Culture

Tweeples: Please Help. I Still Don't Get Twitter.

I am one of the most self-absorbed people I know. If I had been aware that I could broadcast my every thought in 140-character chunks to every one of my acquaintances, dozens of times a day, I would have tried Twitter long ago. But I've been Twittering for about a week (OK, I only lasted a day, but I'm still reading other people's tweets), and I've realized that I have nothing to offer you Tweeples except for lies, like these:
@Parthenon: Unimpressed
@Lunch: With Brangelina—they are drunk

Or worse yet, actual bits of my reality, like these tweets from yesterday:
@A&E television: He's not talking because he @#$!! killed her!
@the refrigerator: Why is there never any @%#• milk!
@babyboy: How did that get into his mouth?

If I keep this up, the people who follow me will be exposed to all my most ridiculous moments (and ridiculous moments are, in fact, most of my moments). Why do I need to do that to myself? It's embarrassing—and you're reading the words of a woman who counts Hall & Oates as her favorite band (Daryl rocks!). But I must be missing something, because Twitter is all the rage. So, dear readers, especially you young Twitterphiles, here's a challenge: These are the three things I don't understand about Twitter. Please help me know the magic that is tweeting.

1. Why can't I just use instant messaging or Facebook?
If I want to tell my BFF what I'm up to in real time, why wouldn't I just use BlackBerry Messenger or, better yet, call her on the phone? That way, only she has to know that I just fell up the escalator at Whole Foods for the third time in one day. And if I should want to tell everyone I know that I'm frustrated by my inability to stop eating Fat Witch Brownies, I'll post it on Facebook. So what's the point of Twitter? Why do I want Barack Obama to know that I'm clumsy and chocolate-addicted? Which brings me to my next question …

2. Why does Barack Obama want to follow me on Twitter?
In a fit of exuberance (and because I have a wicked crush on his press secretary, Robert Gibbs), I signed up to follow the president on Twitter. Well, it's been a week and I haven't heard word one. I read the newspaper; I know he's been doing Twitter-worthy stuff. I mean, most of the tweets I get involve what people are eating or drinking at any given time (the rest seem to be about the weather). Doesn't Obama eat? I did, however, get a message from Twitter that said Obama wanted to follow me! Even though I suspect that Obama wants to follow everyone who follows me, I'm touched and honored by the illusion that he's singled me out. But then, do I want the POTUS to know that at 2:37 p.m., I went to Dunkin' Doughnuts? And I don't feel I know him well enough to tweet about my trip to the subway in the rain (without an umbrella!). The "magic" of Twitter is supposed to be the hundreds, if not thousands, of messages that come into places like the White House and CNN at the same time, resulting in a kind of portrait of the country's mood at any one time. But the sense I get from MSNBC's review of popular Twitter topics is that rather than measuring the zeitgeist, Twitter has turned thousands of cranky people into cranky haiku writers.

3. What were you doing before with the time you now use for Twitter?
Like every other grown person in America, I have too many responsibilities and not enough time—work, husband, kid, friends, chores and so on and so on—I barely have enough time to play Scramble on Facebook, never mind catch up on my incessant chats. And I am now officially as bad at returning e-mails as I am at returning letters. I can't even return phone calls regularly, and my AIM has been blinking since last Thursday, so how am I going to find the time to tweet? Do I really need to carve time out of my day to tweet my craving for pomegranate juice? Though it may not be immediately apparent, it does take a fair amount of thinking to write these pieces, and it's nearly impossible to work and read or respond to the 20-25 tweets my Aunt Raquel sends every day. I think social networking is going to make us stupid. We're not giving ourselves any downtime to just use our brains, for reflection, fantasizing, problem-solving, whatever. Why are we Twittering when we should be figuring out what to do with all that space junk floating around in orbit?

So if someone can give me a really compelling reason to, I will tweet. In the meantime, let's not say I refuse to Twitter. I Twitter constantly. Only you can't hear it. As a 38-year-old black woman, I Twitter the old-fashioned way—yelling at the top of my lungs to no one and with the knowledge that if someone does hear me, they (like my husband or parents) will ignore my "tweets."

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