It could be I’m just a crummy writer. Because I write an opinion column, and opinions being what they are, there are legions of people who would agree I’m a crummy writer. That is, if anyone is reading my column. Certainly not legions.
Ah, but I digress. Several months ago with the blessing of Ken Buday, the Havelock News editor, I experimented with attempting to write several columns containing something meaningful using the “Twitter number” of 140. Except I tried to write something meaningful in 140 words whereas Tweets, those ubiquitous snippets of so-called communication, are restricted to 140 characters.
I must be a crummy writer because I had a very difficult time writing anything with any meaning, restricting myself to 140 words. Again, many would argue, “Well Fetzer, your normal 700 to 750 word limit never contains any meaning anyway so what’s the big deal?” There I go digressing again.
My point is that if putting meaning in 140 words is difficult, what does it say about the meaning or value in the millions of Tweets traversing the Twittersphere every day?
For instance, here’s a tweet culled from the website Funtweets.com, a collection of, the website claims, “funny, weird, silly and witty tweets” (written here exactly as it was articulated by the original tweeter: “look. life is bad. evryones sad. We’re all gona die. but i alredy bought this inflatable boumcy castle so r u gona take ur shoes off or wat.”
Even my crummy writing has more meaning than that. Right? It does, doesn’t it?
Well, maybe not. Regardless of the bad grammar, poor spelling, and lack of content, Twitter has taken the world by a storm. It must satisfy some previously unfulfilled human compulsion we didn’t even know we had before Twitter — a need to write something to strangers with little thought, no research, often laced with emotion, and with a belief that someone … anyone … actually cares.
Even babies tweet. The magazine “The Week” reported in its Sept. 20, 2013, edition, ‘“Harper Estell Wolfeld-Gosk has 6,282 Twitter followers,”’ said Joe Coscarelli in NYMag.com. ‘“She’s 2 weeks old.”’ “The infant daughter of Today show correspondent Jenna Wolfe is just one of thousands of kids who have Twitter accounts that are written in their voices but are authored by their parents.”
Actually tweets, with their bad grammar and lack of cogent thought, may be best suited for babies. But given that I’m of the baby-boomer generation, as opposed to a Millennial, I would write this. The younger generations would all agree that I “just don’t get it.”
And there I was proudly believing I WAS getting it. I (with my chest puffed out just a little) use a Blackberry. My wife has Facebook friends. I’m often “Linked-In.” We both text.
OMG. “Texting,” as National Public Radio called it on their broadcast Saturday, “is so old school.” NPR reported on a British study that found texting decreased for the first time last year, falling by 7 billion in Great Britain.
Old school? I thought I was straddling the race horse of technology — that my wife and I, on digitized thoroughbreds, were exploring the social media final frontier (technologically speaking). Instead, I find that we are actually being bucked off our old dial-up gray mare into obsolescence.
But what is a baby boomer — or for that matter even a Millennial — to do? According to authors Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman in their book “Transcend,” “Today the computer in your cell phone is a million times smaller, a million times less expensive and a thousand times more powerful than our most powerful computers in 1965. That’s a billion fold increase in price-performance. As powerful and influential as information technology (IT) is already, we’ll experience another billionfold increase in capability for the same cost in the next 25 years (rather than the 40 years or so it took for the most recent billionfold increase) because the rate of exponential growth is itself getting faster.”
Even high tech Millennials can’t keep up with a billionfold amount of change. So it’s time to admit the pace of technological change is so fast that I can’t keep up. Even if I could keep up, I’m not good enough to write anything with meaning in 140 characters.
And I’m a bit ashamed, I must confess, for believing I was technically savvy when I’m really in a gentrified IT place. But because I’m bucked off my technological high horse, I’ll never be as ashamed as the writer of the tweet who wrote, “#shame. I feel more shame when someone glances at my computer or phone and catches me looking at Twitter than I would if it were porn.”
So why do either? I just don’t get it.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.