John Colson: I don’t dwell in the Twitterverse, thankfully
Hit & Run
I should note at the start that I do not tweet, never have and possibly never will.
Partly that’s because I own and carry what I fondly call a “dumb phone,” meaning the old flip phone that dominated the cellphone industry until the unholy emergence of the “smartphone,” which in my view is a satanic device of dubious value to our global societies, collective sanity and our overall humanity.
Anyway, my phone has no keyboard, just an old-fashioned numbers pad with letters assigned to each number, so any kind of non-vocal communication (texting, tweeting, etc.) is just too much hassle to bother with.
Which always has been fine with me, as voice communication is all I want out of a phone. I have a laptop for the rest of it.
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Actually, I resisted getting any kind of cellphone for a few years before I was forced, by an employer, to carry one around in order to be in constant touch with the office. I never wanted to be that tightly connected to a job, or even my family. If I wanted to talk with someone, I could go see them or find a pay phone and call them, and that seemed a close enough connection for all concerned.
But back to tweeting. When it was first introduced by its inventors in 2006, my first thought was, “What a bunch of morons! Even our computer-saturated society won’t want to limit itself to 140 characters per message.”
OK, I’ve been wrong before, will be again, I’m sure of that. Of course, Twitter, Inc. took off like an eagle from a tall cliff and has been flying high ever since (until last week’s plunge).
On Election Day 2016, according to Wikipedia, Twitter was the biggest source of breaking news, with some 40 million tweets flying through the twittersphere, compared with its normal monthly user population of 340 million or so.
Twitter even has shown signs of replacing Facebook as the social media platform of choice, thanks largely to the vipers nest of scandals that has rocked Mark Zuckerburg and his creation, although the most-often cited Facebook challenger these days is Instagram (even in my own household, where my wife is busy fighting off a nascent Instagram addiction prompted by her desire to check on photos posted by family and friends).
But Twitter, thanks largely to our nearly illiterate president, is the platform to beat these days. I have to wonder if Donald Trump gets some sort of kickback from the company, given the fact that he has boosted its celebrity, if not its popularity or use, by a factor that really is beyond imagining.
In any event, Twitter has grown in a dozen years to the point where it now is spawning a still-tiny subculture of doubters and skeptics, more than one of whom have appeared in that once-stodgy but now somewhat more hip news outlet, The New York Times.
This week, NYT contributor Ken Jennings wrote about his realization that Twitter has “made everything a joke” by providing an outlet for comic wannabes as well as professional comics looking to trot out their latest jokes to see how they bounce.
Jennings wrote that he got involved with Twitter in 2011 to promote his own impending appearance on the game show “Jeopardy!” opposite the fabled IBM supercomputer, Watson, but soon was hooked by the steady diet of jokes and the chance to post his own attempts at humor alongside those of more experienced comic writers.
Calling his new addiction “a crash course in the brutal realities of social media,” he noted that the Twitter habit, “like any other internet addiction, is an endless dopamine loop. Your brain doesn’t have a satiety (I think he made that word up) signal for social media updates; it just wants you to check your screen again and again for new content UNTIL YOU DIE.”
Jennings remains hooked, as far as I could tell from his piece, which is a kind of underlying commentary in its own right.
Another NYT writer, White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, recently penned an opinion piece, “Why I (mostly) quit Twitter.” Haberman, you may recall, has been the target of many Trumpian tweets over the course of his presidency, mostly negative and sometimes verbally abusive.
Haberman, who got started on Twitter for its fresh news regime, wrote that “after nearly nine years and 187,000 tweets,” she became dismayed by the platform’s takeover by trolls and demons intent on braying their innermost hatred, not to mention misinformation and lies about nearly everything.
“Twitter is now an anger video game for many,” she continued, “a platform for people to say things they’d never say to someone’s face.”
And so it is, in most cases, though Trump might exceed that parameter in that he will say almost any idiotic thing to almost anyone, at least until he changes his mind or says something else equally idiotic to detract from the earlier idiocy.
In her piece, Haberman’s main complaint was that Twitter has become far too mean and ugly, in particular among those who deride journalists using the service, for her to stay with it.
And as NYT publisher A.G. Sulzberger pointed out to Trump at a meeting last weekend, it has gotten to the point where some journalists are feeling threatened by the unhinged and violent nature of many tweets.
So, in the end, I’m quite glad I never caught the tweet virus.
I know I have pissed off more than a few people in my 45-year career as a journalist, and that I’ve never shied away from a fight in defense of my reporting, my outlook or my style.
In that light, I’m sure that as a Twitter addict I would have spent far too much time and energy at it, with no good result but possibly some level of violence by a deranged critic.
And I simply don’t need that kind of a drain on my resources.
One final thought: There are only 98 days left before the mid-term election Nov. 6, and if you have concerns, phobias or unresolved anxiety about the way our country is headed right now, remember that the most important thing you can do is vote.
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