Today’s the day. I’ve finally been defeated by technology.
I. Don’t. Get. Twitter.
For the completely unfamiliar, Twitter is like Facebook with nothing but Status Updates. (And if you don’t know Facebook, I just can’t help you.)
I signed up for Twitter for the same reasons I signed up for a Hotmail account back in ’97. Everyone else was doing it.
I know I’m about to show my age. But I actually remember sending out my very first email. It was 1994. I was at the computer lab at Rutgers University, finishing my senior thesis. (The Portrayal of Black Men in the Works of Alice Walker.)
I wanted to get down with this newfangled “e-mail” my boy Anthony Emmanuel kept telling me was the future. I didn’t know who to send an email to. I looked around the computer lab and saw this cutie named Sango. I guessed that Sango’s email address was similar to mine and I sent him a message.
We graduated a week or so later. I ended up on campus over the summer and checked my email account for kicks. And lo and behold, there was a single message–from Sango!
Getting that email was like, a big deal. It was just an awkwardly phrased two-line response that had been sent through the air and magically appeared on the steel gray monitor in the computer lab. Felt like a miracle. Sango might as well have appeared inside my television set, waving and talking directly to me, like Mr. Furley in that movie Pleasantville.
Between 1994, when I graduated from college, and 1997, when Hotmail was founded, I had no reason to have an email address. Hard to imagine, right? I remember asking a friend how to sign up for a free Hotmail account and he dismissed me: if you don’t have a computer, no reason to sign up for an email address.
And of course I didn’t have my own computer. They were still just the big hulking boxes I used from time to time.
Things changed so rapidly.
By 1999, I had my own laptop. I worked at Billboard, seated at my own hulking beige desktop. And I had my very own email address. A few of them, actually.
I had a handle on everything. Hell, I was early on some stuff! I actually owned this back in 1998:
I read about this newfangled MP-3 device in a trade magazine that was published by one of Billboard’s sister mags. I wrote a story on the MP-3 format for The Source and the company sent me this player.
Had no idea how to load music on the thing. Didn’t even know how to convert music files into digital files. I had to get the Tech Guy at Billboard to load some music on the player for me. He loaded exactly five songs just to test it out for me.
For the entire life of that joint, I never had anything other than those five songs. Ha! And I used to listen to those same damn five songs on the walk from the N train to the offices at Times Square every morning.
I was keeping up with everything as it came along. Nothing frightened me. I remember the first day I picked up my first cell phone, at an electronics spot in Union Square. (I never got a Motorola two-way pager though, couldn’t afford it.)
(My mother, on the other hand, refused to get a cell phone. Her reason? Why would I want to talk to someone on the phone while I’m out? Why can’t they just call me when I get home? She finally broke down and got a cell phone. And now she feels naked without it. But she STILL does not have Caller Id or Call Waiting on her home phone. Can you imagine?!?! I sometimes call and get a busy signal. Jeesh.
When the social networking sites took off, I was right there. Signing up for a friendster account…
I managed to collect two whole friends before I got bored with Friendster. But still. I was there.
Got a classmates.com account. And realized I wasn’t particularly interested in reconnecting with high school friends that I couldn’t get to by email.
When myspace hit, I was not interested at all. But as a reporter, it quickly became very helpful. I can’t tell you how many times I have found an interview source on myspace or reached out to a not-too-famous celebrity and bypassed the whole PR machine.
If you’re a writer and ever plan to do any kind of research, you have to be on myspace. Ugh.
I established a page, primarily so that I would be able to contact others:
The myspace era is when I started to find myself fading. The pages take six months to load. The music is too loud. Everyone’s page seems to be slightly askew so it’s impossible to navigate the site properly. The whole thing gives me a headache. Too many entry points. Too many options. No clean white space. Just a big hot mess.
I thought I was losing it.
And then Facebook came and saved the day.
Social networking for grownups! I could keep up with Facebook. Even when my Inbox filled up quickly and navigating Friend Requests proved thorny. I even got over my fear of posting pictures online and began sharing photos here and there.
I get Facebook. It makes sense to me. I tend to use it for more professional than personal reasons. But I get it on all levels. I even like the little community me and my 498 friends have established.
Sidebar: I had 500 friends a few days ago. I only noticed because 500 is a nice, round number. And then just now, I looked up the number to write it in this post. And I only have 498. Alright, who deleted me?! Own up to it you little git! Hmph.
I can’t even complain about Facebook’s new redesign. Not crazy about it. But I’ll live.
Twitter has me stumped:
I dutifully signed up for Twitter. Because I’m a sheep and all the cool kids were doing it. For a while, like with all networking sites, I did nothing. I just watched. I didn’t follow anyone. And I didn’t accept anyone else’s request to follow me. I tend to take these things very slowly.
Finally, I jumped in. I accepted the ten or so people who had asked to “follow” me, meaning subscribe to my updates.
But what did I have to say? In 140 characters or less?
I think it’s obvious that I tend to overwrite. A big reason why I started blogging was because I wanted the opportunity to run a four thousand word Q&A on a reformed hacker with no restraints. And now I had to communicate with 14o characters?
Started following other people, mostly people that I already know. And I followed people who were following me.
Signed on for Solange’s updates. And quickly stopped following her. She updated her Twitter status every thirty seconds. I felt like I was living with the girl. And she drowned out every one else I followed.
The Twitterverse, (did I just make that up? Probably not), is moving way too fast. I don’t understand the slang. I just figured out RT. The constant pasting of links confuses me. I just see this ever moving line of one-liners and I. don’t. like. it.
What’s wrong with me? Am I slow? Am I old?
Here are my issues.
1. Sometimes people reply to my Tweets long after I’ve logged off. When I log back on, I see an “LOL!!'” or a “You got that right Aliya!!” And I’m thinking to myself, what are they talking about? I don’t even remember what I said. How come you can’t see the entire thread of tweets?! Am I missing something?
2. What exactly am I supposed to be Tweeting? I follow a few people who update from bed, at every meal, at work… Some folks seem to just talk back and forth to each other. I don’t feel comfortable doing either.
3. I can’t access Twitter properly from my Blackberry. I can update my status. But I can’t reply to anyone. What am I doing wrong? Twittering is something I would do out on the road. If I had a quick, blog-like thought. But I can’t access it properly from my Blackberry. I went to a site called TwitterBerry and had no success there either.
4. Is it at all possible that I’ve finally come across a form of technology that’s just beyond me? The idea scares me. I want to stay up on everything til I’m old and senile.
5. Most importantly, since most of my Twitter followers are also my Dear Readers, what do you want from me on Twitter? I’m not going to tell you what I had for dinner. I can’t imagine you care that I went to Costco and racked up this morning. Or do you? How can I make Twitter more Aliyasking-y. A writer tip of the day, perhaps? A quote of the day from a great writer?
Are you Twittering? Do you get it? Do you like it? Should I Twitter?
Dear, dear readers. Tell a sister something. I’d love to hear from you…