The Twit and Wisdom ... of Gene Weingarten

Below the Beltway
(Eric Shansby)
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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, May 31, 2009

When I first wrote disparagingly about Twitter nine months ago, I got a lot of angry e-mails from devotees of the popular social networking Web site. These writers were grumpy because I'd suggested they were "nobodies from nowhere with nothing to say." (Signed, Elmer C. Beeble, Wartblossom, Tenn.)

Since then, Twitter has grown exponentially and now has as many as 17 million users. This has forced me to critically revisit my original thesis. Surely there can't be 17 million people who have entered into a tacit pact to validate each other's boring lives by trading banal observations and mundane details of their day. Has Twitter gotten more interesting? To find out, I decided to infiltrate. I became a Twit myself, an active member of the Twitterati. The Twitter box actually encourages prosaic reports, prompting with: "What are you doing?" My first "tweet," held to the required maximum of 140 characters, answered honestly: "Reading stunningly inconsequential tweets from others. Wanting to gouge out my eyeballs with a soup spoon."

When this got no response, I decided maybe I had tried too hard. Maybe the key to attracting other Twits is to tell the truth, but without even the faintest regard for whether anyone might be interested in it. I tried again: "Wiping eye booger from dog."

"My pinky toenail split."

"Okay, I cut off half of it."

"Looking out window through shutters. World divided into narrow rectangles. Not finding good metaphor for this."

"When you get up from leather chair, butt indentation stays a while. Not true with wood chair."

Success. The Twitterati began to find me and sign up to get my tweets. I soon had 35 "followers," even though I was following none of them. There was no tit-for-tat, no reciprocity -- they just liked me! Encouraged, I kept at it:

"Okay, my refrigerator, a Maytag, is serial number JCG2369GRS. I wonder if I publish this at great personal peril, like it was my SSN?"

"Just accidentally cut and pasted my most recent column into Twitter box. Was informed I was 2,981 characters too long."

"It's disturbing to know that when sitting on the toilet we are really sitting on two small plastic bumps under the seat, holding it up."

"I just learned that if a sardine is more than four inches long, it is technically a 'pilchard.' "

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