Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making hash of hashtags

Your brain (Wiki Commons)

Your brain on Twitter (Bird's Nest Soup, Wiki Commons)
I don't understand Twitter. I don't want to use Twitter. I don't want to read Twitter...mainly because there is nothing to read on Twitter. I prefer the back of a nice big bottle of hair spray; lots of words there and at least some of them, unlike the words on Twitter, are understandable. Fragrance, for instance. But what the hell does #atozchallenge mean when it's at home?

I didn't understand Friends, either. Not the relationship; the show. A bunch of less than normally attractive twenty-somethings hanging out in each other's aesthetically challenged apartments doing the dumbest things since the TV commercials that gave the world "Wassup?" Example: Two of the Friends gormless dorks--and this was a scene chosen for a promo--install a big screen TV, sit down in matching recliner chairs like my father used to have, assume an even more vacant expression than they started with, and make some sort of mewling sound that would cause even Mother Theresa to kick them if she thought the sound came from a cat.

Before that, I didn't understand Seinfeld. It was a show about nothing. It said so. OK. I'll grant you that.

From Cheers to maternity

Before Seinfeld and the ping pong ball innards of shows that came after it, I understood television. There were actual shows on television about something. Cheers followed the lives of customers of a pub; some were likeable, some not. Some were accomplished, some not. None was as useless as the empty t-shirts and blonde bimbos on Friends.

Murphy Brown was about a woman journalist, a high-caliber woman journalist, and the bevy of character types who would be found in such a person's orbit. Each show set up a problem or task, and in 22 minutes, it was solved. Even Murphy's baby was born in 22 minutes.

It was a witty, clever show about people who had achieved something, not about Generation Sleaze layabouts who had no past, no future and an amount of present (or presence, depending on how you would like to parse that thought) equal to their past and future.

Facebook v. Twitter v. The Void

I understand Facebook. You can make contact with all your friends; those who have time to spare and/or something to say will engage. I regard it as sort of the broadcast version of email, which I admit is somewhat more useful in today's world than the telephone or snail mail. Although I still do really like sending and receiving snail mail. I, for one, can still handle a pen; I wonder if most people today actually are unable to write...that is, engage in penmanship to express thoughts, simple thoughts such a Thank You.

But Twitter? Twitter for crying out loud? On an average day, my Twitter page collects 215 tweets per hour, 99 percent of which I don't read. Of the one percent I do read, I wish I hadn't read 99 percent of those. That leaves precious little value there. It is a time waster. It is useless, except perhaps for convincing empty barrels that they are not empty after all. I mean, who the heck cares what Katie Couric thinks about anything, or whether she has had this year's televised internal inspection of her bowels? Oh, sure. Her late husband died of intestinal cancer. We KNOW that already.

Terminal nose picking vs. the void

But it does raise another question: Why do people, and even celebrities (who may or may not be people), champion a cause someone they know has died from? What if you had a close relative who died from picking his nose after gardening and a tiny slug larva got up there and crawled into his brain and had babies and croaked him? Would you then be duty bound to find or found an organization dedicated to preventing needless deaths by Finger-borne Garden Larva Cerebral Parasitism? I don't think so.

Why can't these people pick something they believe in to support--education, arts, gardening, space travel, any sport but football (which no one can believe in, anymore than one can believe in slow, fat men with broken teeth bashing each other for millions of dollars)? But no. They pick deadly things, cancer and heart attacks and suchlike, and then throw tons of their waking moments at it. OF COURSE cancer and heart attacks increase; you would expand, too, if most of the world was paying you rapt attention and spending its hard-earned income on you. You don't think so? You think these organizations are about cures? About as much as a pit bull is about cuddlywuddlykissypoo. It isn't the American Anti-Cancer Society or the American Anti-Heart Disease Foundation, after all. The money gives them power to make sure the disease--not the cure--is the only thing we think about. And fear. The words are used to induce fear, which induces us to part with cash, which, as noted, just breeds more fear. Yes, there is power in words.

Obama knows words; George...not so much

Don't believe that either? Think about it. Barack Obama won the White House by using words. If Al Gore had had words as good as Obama's--words more powerful than Bush's money--Gore would have won. If Gore's freaking lawyers had had words as good as the lying words of Bush's lawyers, Gore would have won. There would have been no hanging chads, no fascination with the sub-tropical Elvira known as Katherine Harris. No Iraq. No meltdown. And global warming would be accorded the significance--as something that will kill off future generations--it deserves. "Mission Accomplished" would still be a viable phrase, and not an instant joke whenever it is used.

Twitter is a word. It means the incomprehensible sounds made by birds. You might perhaps have heard the word birdbrain. Maybe you even know the definition.

I rest my case.