The Tedium Is the Message

By Jeanne McManus
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Jeanne McManus is wondering if she should get more coffee or just slug down the lukewarm sludge at the bottom of her cup.

Jeanne is glad that January is over and now wants February out of here, too.

Jeanne has not updated her profile, her photo, her wardrobe or her hairdo in many, many months.

Stop me. Please. If I can't stand reading about the banalities of my own daily life, why would anyone else want to? And yet the air is filled with blogging, social-network chitchat and, even worse, Twittering. In bursts of 140 characters or less, armed with nothing more than an electronic device, I can Twitter. I can provide to you, in staccato pulse, a real-time, first-person narration on an incredibly important topic: What I'm Doing Now.

Is it just me or isn't it a bit presumptuous to think that if I'm scrambling an egg, you'll want to know about it?

Maybe if my life were more interesting or if I were a movie star or a professional athlete, my networking and Twittering would make for more interesting reading. (Jeanne, Henry Kissinger, Amy Winehouse and Russ Grimm are now friends.) But a long time ago I gave up on the blog musings of Washington Wizard Gilbert Arenas. Hibachi! Sorry, but I don't want to hear about how you got a bad case of athlete's foot or learn the details of your knee being drained.

And now the whirlwind life of a newly elected, handsome and charismatic U.S. senator from Virginia is deemed Twitter-worthy. Mark Warner pollinates his constituents -- or anyone else who wants to tune in -- with the details of his exciting first few weeks of 2009. Consider this gem from Jan. 12: Hosting a roundtable discussion on the economy with students and business leaders at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond.

On the one hand, an elected official wants to communicate with the people who elected him. Good. But how much substance can be conveyed and what kind of meaningful dialogue can be provoked in a mere 140 characters, all likely to be void of context? (Jeanne has measured out her life with coffee spoons. Huh?)

And of Twitterers in general, would it be too existential to ask: Which comes first? The Twitter or life itself? Are we writing about what we're doing or are we writing about what we're going to do or are we doing it because we need something to write about? (Jeanne is hacking the last of the ice off the driveway with her right hand and writing this with her left.)

Or are we writing because otherwise no one is paying attention to us? (Jeanne wonders if Twittering increases or decreases the need for group therapy.) And if we're writing so much jibber-jabber all the time, are we also thinking, creating, introspecting, contemplating, meditating, dreaming or imagining? Composing quatrains or drafting the next Voting Rights Act? What has happened to our minds?

Technology -- computers, cellphones, PDAs -- has given us the tools to overcommunicate a lot of uninteresting stuff. Just because we have these tools, do we need to yammer and hammer unrelentingly?

Jeanne's scrambled eggs are ready.

Jeanne McManus, a former Post editor, is an occasional contributor to the op-ed page.

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