Twittering takes staying in touch way too far

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 2, 2009

It’s hard for me to say this, but the truth is I don’t care.

I was a reluctant Facebook enrollee, but Twitter is a bridge too far.

Now, to explain:

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Among young people, a classification into which I no longer fit, staying in touch has great currency.

The advent of cell phones and the Internet, which are pretty much merged into something called a BlackBerry these days, has made that a lot easier.

A few years back I was driving through a university campus. In every group of five students headed to their next class, at least three were on their phones.

I imagined their conversations consisted of (1) a greeting, (2) a comment of some sort about the day or the weather, and (3) an agreement to talk more later.

Web sites came along not long afterward to enhance this fashionable compulsion to stay in touch — constantly. People could “IM” others who were also online, with IM being instant messaging. Then, using Internet “meeting places” such as MySpace or Facebook, the whole “IM” think could be enhanced.

People who use such sites can post photos of themselves, make comments, join groups such as “Star Wars Fans” or “Lefthanded Knitters” or “Cheesemakers” and share, well, blather.

The uninformed might confuse networking with blogging. It’s not the same thing.

Blogging, for the most part, takes place at open Internet sites where people who don’t know each other use made-up names to engage in conversations on events or topics. Usually, the conversations degenerate into name-calling within half an hour or so.

The purpose of blogging, as I understand it, is for people to anonymously assert their intellectual superiority over other anonymous people.

The networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace don’t work that way and are apparently populated by people with far less seething needs to express themselves.

On the networking sites, users can report that they’ve read a book or seen a movie or TV show they liked and recommended it to others. They can show photos of their pets, their vacations, their children and such.

And they can limit who is able to see these postings to their “friends.”

There are abuses, no doubt, but for most folks the idea is to keep up with everything going on with people they know.

Space is unlimited, the amount of information is unlimited, the number of friends is unlimited and the amount of time that can be devoted to peering into others’ lives is unlimited. It’s passive though. To see what a friend is doing requires visiting that friend’s place on the Internet.

Twitter is the next step. It’s not passive.

It’s kind of a mobile MySpace or Facebook in that Twitter instantly sends written messages up to 140 characters in length to all the people identified in the sender’s list. If a user in Montana wanted to tell her 1,000 contacts that it was snowing, she would type in the information, press send and everyone would know. If my cousin in Maine wanted me to know he was walking his dog, he could “tweet” me and everyone else he knows. Before long, predictions are, millions of people will be getting hundreds of messages a day, all in the name of staying in touch.

All of this makes me think about my father and his three brothers. After growing up and starting families, they all lived in different cities. Once a year, and perhaps not that often, they’d get together to “catch up.” It usually took them about 15 minutes of conversation to do that, then they’d pretty much stare at the walls until their wives decided it was time to start their trips home.

That was good enough for them.

It’s not for me.

I like to hear from kin and friends more often. I’ve had a Facebook page for a couple of months and don’t absolutely hate it as much as I expected I would.

But I’m not going to sign up for Twitter.

My brother can drink a cup of coffee without telling me about it.

It’s harsh, but I really don’t care.