'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
EXPLAINING THE ‘TWITTER-FACE-SPACE’ PHENOMENON
In recent months a large number of people (actual number: two) have asked me to write a column explaining the Internet-based phenomenon of social networking, specifically “Twitter,” “MySpace,” and “FaceBook.”
Since my motto is, “Give the people what they want…if I feel like it,” I agreed to write such a column. In the process, of course, I followed the two fundamental rules of journalism: Rule #1: Report only carefully-researched, verifiable facts; and Rule #2: If Rule #1 is too time-consuming, make up a lot of stuff. (These fundamental rules have served The New York Times well for decades.)
Originally I planned to do careful research about social networks, such as set up my own personal accounts online, spend some time getting familiar with the various features, and then connect with other people on the networks. But then something got in the way of this plan: my life.
You see, these Internet-based social networks consume vast quantities of time, to the point where most enthusiastic users these days have precisely no life. So let me try to explain as best as I can, using limited facts and unlimited imagination, what these electronic social networks are all about.
Internet social networks tap into the two traits that have made America great: celebrity worship and rampant narcissism. Through these social networks people now can know, for example, what Brittney Spears thinks about the new fall television lineup, what Tom Cruise had for breakfast this morning, and what Donald Trump’s toupee thought of the president’s most recent speech. It’s almost as if you are best friends with these celebrities, knowing so many intimate details about their lives. As I always say, if you don’t have any real friends, you might as well have famous imaginary friends.
But obsessively following the lives of celebrities is only half of the equation. These social networks allow average anonymous citizens to become celebrities in their own right—I mean, in their own mind. Everybody can create their own personal page and post for all the world their innermost thoughts and beliefs, desires and dreams, and of course, the obligatory topless photos.
“FaceBook” and “MySpace” allow users to post personal videos, photographs, and all sorts of misspelled and grammatically atrocious prose. In this way, anyone can communicate with pedophiles, er, I mean, friends all around the world. An exciting and unintended consequence of these networks is the helpful boost they’ve given to law enforcement personnel and corporate recruiters. When someone is so bold (that is, stupid) to post a detailed description of how he robbed a house, along with photos of himself posing with the stolen merchandise, it makes the cops’ job a bit easier. And when a guy graduates from a prestigious business school with a 3.8 GPA, but also enjoys sharing photos of himself drinking vodka from a sneaker while groping a 14-year-old girl, it greatly assists potential employers to make the correct hiring decision.
“Twitter” is a little different, following that old adage, “Less is more.” (Or more accurately: “Less is moron.”) With “Twitter,” users post “tweets,” little text messages of 140 characters or less. People can follow the thoughts and activities of celebrities online or via cell phone, and they can tweet their own thoughts and activities to anyone and everyone who is interested (that is, to no one).
I think a recent “Mallard Fillmore” comic described it best. It showed a man at his computer excitedly “tweeting” the following breath-taking announcements to the world: “Right now, I’m following myself on Twitter.” “Okay, now, I’m following myself FOLLOWING myself on Twitter.” “Okay, now, I’m…”
No wonder America’s future looks so bright.
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