Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Quick Thought About Twitter

The more I am convinced of the pointlessness of Twitter for anyone who is not a Tehranian university student, the more I find myself impressed with one aspect of the social networking site: its motto, which reads "Twitter: What Are You Doing?"

Literally, of course--if you were learning to speak English out of a textbook, or in a foreign language course--the question "What are you doing?" carries the meaning that Twitter's creators intend it to have, by which I mean: "What are you up to?" or "We are generally interesting in what you are doing at this very moment, because we have no idea without you telling us via Twitter."

And yet, "What are you doing?" means something quite different in English with the intonations that most of us are familiar with. What are you doing, or What are you doing?, with the hint of suspicion and intimation that the speaker believes you to be doing something stupid.

To wit:

Person 1: What are you doing?
Person 2: Oh, I'm just combing the hair of my Pet Rock.

Person 1: What are you doing?
Person 2: My virtual kitten pooped three times during that movie; I'm just cleaning up her poop.

Person 1: What are you doing?
Person 2: I'm watching The King of Queens.

Fads, idiotic fads: time-consuming, mindless, embarrassing hour-suckers.

I'm not above it: I have a Twitter, and I check it every day. I no longer update via text, as now that I am in Thailand, the price per message has skyrocketed to .65 Baht per SMS (almost 2 cents now!)...but yes, I have a Twitter, I had a Xanga, a Tamagotchi, a Virtual Lemonade Stand, pogs, Jnco Jeans, expensive Yo-Yos, No Fear T-shirts, Yikes pencils; I watched seasons of Survivor, The Mole, Celebrity Mole, Joe Millionaire, Joe Schmo, Date My Mom, Tail-Daters, Next, WWF Raw, WWF Heat, WCW Nitro, WCW Thunder, WCW Saturday Night. I owned a Razr Scooter, a Dyno Trick Bike, a Shaved Ice Machine, Sony Dreamcast.

All of those, I can look back now and wonder: What was I doing?

And perhaps one day (soon) I will look back at my Twitter account, full of empty updates sent out regularly like bowel movements (sometimes about my bowel movements), and I will ask:

Person A: What are you doing?
Person B: I'm updating my friends about how sweaty my armpits are.

What are we doing?

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