What’s this Twitter business then? Crawling out of my cave recently, I learned that Twitter’s all the rage. They’re even talking about it on PM. Politicians, singers, comedians: they’re all at it. And friends, too, have helpfully found ways of documenting their every move, so that I can catch up on everything they have done all day.
One chap recently announced that he needed a smartphone with a keyboard because he needs to post his status updates. Tweets, I think they’re called. Well yes, it may be that I’m living in a technological backwater, that I am yet to appreciate glorious connective possibilities realised by real companies out there, but his “need” made me stumble. What need? I visited the Twitter website this morning to find out what it’s all about. Naturally I had to click on “Why?”
Why? Because even basic updates are meaningful to family members, friends, or colleagues—especially when they’re timely.
* Eating soup? Research shows that moms want to know.
* Running late to a meeting? Your co–workers might find that useful.
* Partying? Your friends may want to join you.
Hmm. Well I think the running late thing has already been solved by the invention of mobile phones (although I already hear the complaint in my ear from those who can never get hold of me because I have the irritating habit of saying, “We didn’t have these things twenty years ago and we survived” – I mean, why should I switch my phone to silent in the masjid when I can just leave it at home – grrr!).
Eating soup? Interesting. What can I say? Just don’t get the stuff on your keyboard or you’ll be wanting a new smartphone (well no doubt you already want one anyway – and what better excuse to replace your iPhone with a Bold – well not a very good excuse actually, because last time I checked the iPhone doesn’t have a keyboard – think of something else).
It’s true, I am the biggest bore of them all and the greatest party-pooper to have ever been born; I believe there was even a character on the Fast Show based on me. You would hear an objection from me, you say, regardless of it being good or bad. Well, tell yourself that and vent your frustrations on Twitter; I expect to see a perfectly formed one-liner in Unicode text on my computer screen right after the one about what you had for lunch.
Call me an ignoramus — I don’t mind — but let me whisper ever so faintly what it is that bothers me about this grand phenomenon. It’s not that I fear you are creating your own Big Brother world by your voluntary participation in sharing every boring detail about your life, nor that a Tweet appears to resemble 1984’s Newspeak, although I’m sure some are bound to make an argument about that before long.
No, it’s something else. It’s the ego. You know me and my ego. I used to publish “The Neurocentric” for crying out loud: “The journey of a self-centred soul”. So if anyone knows about the ego, it’s me. My ego and I are not exactly the best of friends; in fact we could be called the worst of enemies, for my ego is a prick.
Excuse me if this sounds harsh, but Twitter reminds me of my ego. Pardon me if I have grasped the wrong end of the nettle entirely (if indeed one end is better than the other), but the sharing of the trip to the kebab shop, the visit to the gym, the decorating, the hoovering, the profound intellectual article you are reading, the hilarious comedy you’re watching right now, all remind me of the worst part of me: that lust for fame, for acknowledgement, for attention, for respect. That ego of mine that still cannot get over an injustice a decade ago, driving me to make who I am known to all and sundry, in the hope that the unjust character might come to know how unjust they were.
I am not raging against the machine because it takes me ten minutes to send a five word text message (although that much is true), or because I would rather head into the hills to live a subsistence lifestyle on a homestead farm (although I might dream about this too). It is perhaps, I whisper to myself, because too much speech is hardness of the heart, because the ego is swift to dominate, because silence is golden, because I seek meaningful relationships not sound bites, because it’s all becoming pointless, because I seek something greater, because the true tweets — the birdsong in my garden — is far more profound and beautiful than any line of Unicode text on my screen.
All of which summarises why I am heading back into my cave. Wake me up if I miss anything important. A delicious kebab doesn’t count.