Smile Politely

Twitter, or how I became a slave to technology

My phone never stops beeping. E-mails, text messages, and tweets, there’s always something. It beeps in meetings. It beeps during supper. It beeps when I’m in bed.

It’s not a smart or fancy phone, just a plain, old LG VX-8350, but it’s a workhorse, set up for maximum text access. I really don’t like to talk on the phone that much (at all, actually), but I like the efficiency of text message systems.

My relationship to Twitter started last June for the Tony Awards presentation. It was announced that Mark Indelicato, the young kid who plays the gay nephew of Ugly Betty, would be tweeting the awards show live. I started following Indelicato just before the show and received his play by play commentary. I read his tweets aloud to Lee as they arrived and the sense of insider privilege and excitement worked. It was like being backstage.

Out of laziness, I still get Indelicato’s tweets ( – 5,104 followers) but I’m ready to stop following the kid. His energy level wears me out and I do not share his enthusiasm for Taylor Swift, whoever that is.

Having gotten the bug, I started following Sarah Palin ( – 143,100 followers) This was an inspired choice, since her infamous (often incomprehensible) tweets were compiled into beatnik poetry read aloud by William Shatner on Conan O’Brien.

Irked (one of her character traits apparently) by the negative attention, Palin pulled the plug on using Twitter soon after she abandoned the Alaska governorship. Although her account still exists, her last tweet was July 26: “Last state twitter. Thank you Alaska! I love you. God bless Alaska. God bless the U.S.A.” Now, she exclusively Facebooks. I have stopped caring. I would follow Levi Johnston, if he had a real account. The Twitter account with his name is a hoax.

I get news updates and commentary from CNN ( – 252,647 followers). As soon as a volcano erupts in New Guinea or a blond child is left locked in a van in Florida, I instantly am notified.

I follow the News-Gazette (, which actually follows more people (1,650) than it has followers (1,550). After a rocky start when the newspaper didn’t quite know what to do with Twitter, the Gazette began putting out newsy tweets – and apparently enjoying doing so! As soon as there’s a traffic jam in Savoy or a suspected case of H1N1 flu in the schools, I immediately am notified. Beep!

Smile Politely on Twitter ( – 609 followers) saved me a trip to the Virginia Theater one night by tweeting that the showing of “Benjamin Button” had been cancelled, but lately the tweets have all been links to new stories.

As for news commentators, Rachel Maddow ( has over one million followers, but rarely posts and then seems uncertain why or how she is using the technology. A recent example from August 19: “Very sorry to have broken Alive in Afghanistan. See how that’s not a hyperlink? Trying.”

The CNN newsman Rick Sanchez, on the other hand, ( only has 108,537 followers, but he is a hoot, chatty, personal, off the wall, and surprisingly pertinent. He frequently tweets only to encourage you to turn on the TV. “watch now,” he tweeted on August 28. So I did. And I was glad I did, because I caught something as it happened, although now I forget what it was.

There are also attempts at narrative, literature, experiment, comedy, or something-as-yet-unlabelled on Twitter. Very Short Story ( – 25,721 followers) offers 140-character stories a couple of times a day.

Recent examples: 1) “You haven’t seen Mr. Potato Head in days?” “That’s right, detective” said his wife. “You want to explain the tater tots in the oven?” 2) “Jack was inside the rocketship cleaning when it lifted off unexpectedly. He was the first man in space, or so the apes thought.”

And then there is Justin, who has 232,464 followers and whose bio reads “I’m 28. I live with my 73-year-old dad. He is awesome. I just write down sh*t that he says” (, such as “Your mother rented this film, What Happens In Vegas. I thought it was going to be non-fiction, but it’s fiction, and it’s about some idiot.” and “Your mother made a batch of meatballs last night. Some are for you, some are for me, but more are for me. Remember that. More. Me.” and “Don’t touch the bacon, it’s not done yet. You let me handle the bacon, and i’ll let you handle..what ever it is you do. I guess nothing.”

For some reason, I look forward to Justin’s posts almost as much as anyone’s.

Except for Rainn Wilson, better known as Dwight Schrute on The Office. Rainn Wilson ( is my personal Twitter hero. I follow John Hodgman, David Lynch, and author John August as well, but Wilson seems to spend all his non-Office hours on Twitter, posting bizarre little epigrams or absurd non-sequiturs or starting up entire conversations with his followers about health care or Pfizer pharmaceutical scandals.

Random examples:

“My body is a well-oiled machine. Well, it’s not really a machine. But it is well-oiled. Because it is covered in oil.”

“I had someone ghostwrite this tweet.”

“And I just fired them because it was NOT THAT FUNNY.”

“Today is the last day of the rest of your previous life up to this point.”

“Broke my leg. Was going to call 911. Found out it was government run. Called various ambulance Co.s to have them bid. Died while on hold.”

One of his 1,319,143 followers recently tweeted Wilson to say, “I keep thinking I’m your friend,” to which Wilson immediately replied, “You ARE my friend.”

OK, so that’s my column in a holding pattern, cranked out in order to fill space, thank you very much. One more thing, though. You might also want to consider following me on Twitter ( – 62 followers). I have reached the limit of friends I want to have on Facebook, but there’s always room for more followers on Twitter.

And, final point, you are not going to spend time in front of the computer reading Twitter. Have the tweets sent to your phone. Click “DEVICE UPDATES ON.”

Becoming a slave to cell phone technology is the only way Twitter makes sense.

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