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Twittering or Frittering?

By Mr. Modem

I would like to share a few thoughts with you about an activity that clearly marks the end of civilization as we know it: Twittering. The New York Times heralded Twitter as "one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet." My doctor tells me to be leery of fast-growing anythings, so perhaps that’s part of my concern. That being said, let’s start with the basics:

Twitter is a free service predicated on the question, “What are you doing?” By composing short, 140-character messages, you can share with the world that you are standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, eating a tuna sandwich, or watching your dog chase its tail. If compulsively posting such digital drivel is not enough of an incentive to get out of bed in the morning—which is, of course, another event you’ll want to share with others—you can also follow the mundane activities of other peoples’ uneventful lives—including neuron-numbing celebritwits. At no time in the history of interpersonal communication has the phrase “Get a life” been more appropriate.

To get started with Twitter, go to and click—well, “Get Started.” Provide the information requested and in seconds you will be twittified. During the sign-up process, you will be asked to provide your email address and password, which are used to import your contacts. If you’re less than enthusiastic about that prospect, obtain a free Gmail ( or other disposable account and use that instead.

Next, create your personal profile in which you can reveal as much or as little about yourself, as you wish. Hint: Less is more. The final step is to build your network by importing email lists, contacts from Instant Messaging services, or you can locate friends and family members with the search engine at Search by entering your interests, quirks or fetishes or peccadilloes, which will produce a list of individuals who share similar disturbing characteristics that you can then elect to follow.

“Following” someone is akin to adding a person to a contacts list or as a Facebook friend, except the twirp (Twitter relationship) is a one-way street. Nobody sees your updates unless they choose to follow you. I discovered that lemming-like individuals will start following you shortly after you start following them. Creepy? Absolutely.

Once you begin stalking—excuse me, following others, their updates (called “tweets”) will appear on the Web or in a Twitter feed to one or more designated devices. In the likely event someone gets on your nerves by posting too many senseless tweets (an oxymoron if ever there was one), you can remove the serial tweeter. There are many ways to post your own tweets, including logging into and typing your life-altering updates into the field provided. Third-party applications are available to streamline this process and eliminate the need to visit the site on a recurring basis.

To thoroughly research this sociological phenomenon, I immersed myself in the twit culture (and I use the term loosely) for a period of two months. As a professional journalist for more than 25 years, I cannot adequately articulate the pride I felt as I typed (“twyped,” in terminally cutesy TwitterSpeak), “Gotta run. Lilly coughed up a fur ball.” I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking, “Pulitzer for Mr. Modem, at last!”

On the plus side, I found Twittering to be harmless—if you don’t count the liquefaction of my frontal lobe into cerebral gruel. (A condition, some might argue, that predates my foray into the Twittosphere.)

As enthusiastically proclaims, “With Twitter, you can stay hyper-connected to your friends and always know what they’re doing,” which begs the question, “Who cares?” During my Twitterfest, I learned that GomeZorb had the flu and stayed home from work—apparently to Twitter (a phenomenon known as social notworking), NeoPunk lost his iPod, and DrizYChick made oatmeal. My first thought, of course, was "Get the defibrillator! I don't think I can stand the excitement."

Why anybody would feel compelled to share the excruciatingly tedious minutia of their lives is bewildering; why anybody would want to read it is even more puzzling. I am willing to concede, however, that perhaps I’m failing to grasp the bigger picture, so this is your opportunity to set me straight: Are you a-twitter over Twitter? If so, what positive impact has it had on your life, and if you have any heartwarming, inspirational, or socially redeeming tales of the tweet, email me at

Deteriorating minds want to know.

Mr. Modem, (Richard Sherman) is an author, syndicated columnist, radio host, and publisher of the world-renowned, Pulitzer-lacking “Ask Mr. Modem!" weekly newsletter.” For additional information, visit

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