking out, a new bomb unleashed, another industry collapsing? No. They were the most mundane, self-absorbed, petty, high-school-like bullshit one can imagine. Necessary communication? Hardly. This is dementia.
I don’t IM. If you see me online, don’t even try. I rarely text. I loathe the text/web shorthand that has evolved to hasten the process of using these tools. I have a cell phone and grudgingly use it and do prefer voice to voice communication when more than short conversations are needed…but I still like actual face to face contact. Call me old fashioned. I use computers constantly and work cross-platform. I email. I’m on Face Book, LinkedIn and Plaxo (barely). How much more “plugged in” must I be?
Enough is enough. I don’t want to know who wears what to a meeting or event. I care not if one has second thoughts about how they arrived. I don’t need to know where someone had lunch, what they want for lunch or how much they’re looking forward to lunch.
I think of my mom, in assisted living, who once was a terrific writer (or could have been had she continued to pursue it). Her tolerance of technology disconnects just past a light switch. All of today’s TV ads give URLs and email addresses; news personalities read email and “tweets” on the air. She has access to a computer but simply can’t absorb the technical skill needed to use one. It’s too bad, because she’d absolutely love email and the Internet. When I visit, she reads my blog and others I share. But our world, to her, has indeed become unfamiliar in many ways. And despite all of these new tools, as long as I stay in touch (she never calls,) I can communicate with her just fine.
My point is, we need to communicate–actually talk to one another and do things together to make communication more meaningful. We all need to communicate. But as we all get carpal tunnel, I believe to my soul that there is a saturation point for multiple channels of communication and we’ll eventually reach it. If I live long enough, I’ll wind up much like my mother–with a higher tolerance but by then newer technology will arrive to baffle me as well.
Allow me another flashback. In the mid `80s, fax machines were still somewhat novel. I worked in an office. My department shared a fax, just as we shared printers and copiers. Prior to the fax machine, business was brisk. Request for bids went out, proposals came in, orders were placed and work got done. Profits were made. One day in the summer of `88, during a particularly active period in our business cycle, my office briefly lost power. When it returned, all seemed well, except for the FAX machine. It was now a doorstop. Soon the line to FAX wound around an adjacent conference room as several well-intended but bungling trouble-shooters, including yours truly attempted in vain to resurrect it. As I examined at the queue, it occurred to me that just several years prior, we had no FAX. We either air expressed items, exchanged them by courier or used U.S. mail. Business was fine back then. Deadlines were met; profit was made. Yet here in this more “modern office,” activity ground to a halt when a power blip iced this now essential business tool. Ironic, I thought then-and still do.
Today’s texters and tweeters will one-day wind up much like my mother, much like me. I pray that as we frantically try to stay connected, we don’t completely forget why it is we communicate in the first place. As I ponder this, tweet me not. If a tweet flies through the ether and there’s no one there to receive it, does it make an impression?