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Cranky old guy hates Twitter

Some time back, Garrison Keillor described cell phone conversations as being essentially the same as what geese honk to one another in flight: “I am here. I am on my way there.” But in comparison with Twitter, a routine cell phone exchange constitutes a Shakespearean soliloquy.

I don’t use Twitter myself. It’s not just that I am a fossil; I lead an appallingly dull life. If you were to receive moment-by-moment bulletins of my daily activities at home and at work, you would want to curse God and die.

But I am on the receiving end of Twitter, because Facebook has added a feature that imports Twitter’s tweets and trills and honks into the posts from my so-called friends. It turns out that they are sunk nearly as deeply into banality as I am.

When I see, sequentially, that you have collected your boarding pass, your flight has been delayed, you are now in line for boarding, you are sitting on the tarmac, you are returning to the terminal, you are eating a Sbarro pizza, you are back in line for boarding, you are stuck in a middle seat, you are cleared at last for takeoff — I don’t care if you are Michael Anthony bringing me a tax-free check for one million dollars from John Beresford Tipton, I don’t want to hear any more.

For the contrary view, Jeff Jarvis — who else? — carried on a year ago about Twitter as one of the Great New Things of Journalism. I’ve been remiss in not following his more recent illuminations. No doubt I am entirely in the wrong, as well as hopelessly in the past, as seeing Twitter as a marriage of noise and short attention spans. But if I can figure out how to disable the damn feed on Facebook, I will be able to reduce one or two degrees of crankiness.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:14 PM | | Comments (12)


"I’ve been remiss in not following his more recent illuminations."

Today, Mr. Jarvis said:
"What Would Google Do? just made the San Francisco Chronicle best-seller list. (I’m damned glad the paper stayed around long enough for that to happen!)"

Four of the seven commenters proceeded to plot how they'll spit in his face.

This week, Doonesbury has had a wonderful send-up of twittering. Talk about the need to actually live a life. If its not yet available, I assume the next great advance in technology will be to add video to twitter. Then we can experience potty breaks by those who think everything they do is soooo important.

Geez, John. People would have to be a hundred years old to remember TV's 'The Millionaire'

And yet you blog, and the same things were said of blogs, those mundane too-much-information Web diaries.

Our basketball writers now use Twitter to send updates during each game to more than 600 followers, including updates from start to finish of the six-overtime game.

Our basketball writers now use Twitter to send updates to...followers

This may be a stupid question from someone who doesn't use Twitter, but if these people have the ability to receive Twitter updates, wouldn't they have the ability to follow the game on, for instance, scoreboards?

Bucky, the followers seem to like our writers' expert reports on the game, on a mobile phone, Web page, or however they choose to get it. Fans in the stands at the actual game have been known to follow our updates on Twitter. (We've also been able to sell some advertising.)

It's at by the way

Oooooh! That was Twitter that Doonesbury was sending up! Oh! Twitter is just something else I don't need. (And, after a trip to the grocery store this morning, I am proud to announce that I am able to choose between Granny Smith and Gala apples with a cell phone consultation.)

Eve, you are ahead of me. I knew that Doonesbury was sending up Twittering, but I am still cell phone-less. You may send donations to ...

Dahlink, I used to have a cell phone (I was actually one of the first to have one - cutting edge, even!) but I gave it up a couple of years ago. Life has actually been very nice without it.

Thanks for explaining Twitter. Now I know I don't want it.

For what its worth, I'm guessing that air traveler was in Atlanta.

Okay Cranky Old Man,

Don't knock it until you've tried it.

I just started on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. It's NOT so much about composing my own mundane tweets, but following the people that DO have something to say -- Baltimore Sun headlines are delivered to me via tweet, I can find out what's hip, new and happening Baltimore via other people's tweets, get book recommendations, etc. It is combination Facebook and email, but delivered in bite-sized 140 characters or fewer. and Now less cluttered than the current Facebook.

You can even link to your blog posts... eh? eh?

I'll show it to you sometime. Then, it is your choice whether to slam it or not.

Tweets like that would drive anyone but a worried parent or spouse insane.

The one thing I've enjoyed using Twitter for was following the Mars lander (Phoenix), but he was polite enough not to Tweet incessantly. He sent Tweets when he had actual news we followers might care about. (It wasn't really the robot Tweeting, it was a NASA person -- ssh, don't tell the young ones.)

Another Twitter feed I followed was traffic alerts by the State Highway Administration during the Inauguration. In that case, I didn't mind incessant if it was telling me about all of the roads I should avoid.

There are some uses for Twitter. Telling the world things I wouldn't bother my spouse or mother with is not one of them.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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