Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why You Won't Find Us on Twitter

Because Twitter is stupid.

One of the many reasons why you should be embarrassed
to be associated with Twitter.
While I haven't paid much (any) attention to Twitter since its creation, my hunch is that the majority of what goes on there falls into one of two general categories: (1) events in which you are (or were, or will be, or want to be) involved, or (2) thoughts you’ve had, or heard from others, that you’ve decided are worth sharing.

First, the events: if anything that happens to you can be satisfactorily summed up in 140 or fewer characters, what chance does it have of being genuinely worth telling people about? Answer: very slim. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the odds are good that most of the details from the average life that are worth broadcasting to total strangers are either completely made up or stolen from a movie. The following are some completely-true examples from my everyday life:
  1. I once beat the Queen of England in a belching contest. She was kicking my ass until she got a bit overconfident and barfed a little.
  2. I am in a ballroom surrounded by hundreds of monkeys in tuxedoes. I can’t tell which ones are millionaires and which ones are butlers. 
  3. The penguins, surprisingly, are dressed quite casually.
  4. I ate a whole lot of fiberglass insulation. It wasn't cotton candy like that man said. My stomach’s itchy.1
Be honest, how often does a mundane detail of somebody else’s humdrum life really interest you? Probably not many. Your mundane details aren’t likely to be any more interesting to anybody else.
    Second, thoughts: if anything you think can be satisfactorily summed up in 140 or fewer characters, odds are good that you’re a profoundly shallow thinker or just straight-up stupid.2 There are notable exceptions to this, of course; some very clever people were also quite pithy:
    1. I think, therefore I am. (R. Descartes)
    2. The needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. (Spock)
    3. If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you. (O. Wilde)
    4. C is for cookie; that good enough for me. (C. Monster)
    The obvious problem here is that you are not Rene Descartes or Oscar Wilde, and neither is anybody you know. (For that matter, I’m no Oscar Wilde either, although I do have this nifty blog and he doesn’t.3)

    Thanks in part to the recent death of Mark Twain,4 the quality of wit in this country has fallen to the point that we’re apparently willing to believe that bumper stickers are clever. That probably helps explain (to some degree) the success of Twitter. And it’s not surprising that, given our country’s obsession with even the most run-of-the-mill celebrities, that plenty of people out there are just dying to know, say, whether Ashton Kutcher’s jock itch has cleared up yet. But those two still-pathetic reasons aside, I have a hard time understanding why we believe that it’s anything but embarrassing to circulate statements like, for example, “he might be f—— you but he’s thinking of me.

    . . . although that may be a bad example. The more I think about it, the more sure I am that it’s probably a direct quote from Oscar Wilde.

    1. Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, 2004.
    2. For the record, this shallow and straight-up stupid post weighs in at exactly 2,926 characters, not including the title or spaces. That’s way more than 140—put that in your ass and smoke it, Twitter fans!
    3. Also, he’s been dead for 110 years, and I have not.
    4. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, b. 1835, d. 1910.

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