Monday, February 23, 2009


The word has come down from internet central: Twitter is it. Now, I'm not exactly sure what Twitter is. I gather it involves mobile phones, and text messaging, and I know that politicians use it as a novel way to make the same old political blunders, and to tell us what they had for breakfast and whether they went to the gym, which you might consider a "blunder" of an entirely different nature.

"Tweets", as they are called, are limited to 140 characters, a length that encourages either unusually florid sentences, or unusually spare modern poetry. For reference, that's about as long as the average sentence by Samuel Johnson, two thirds as long as "Buffalo Bill's/ Defunct", and even a little shorter than "This Is Just To Say", by William Carlos Williams. I guess you could tweet the whole poem without spaces, but it might fall short of the vision of the original.

Its appeal to clownish old men and suppositious modern poets aside, Twitter seems to be just the newest way that technology has invented for me to be a bad friend. With cell phones, The Facebook, online photo galleries, YouTube videos, cell phones that operate as walkie-talkies (I also don't understand that one) and text messages defining what it is to be a friend, and now Twitter, I am left stranded deeper and deeper in the cold. I'm shut out of the community of hip young people -- and the politicians who represent them -- all of whom know what one another had for breakfast.

As this twittering, tweeting vanguard of friendship passes me by on the road of ever-accelerating computer-aided amiability, I can almost see the coming technological singularity, a hypothesized date at which artificial intelligence will be able to befriend itself, with superhuman
interest in breakfast, dinner, lunch and tea, and needless to say, billions of characters per tweet.


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