From Twitter to Shitter

“My F drive was just migrated to another system. Stay tuned for more important details.”

So read my very first Twitter tweet (though they weren’t called “tweets” then, just texts flung into the abyss), sent at 10:37 a.m., December 19, 2006. My friend Mary hipped me to it. When I say “friend,” I mean “friend” in the pre-Millennial sense: a carbon-based life form with whom I often traded zingers and beer. At that time my Twitterverse (that coinage didn’t exist, either) consisted of Mary and Heather, and we three made quite a quipster trio. It was beautiful; oh! we were young and wordy.

Being a visionary, Heather bailed early, bored off her nut. Mary continues to retreat and return, retreat and return. These days I use Twitter primarily to shill for my blog and drop barbs too racy for Facebook. Twitter just does that to me, y’know: it’s a dumping ground for my bluer updates. Facebook’s the upstanding supper club enveloped by valet parking; Twitter’s the backwater shanty with chicken wire for windows.

Isn’t it sad what Twitter’s slowly becoming, yet another social tool caroming down digital grease into the gas-station toilet of mass culture? Haven’t they learned anything from Myspace or Friendster, twin ghost towns of eerie emissions and phantom lamentations? Sometimes I get e-mails from both sites, each growing more increasingly desperate. “Come see what your friends are doing!” they trill in their shiver-y Karloff, oblivious to the truth that my friends split long ago.

Unfortunately, Twitter’s headed fast to the same nowhere, a repository of bimbo bots, bands, and businesses that all may as well be bimbo bots for the fat lot of good their presence does them. It’s hard to trudge through Twitter without kissing a cesspool. For example, a couple weeks ago I was watching afternoon television and clacked an offhand remark about Meredith Baxter repping Consumer Cellular. Within a day, Consumer Cellular was all up in my shit. It coyly batted its digital lashes at me, tracing circles on my biceps. “Isn’t Meredith grand?” it gushed. My natural response was “Who the fuck are you?”

Now, I understand companies use Twitter for customer service and to woo potential suckers with such unspoken assurances as “We might be monied-up fortresses guarded by phalanxes of secretaries and lackeys and helmed by misers who draw multimillion-dollar salaries as easily as you suck breath, but hey, we’re as meat-and-potatoes as Joe Blow you!” They present themselves as gregarious business-schooled pals always game for a heart-to-heart over a cyber-cold’un. But are we being engaged as people or algorithms? Are we involved in a conversation or simultaneous courtship/foreplay complete with spiked drinks?

The site’s search function has practically made eavesdropping a strategic business move. I mention Consumer Cellular, Consumer Cellular responds. Back in the (Biz) Stone Age o’ Tweet, my friend Mary mentioned she was toodling around the pool at a Radisson. Today she’d be besieged by 140-character missives from Radisson asking if the water was warm enough. Frankly, I find it all a little creepy. I don’t want to know that my comments about products and services are being monitored, and that those products and services might be moved to talk back. I don’t open my fridge and shoot the breeze with my yogurt; why would I want to do it online? I joined Twitter to hang with friends, not to be hijacked by intrusive jive artists glomming onto key words and racing toward opportunity, silver tongues a-waggin’.

Strip the false camaraderie and the momentary novelty of a “relationship” and at heart it remains a cynical marketing tactic. Businesses aren’t on Twitter to mingle with the masses; they’ve logged on to devour. Behind every seemingly innocuous tweet is an angle, a nefarious paw slipping under your nightdress. You can’t befriend them in any meaningful way; they don’t exist beyond their product. You’ll never argue with them over the Final Four. They won’t dish advice. They won’t jabber about an awesome show y’all caught at the Crystal Ballroom last Saturday (the Crystal Ballroom will, though). All you are is cattle, and they’ll do anything for your moo. When Consumer Cellular private-tweets “Isn’t Meredith grand?”, it’s not a rejoinder among compadres but an opening salvo using the human touch as bait.

And how many actual humans populate Twitter anymore? Most of the e-mail updates I receive keep me apprised of which charlatan is following me now, from the scumdiver who found me in a chum-troll to the nonexistent strumpet whose first and likely sole tweet reveals a propensity to engage in unspeakable acts at college parties, videos of which are available at this handy link, wink-wink.

Then there are celebrities, all in Twitterverse abundance. Following them is amusing for about a day or so, until you realize that they’re like the rest of us. They don’t have much worthwhile to say, either, and, like us, they tend to acknowledge only those in their immediate orbit (in their case, other celebrities) while lobbing an occasional morsel to simpering twats begging for a howdy. It’s much like watching them on television or reading about them in magazines: a passive and vicarious thrill. As much as I enjoy Rainn Wilson’s entertaining blurts, I doubt he quietly watches the anonymous stream of no-names clinging to his every word and chortles at my latest ham-fisted nugget. And I have to wonder about Jeff Jarvis’ productivity. How does he get anything done when he’s thugging out on newspapermen all day?

Forget the Twitter revolution. Steel yourself for the noisy sputter and fade, with unlimited commercial interruptions, as a tidal wave of useless info sends it all asunder.


One comment

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