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Twitter forces separation between real, digital worlds

Credit: Lizzee Solomon/Art Staff Credit: Lizzee Solomon/Art Staff
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Maybe I’m just out of the loop.

I prefer my $25 flip phone to an iPhone and favor grabbing a coffee with my friends to fake-talking with them online.

My latest technological question mark? Twitter.

Twitter is a website on which users, using pseudonyms, can upload constant updates about what they’re doing and thinking — think of it as a glorified Facebook status. According to its description on twitter.com, Twitter is a “modern antidote to information overload.” But doesn’t the creation of a site that perpetuates a pressure to stay in constant communication with the people in one’s life in fact push this information overload to the extreme?

Now I just may not be very tech-savvy, but I don’t use one of these pseudonyms. I’m just Jessica. But the more users who join Twitter, the more chances that the site’s lexicon is likely to pour out into the real world, in the same way that too many instant messager-users say “lol” in face-to-face interactions. If “at” — or worse, “at-symbol,” is added as a prefix to every interaction, as it is in replies on Twitter, everyone is going to seemingly suffer from a significant stutter.

A constant news feed is just too much. What am I supposed to get out of seeing self-proclaimed gossip queen Perez Hilton compliment a fellow celebrity’s T-shirt on his Twitter page, or even seeing my friend’s post that she is waiting for take-out? Sweet?

I don’t mean to perpetuate a Big Brother theory. While I’m sure the government does have some sort of magical power to monitor the Twitter pages of Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus, let’s just call the likelihood of doing so low. Save for celebrities, I don’t even think most users’ friends read every post. So then, for whom are users posting? Is it just pleasing to read one’s own posts, the same way it can seems fun to update one’s interests and favorite quotes on Facebook? This much narcissism cannot be healthy for the planet.

I just don’t want to know what other people are doing every minute of the day. Sometimes we just need anonymity. When I trip and fall on the uneven sidewalk behind Hunt Library at 3 a.m., I take it as a blessing that all of the well-rested humans are asleep. That tumble — and the resulting scratches all over my laptop — don’t need to be public. How soon until we all feel obligated to report everything we do?

Now, I’m all for more forms of procrastination. I find that I care about who has recently been tagged in photos just around the time I have a 10-page paper due the next day. But Twitter is more than just procrastination: People are updating their pages on the go, which means they’re avoiding doing things in the physical world in favor of the virtual one. A friend of mine posted that he forgot his credit card and couldn’t buy lunch — on Twitter. Buddy, if you need 10 bucks, just call (not me, but someone with money).

Also, the format of Twitter does nothing to ensure the legitimacy of the updates. Rather than giving people an all-access pass to people's thoughts and actions, Twitter is just an interface from which people can alter their real identities. If Jessica in the real world and jessica on Twitter were to diverge into two distinct individuals, Twitter wouldn’t be the online interface allowing users to provide basic updates; it would be a social networking site introducing the two’s friends and family members.

This online news feed cannot replace face-to-face interaction. But if it’s going to, it must be at least on a much more cleverly designed interface. Organizing one’s thoughts in 140 characters reduces one’s ideas and actions to mere items in a list, the runoff of which is dismissively pushed onto cataloged pages. If one is making the efforts to publish their step-by-step thoughts and actions in the Twitter world, those publications shouldn’t be so easily replaced — and replicable.