I am asked quite often if I have a Twitter account, and when I say no, I usually get a sad “Oh, you poor thing” look. Once a young lady actually told me, “I understand. It’s probably a bit much for your generation.” She was right; using social media is sometimes a bit much for me, especially if I see little use for it. The options technology offers for connecting people is wonderful if you are one of those people who crave continuous contact with others. However, I am not one of those people who continuously talks on the phone, texts, tweets, checks Facebook, and sends email while they eat, exercise, shower, use the toilet, drive, shop, attend meetings, visit family, worship in church, and watch TV or a movie, but I understand that I am a relic of the past, and such behavior is now the norm in today’s society. For example, once in a restroom in the Atlanta airport, I heard a man scream from a stall for people to stop flushing the toilets because he could not hear the person he was talking with on his phone. That is taking technology a bit too far if you ask me, but of course, I come from a generation that grew up believing in independence, individuality and that certain private moments should remain private.
Nevertheless, in an effort to conform, I actually gave Twitter a try a while back, but I quickly determined it was not for me. It wasn’t the technology itself that proved to be frustrating, but rather the terminology used when tweeting. It was a major FAIL on my part to learn and understand the jargon and acronyms that play such an important role in communicating via Twitter. For the life of me, I could not figure out what terms and acronyms such as hash tag, twaffic, twalking, twishing, LOL, LMAO, TLC, and WTF meant. Thanks to Elvis, I was able to associate TLC with “tender loving care,” and with a little help from my kids I learned the meanings of LOL and LMAO. However, call it what you will, a generation gap or too much to handle or comprehend for an old man, the jargon and acronyms proved to be my undoing. Due to my interpretation or misinterpretation, I often found the terminology confusing, silly or even offensive, and that negatively impacted my Twitter experience.
For example, I could never quite figure out “hash tag.” I knew it had something to do with helping tweeters discover relevant posts, but other than that, I did not have a clue what it was or how it was supposed to be used. For me, it conjured visions of young people dancing with flowers intertwined with their long hair amid clouds of illegal smoke and psychedelic music. Of course, I knew it probably didn’t have anything to do with any of that, but the term was nonetheless a generational distraction for me.
Also, I found many terms to be outright silly. Every time I saw terms such as “twaffic,” or “twalking,” I completely lost focus on the tweeted message, and in my mind heard Elmer Fudd from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons speaking. Another term that I thought silly as well as confusing and misleading was “twishing.” I couldn’t help but wonder if “twishing” was anything like Miley Cyrus’s “twerking,” or was it simply Elmer Fudd speaking up once again? I found the silliness to be disconcerting, and a deterrent to clear communication, which provided me a solid reason or excuse not to tweet.
Finally, I found some of the acronyms and terms to be outright offensive. One such acronym was “WTF.” I can’t believe that people use such an acronym. People should not be so mean and judgmental! It doesn’t matter if a person is talking, texting, or tweeting they should always be sensitive to the feelings of others. To hurt another person’s feelings and say or write, “Whoa, WTF” is just wrong! So what if a person is “Way too Fat,” that is that person’s business, and it should not be blasted across social media. For me, such insensitivity was the nail in the coffin for Twitter. It is far too easy to be mean to people when you don’t have to look them in the eye.
On a serious note, I have nothing against social media such as Twitter other than like all other social media, it lacks the human touch. In spite of its illusion of audience and connectivity, Twitter and other social media have become the tools of human isolation. The sad thing about all social media is that we never truly know if anyone is reading or listening, but the biggest flaw is that we never know if anyone really cares. The only way to ever know that is face to face, and that is precisely the problem with social media; it is an illusion of the real human connectivity that we all crave so much for in our lives. Social media is not a bad thing as long as people do not allow it to become a substitute for real face to face human interaction. Technology cannot replace the human touch, nor was it ever intended to do so; unfortunately, many people in today’s society are more in touch with their social media lives than they are with the lives of the ones who really do care about them – their family. The real reason I gave up Twitter had nothing to do with the technology, but I simply decided I did not need another social media distraction in my life. I am not saying people need to give up all social media, but is it really necessary to be connected to every social media tool out there? By cutting a social media umbilical cord or two, people might be surprised at some of the truly real human connections and experiences they have been missing.
©Jack Linton, September 28, 2014