By Pam Linn


Twits tweet, but why?

Call me a Luddite if you will but I think Twitter is about the dumbest communication device ever.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate brevity, long recognized as the soul of wit. But what tweeters are saying in 140 characters or less amounts to almost nothing anyone needs to know. For brevity, I’ll have a haiku, thank you.

It seems to be a race to see who can acquire the most followers, a popularity contest of sorts. Can one really call these folks friends? I don’t think so. Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, daily blogs by people with nothing to say and not enough to do. So now they can say nothing in 140 characters instead of 800 words. That could be a plus but probably is just another justification for misspelling words to shorten the length of text messages: u r to represent you are, etc.

Gary Trudeau nailed it in a series of Doonesbury strips with ├╝ber newsman Roland Hedley tweeting his fan base while ignoring the real news story. In a lead-in from his TV newscast, the anchor said: Skull & Bones, George W. Bush’s Yale secret society is back in the news. Roland Hedley has more. Hedley: Indeed I do, Bret, which will come as no surprise to readers of my blog, “Rollin’ with Roland,” or to my followers on Twitter, my friends on Facebook or my fan base at Myspace. A big shout-out to all of you! Bret: Um . . . what about the story? Roland: Whoa! This just in, Bret – I’m being called out for my shout-out!

In another Doonesbury strip, a teen says: Omigod – David Gregory just ate a ham sandwich! He just twittered his fan base. I follow the tweets of all my fave news personalities! As a follower, you not only learn what’s happening now, you sometimes get a heads-up on what’s about to happen. Cut to Hedley tweeting: “About to scratch myself, stand by.”

And there are those who say we don’t need newspapers anymore. For sheer inanity, Twitter has a definite edge on cable TV.

Celebrities, who often have something relevant to say, are reduced to tweeting between takes on the set. Actors can whip out an iPhone and reach thousands of fans in their network with short tweets. Some say they do it to connect with fans and often to quash tabloid media stories as false. Just the facts, Ma’am, in 140 characters.

Meanwhile, Facebook is encouraging people to write lists of 25 random facts about themselves. And what might we learn from these made-up factoids? More than we want to know. What ever happened to the mystique of Hollywood movie stars who guarded their privacy? Their popularity soared even as fewer things were known about them. Their fans had to use their imaginations, which often ran wild, adding to the mystery.

Anyway, since I have no intention of ever signing up for Facebook, Twitter or anything that might resemble them, I’ll share a few random facts with those of you who have stuck with the column this far. May I call you fans?

1. I’m not a vegan but about 85 percent of what I eat comes from plants. Less than one percent comes in a box. Thank you, Michael Pollan, for showing me the error of my ways.

2. The editor in me recoils at misspelled words . . . in menus, ads and, yes, even e-mails. I’ve been known to erase the final “e” in tomato, add the final “e” to mousse and insert the middle “e” in omelet on a chalkboard menu while the maitre d’ wasn’t looking. My dinner partner pretended not to know me.

3. I still remember and cringe at youthful mistakes: mispronouncing depot (in the obvious way) to the hilarity of my classmates; miswriting, in a fit of pique at losing, “winner” as in, “Pam is the ‘wiener’ of all games.”

4. I live alone but I’m never lonely. And I don’t need Twitter to keep in touch with friends and family.

5. My TV, a small flat-screen that fits on a bookshelf, is tuned permanently to PBS. My Bose radio knows only NPR. I own a MacBook and a broadband access device that plugs into its USB port, a Nokia mobile phone and a hands-free earpiece that I still don’t know how to work. That’s about as techie as I get.

6. My camera is digital and is less than three years old but already a bit out of date. I edit my work on PhotoShop CS 2 (CS 4 is current).

7. My apartment has a dishwasher that I’ve never turned on, air conditioning likewise virginal.

That’s about all I can think of. Although I will not text or tweet, there is one new device that I’m considering, Amazon’s Kendall 2. I still love real books, but lugging them around when traveling is a drag. Charlie Rose interviewed Jeff Bezos last week and he really sold me on the new Kendall. No eye strain from the screen, no back strain from carrying, and you can have any book you want in 60 seconds. What’s not to like? Even for a Luddite.