Wednesday, April 29, 2009

'twixt Tweet and Text...

This morning in one of my KABC radio newscasts I read a story about British scientists who are developing digital technologies to assist the elderly and disabled in matters of everyday living.

The story explained how one invaluable tool we'll all soon have to help us find our way through the labyrinth of our old-age dodderage is a Global Positioning System to find what we need in the grocery store.

Need to track down the canned peas? Check your GPS.

And they're serious.

At this point in my life, as a young elderly man, I still bear enough conceit to believe that if I eventually get so befuddled as to be unable to find the canned vegetables without consulting my Garmin Geezer I should probably stay home.

How the hell am I supposed to find the store in the first place if I can't find the peas once I get there?

And, we all know how adept the elderly are at figuring out how to use new gadgets and how much they enjoy the challenge!

My dear mother, bless her heart, is one of the smartest people I've ever known. Her sharp wit, her native intellect and her instinctive, loving charm have been an inspirational influence in me for fifty-eight years. They still are.

But the computer we bought her for Christmas several years ago is just a giant paperweight in her dining room. It's furniture, actually. She placed doilies on the monitor and speakers. My bronzed baby shoes adorn the keyboard. She sprays lemon-scented Endust on the cpu tower, carefully avoiding the power button so as not to accidentally activate the thing.

And I'm starting to get it...

I've been paying bills and shopping online for nearly two decades. I embraced the interactive charms of the Internet back in the day when Prodigy allowed you to post notes on bulletin boards and anxiously await responses from people thousands of miles away.

I play Lord of the Rings Online and before that I spent years with my wife and our international friends playing Everquest and Everquest II. We talk into microphones in real-time with people around the world while we're playing. (Though, we don't know the next door neighbors.)

Email is the twentieth century invention of the wheel and fire.

I IM (Instant Message); I have a Facebook page which commands about 40% of my semi-wasted life (much more if you subtract the time I sleep) and now, dadgummit...I have been sucked into Twitter.

I admit this with a mix of confusion and shame:

I am tweeting.

I don't get it, but I'm curious and trying to keep an open mind.

Twitter, for those of you who have real lives with face-to-face personal relationships, is a means of communicating with people in the most shallow way yet devised, with very short bursts of written expression. You have a limit of 140 typed characters for each message with which you decide to annoy your friends and loved ones. These are called "Tweets." These can be read by your "followers" on computers and Internet-enabled cell phones like Blackberry and iPhone.

For example, imagine you're at work between conferences with your law partners and a potential major corporate client. During a quick break you check your Twitter:

"I'm trying to decide whether to take a nap or go buy milk."

"I need a nap. Or a beer. Or both."

"Wish you were here. Not really, LOL! :-) I prefer being alone in my cave but I want you to think highly of me."

And, the honest tweet you'll never receive:

"The best thing about Twitter is that I can tell you what I'm thinking without having to listen to your response. C-ya!"

Minute to minute intrusions throughout the day, meaningless mind farts to and from people you love and used to admire.

I swear...

Among the many gifts God gave us none is greater than the ability to keep our thoughts to ourselves and the inherent good judgment to do so.

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