June 30th 2009 I Don’t Get Twitter

When it comes to computers, I like to think of myself as a so-called power user in the sense that I know how to create software, use the command line, and write really, really ridiculously complicated shell scripts. But that’s all low-level techno-mumbo jumbo. I’m constantly amazed at what other “power users” do with their computers at a high level. I’ve never, ever used Apple’s Automator utility, but I’ve heard of people implementing entire backup solutions using nothing but Automator, their ten fingertips, and the sweat on their brows. My friend Cate is a champion at finding ways to watch television shows for free on the Internet, but like a scrub, I still use cable. Friends and coworkers often tell me about podcasts or video blogs that I’ve never even heard of. And other Mac users are constantly telling me about little utilities they use for automating their daily computing tasks, or just making their Macs more fun to use.

Yet I still don’t get Twitter. I’m not an ignorant git when it comes to finding Internet-delivered news; I’ve been subscribing to RSS feeds before RSS was cool. But the appeal of Twitter is a mystery to me. As a writer, I think it’s impossible to deliver an intelligent message in 140 characters or less. If Twitter was solely used to publish haikus from underground poets, I might be able to get onboard the Twitter train, but I think only a Twat would consider it an effective communication tool.

Maybe I scoff at Twitter because I think it’s ruining the Internet, partly because it contributes to our national attention deficit disorder epidemic by encouraging people to expect all information to be read and parsed in five seconds or less, but mostly because Twitter has encouraged the use of services like Tiny URL. In essence, Tiny URL is an easy way to trick naïve folks into looking at naughty pictures while they’re at work.

Growing up, there were two things I never really understood that made me feel like I was an epic failure at being a guy. One was the male fascination with flatulence. I never saw the appeal of farting as loud as I could, or farting in some guy’s face while he was sleeping, or lighting my farts on fire, or catching my farts in a jar, or making the smelliest fart in the room, or generally performing any action more obvious than trying to stifle my farts. Even now, I find it hard to say the word “fart” out loud. Ron Weasley is probably more comfortable uttering “Lord Voldemort”.

High school boys also love tricking each other into accidentally looking at really nasty porn. I never understood this hobby, either. I certainly don’t enjoy looking at a full-screen image of one girl shitting in another girl’s mouth, and I don’t understand why you’d want to trick a friend into looking at that gnarly shit, either. I never got the appeal of setting the start page of someone’s web browser to Meat Spin. A lot of guys seem to think that’s really funny, though. I like to think that my highly-evolved wit is above that sort of tomfoolery, but secretly I’ve always felt a bit uneasy about the fact that I just don’t understand that brand of humor.

Twitter is like farting and coprophilia porn: everyone else seems to like it, but I just don’t get it. And that makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me.