When I was in high school I used to hate it when my French teacher called me a twit. Every time I did something stupid, she’d say, “You’re such a twit, aren’t you?” with a look that made me feel like an imbecile.
Fortunately this “twit” appellation ceased to haunt me as I hurtled through the decades mastering whatever new technology came my way, from the 1970s text editing program WordStar, to Mac computers, to cellphones, to the Internet, to e-mail and so on and so forth. Now that I have my very own BlackBerry, I find myself face to face with that word “twit” again. But this time, I’m not quite a twit. I am a Twitterer.
I signed up with Twitter more than a year ago and let my account vegetate because I basically thought that Twitter was for twits. Facebook was a lot more fun, and terrific for my ego. (I have almost reached my friends quota and I have almost 20,000 pending. Imagine if I could monetize that!)
But when Twitterers started “following” me, I felt a duty to tweet to show I appreciated the fact that some friends (and strangers) were gracious enough to want to know what I was up to; I felt rude leaving them with an outdated status.
For those of you who are not yet savvy to this phenomenon, Twitter allows you to publish what you’re doing in 140 characters or less. Whatever you type up is called a tweet, and other Twitterers can comment on it. It’s just like updating your Facebook status.
What really got me tweeting was the Twitter application on my BlackBerry. Here, on top of the 20 different features that I already use (such as BB Message, e-mail, SMS, Google Talk, Internet browsing, chat, blogging, camera and the occasional actual phone call), I can get instant feeds of what my friends and colleagues are up to.
Moreover, it really does help get through the boredom of getting stuck in Jakarta traffic on a rainy day. Sitting in the back of the car I am connected with just about everyone I know. Technology, they say, will make solipsists of us all as we increasingly interact more with our gadgets than real people.
But with instant messaging, chatting and now tweeting, we are actually communicating more than ever before. Without necessarily uttering a sound, whether in the bathroom, in the car, walking alone, watching television or having a meal, we can engage in endless conversations about practically everything and anything, have arguments, muse and philosophize, invent haikus, air opinions and frustrations, shamelessly pour our hearts out — all without verbally uttering a single word.
I read my Twitter updates. Aha. Such and such is having lunch at this or that place. Nasi uduk of all things. “Nice but not healthy,” I tweet back. Someone else is on the way to the gym or is stuck in traffic. Someone rants and raves about what’s on the news. Others grumble, mostly about banal things, yet these tweets are mesmerizing in a bizarre way.
It’s liberating. It’s practically cathartic.
I can map what my fellow anchors are doing, what they’re eating, how they’re feeling and who they’re with for the entire day. I can gain insight into their lives that I wouldn’t have been able to even after years of bumping into them in makeup rooms or having the odd lunch together.
Having followed my tweeting younger relatives for some time now, I find I can empathize with them a lot more — one is struggling to finish her thesis, the other is agonizing over her exam results, while yet another is frustrated about his research paper — and perhaps even understand them on a deeper level than their parents.
So what do I tweet? I must admit even 140 characters can get pretty long if you haven’t got anything to say other than “I don’t have anything to tweet.”
Sometimes I attempt to wax philosophical or dole out words of wisdom as offerings to what I hope is an appreciative audience.
But most of the time, however, the twit in me outweighs my intellectual pretensions and my status update mostly consist of mundane tidbits, like what I’m eating, how I feel about the weather, what my cats are up to and how I am stuck in traffic and hate it (although this is a lie: I love getting stuck in the traffic. More time to catch up on trending topics.)
By the way, I’m following Obama’s and Oprah’s tweets. After all, it’s also nice to connect with people who rule the world as well. That way, I don’t feel like such a twit.