Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Twitting

Ah, I get it now.

A month ago I signed up for Twitter as a means to vote in the "Shorty Awards," a.k.a. a hunk of engraved lucite given to notable twits in various categories -- the Twitter Oscars, it's been called. I saw it as a way to show a little love to the few tweets that I actually do read on occasion, namely those "by" the various interplanetary probes sent out by NASA/JPL, especially the pair of rovers on Mars, operating years beyond their original mission and design. (I'm a space and science geek on top of everything else.) So anyway: signed up, and put my toe in the water, expecting to find it a barren wasteland of 140-character blips from people calling themselves "Snooki" who want to know yo where my ho's at or whatever.

Well, it is that, truly, but then so is the blogspace and the Internet at large. (This is the point when I usually slip into the "I remember the 'MAKE MONEY FAST' Usenet wars" story, but I'll spare you.) In fact, the Internet is pretty much a "seek and you shall find" proposition. I had no idea that the nascent typosphere was out here lurking in the shadows, until I stumbled on Will Davis' portable typewriters site, and then the Yahoo! group, and then Strikethru and Monda's blogs. I'm glad that I fell into it, and broke my own (unspoken) rule of "I won't have a blog, I don't see the point, I don't know who would even bother reading it, grumpy grumpy, stay off my lawn." Now I'm pleased to be in your virtual company, and am finding a lot of similarities with you folks, despite geography.

Well, I was wrong about Twitter, too. It can be a means for shameless celebrity-watching, which I'll own up to: I'm following the MythBusters, and Wil Wheaton, and Conan O'Brien's daily tweets (depressing and funny!) and a few others. And I'll admit, that it's a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation at a party, but then the likelihood of me even being at a genuine in Real Life party with these people is slim to none, so I'm enjoying it. (To be fair, the MythBusters are just across the Bay from me, and I could realistically go all creepy-stalker on them if I wanted to. But they also have guns and explosives, so... no.) And then I stumbled across Rogert Ebert.

I "know" Ebert from his days reviewing movies on TV, and from his excellent reviews and Q&A columns now posted online. I know about his cancer battle, and read the recent Esquire profile, and for fun, looked him up. And this is where I realized I was wrong.

Yes, Twitter can be an extended game of "Yes, and..." where jokes (and one-ups) zip back and forth among friends and strangers, in a sudden ephemeral cloud of words, and yes, it can all-to-often be an outlet for inane "I just ate a sandwich" updates. I've been guilty of a couple of these myself, as the guilt settles in for not updating "enough," as if there were a minimum participation level that I was failing to reach. It's all of these things, but it's also a chance to listen in on short bursts of thought from people like Roger Ebert, and Neil Gaiman, and Stephen Fry, and the like. Your tastes might very from mine -- Ebert is almost furiously liberal, based on his responses to Tea Party folks and Sarah Palin -- but chances are you'll find someone out there to listen to. For someone like Ebert, whose living is based on the written words, it's a pleasure to watch someone work, confined within the limits of the service. (He compared it to a word game: packing the most meaning in the least space.)

So there, I was wrong. And I'm willing to own up to it. But I'm still not following anyone named "Snooki."


Strikethru said...

I'm struggling with the twitter. I feel like you always have to be on there making noise and being clever, sort of like a big endless cocktail party. It's shown me the limits of my own interesting-ness, that's for sure.

That said, I think you've been the ringleader of getting some retrotechians atweetin, and that has made it more interesting. So bless ya.

mpclemens said...

Yes, I've certainly not been able to tap into my imagined well of pithy observations on the human condition, or withering remarks, or re-tweet-friendly genius. But I try.

I'm stunned by the people on there, though, at both ends of the bell curve, if you catch my meaning.