Considering that I wrote this just over a year ago, I’m amazed at how dated it sounds. But my initial reservations about Twitter still stand, so I’m posting it again.
Three of our children celebrated birthdays last month, which prompted one of them to inquire (with great tact and diplomacy) whether I was feeling old. After all, she can now legally drink and what’s more, in only a few weeks her baby sister will be able to vote.
The truth is that I don’t feel old when I think of my children’s ages or when incredibly cute little people call me Grandma. What does make me feel old, ancient, over the hill and passé is Twitter. I simply don’t get it. Here I’ve been, agonizing over whether I should get a Facebook account, and seemingly overnight there’s a new technology on the block. To the best of my understanding, Twitter will allow me to waste more time out of my day than I already do, finding out more things about more people than I want to know. The brilliance of this eludes me.
I find myself questioning whether in another age I would have clung to my whale oil lamp, horse and buggy and corset while the world headed to the moon. Do I need to join the Luddite club? Or is Twitter more similar to those toys a few years back that demanded your attention at all hours of the day as if they were real pets, while not supplying any of the affection or benefits of a live creature? I’ve never had one nanosecond of regret that we didn’t succumb to that fad. Even my friends who do Twitter are quick to say that they do so on blind faith because they were told it was important for their businesses.
Which is exactly the troubling part. As a 16 year veteran full-time homeschooling mom who lost my job when the kids grew up, I have entered the mainstream work force. The idea that I might need to utilize a tool that in my opinion is a better match for The Emperor’s New Clothes than for Business Week is enough to make me want to head for the rocking chair.
But what is most troubling to me about all these social networking sites is the grooming of short attention spans. When you read that in colonial America toddlers were expected to sit still during multi-hour sermons and that teenagers read Shakespeare and James Fenimore Cooper novels for entertainment, while adults today can’t handle messages of more than 140 characters, you know we’re in trouble. When the president – the president of the United States- is sending out Twitter updates while dealing with complex, dangerous and profound issues that will affect all our lives, you know we’re in trouble. And even more so when you know that many Americans actually think he is composing them himself. (By the way, this is a non-partisan issue. This will probably become standard and expected for the nation’s leaders.)
So, quite frankly, I can’t afford to feel old. I may not be able to save the whole country but I can make sure that I read increasingly complex books to my grandchildren, insist that my children still compose hand-written congratulatory and sympathy notes when appropriate and thank God once again for the gift of the Sabbath when all electronics are put away and we listen to each other for hours on end.