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Twitter: From There to Here

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Twitter started as a place to connect. “Real-time information network powered by people that lets you share and discovering WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?” (And as the seconds go by … now … no, now …) Originally piggybacking on Facebook’s explosively successful Status Updates, Twitter has become entangled into our cultural and pop lexicon.

Characters on TV shows are tweeting; talk-show hosts are tweeting; music stars are rockin’-tweeting. The President of the United States tweets (and Thank God for that, right?) Groups use Twitter to rally support for one set of causes or to rally for opposition to another set of opposing cause. Companies use Twitter as marketing machines and for free consumer research. Celebrities use it as a one-wheeled public relations engine.

It was probably the explosion of reality TV that somehow impressed upon us that transparency into our private lives provides the most glorious, engaging and titillating of entertainment. Somehow the imaginative minds of our society’s creative genius now had to compete with public displays of our eating, shitting and attention-seeking lives.

This public “diary” of collective reflection is at its very nature an oxymoron and appeals to the exhibitionist or peeping Tom inside of all of us. We all want a glance at the otherwise forbidden lives of celebrities and such.

So now Twitter has evolved into a colossal program with a glossary of Tweet Jargon. You can link your Twitter to your Facebook and you can tweet directly from your cell phone. Now Verizon’s Fios allows you to Tweet directly from your TV so we never have to get off our fat asses to give our opinion. It’s like an open mic night all the time.

It’s Twitt-versation and we all have it documented at our Twitter slash name. Like a digital ticker tape from a court stenographer, you too can review your Tweets all in one spot. It’s an online record of your random 140-character proclamations to the universe. Your Tweets, that should you ever drop dead unexpectedly, would be considered your last words. These verbal spasms that you tweet into the Twitterverse.

But do most of us really have something of importance to say or have we become so accustomed to having to announce our every movement, thought, or opinion?

Are we really quelling our innate social desire to connect with others or are we further isolating ourselves to communication through clicks only? We throw out bait – showing a vulnerable piece of ourselves and hoping someone bites and takes interest?

If at first people would reserve only the really Tweet-worthy for an update, now it’s gone a bit too far. At first it was just big news, an announcement, an epic proclamation, insightful questions, or instigations for interesting (or controversial) dialog.

But the inch wasn’t enough so we took the yard—and started announcing too much and too often. “I took a shit. My kids took a shit. I’m cleaning up the dog’s shit.” Countless people walk around with blank expressions on their faces, empty thought bubbles over their heads, thumbs clicking on their devices. What am I doing now and how do I make it sound fancy, funny or engaging? How do I validate my action as tweet-worthy? We are real-life comic strip characters starring in our own ridiculous microcosm.

It’s no wonder we have such a yearning for social inter-connection; our generation has successfully isolated ourselves to devices and boxes and only communicate if we have to push buttons for it.

But as is the case of human nature, it’s not enough to give us a soapbox to stand upon; we also need an audience. Welcome to the world of Followers. Everyone competes for Followers … we all want a bigger audience. More applause, more money, more love. We want to sell ourselves, our ideas, our products to the world.

But if our intentions are just to promote, sell, get something out of it for ourselves, how much lasting power will Twitter really have? Advertising is already omnipresent. Originally we just wanted to see what Ashton Kutcher was eating for dinner. Now we indirectly sign up to receive consistent 140-character sales pitches on a daily basis. Even snail mail originally existed without junk mail. But sadly, we have left the era of non-junk Tweets long behind.

But is this new Tweetin’ world actually detrimental to our sociological communication? How many of us are actually suckered into a false sense of connection?

An acquaintance recently joined Twitter and started following Adam Lambert. I looked through her feed to see countless tweets addressing @adamlambert. She asked him how he was feeling; wished him a happy Passover; told him she was enjoying NYC’s Central Park on a spring day. Adam Lambert has over 700,000 followers. Is he really seeing her outcries of daily minutia? And how long before she feels rejected by his lack of response? When his concert sold out minutes after it went on sale, her Tweet friend did nothing to help her.

But alas I, too, have worn the Tweet Whore hat at times. (Especially when stuck in the cubicle confines of the 9-5 office drudgery.) For me, Twitter allows me to maintain a thought journal; a lazy alternative to writing a full blog posting. As a retrospective, it provides snapshots of your life’s memories in 140-character bits. (If only showing you what you were feeling for the time it took you to type up the 140-characters.)

Last August I went on a ten-day road trip where I randomly tweeted from various stops. (Tweeting from my phone didn’t require an Internet connection.) After the trip, I looked back at my tweets and was surprisingly amused and grateful for the updates. However incomplete, they served as a reflective map on the days that were. For that, I’m glad for Twitter.

So I walk through the bookstore and gasp at how many authors have already capitalized on penning books on this still-mysterious-to-some Twitter. Really? Whole books to guide people through the mystery of how to type 140-characters about what you’re doing right now?

Heartseverywher: Just wrote a cynical, oxymoronic article questioning Twitter: where it came from and where it arrived. Ironically tweeting it now.

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