Monday, October 5, 2009

Ug, Og and Twitter

I’ve been thinking a lot about technology lately.
For me, technology is like laundry; it is far more agreeable to think about it than to do it.
I seem to grow less and less enthusiastic about technology as the years go by. Not that I was ever one of those folks who loved the latest gadgets to begin with. I still think the best thing the Space Program gave us was Tang.
So, no, I’m not a tech guy.
I guess I am far more my father’s child than I ever intended to be. Thanks to Dad, we were the last family on our street to get color TV. My dad never bought a refrigerator with an ice-maker, either. To Dad, those metal ice trays and black-and-white TVs were perfectly fine.
Dad’s philosophy was that technology was not to be trusted. He was convinced that every new gadget or improvement to any existing device was designed to make a product either more expensive to buy or more expensive to maintain. He did have a point, I’ll admit.
Dad’s skepticism combined with the cultural influences of my youth, instilled in me a reluctance to embrace new things. When you grow up in a small Southern town as I did, you tended to hang on to the “old ways.’’ Whenever somebody in our neighborhood came home with something really new and innovative, the gossip that circulated through the back-yard clothes lines – the jury was still out on clothes dryers - was along the lines of the person “putting on airs.’’
“Putting on airs’’ was about as bad as being Catholic in that part of the world. I guess that’s why I never met a Southern Baptist over 40 who couldn’t drive a stick shift.
That seems so silly to me now. All of us eventually embrace technology and it’s hard to imagine life without a microwave oven, a cell phone or the internet.
Everybody arrived in the 21st Century, some kicking and screaming the whole way.
I remember when the internet arrived at the newspaper I worked at back in the early 1980s. The editor of the newspaper encouraged us to take some time to explore this new technology. Ever so often, I would sit down and fool around a bit, but I never could make heads or tails of it, to be honest.
About a week after internet arrived in our newsroom, I confided in a co-worker that I was absolutely convinced that the internet was nothing more than my generation’s Citizens Band Radio. If you are over 40, you remember C.B. Radio, I’m sure. It was all the rage for about two years, then everybody lost interest. I doubt truck drivers even have C.B. Radios anymore.
Well, obviously, I was wrong about the internet. I chuckle at the irony of it: I was sitting in a newspaper office saying the internet would be soon be extinct when I was looking at the very technology that would someday make newspapers extinct.
You would think I would have fallen in love with the internet immediately. After all, I was young and the internet was really the first significant creation of my generation.
I didn’t dislike the internet because it was new; I disliked it because I failed to see its practical value.
Of course, it’s been that way since the dawn of time.
Imagine two cavemen. We’ll call them Og and Ug.
One day, Og drops by Ug’s cave in a clearly excited state.
“What’s up?’’ Ug asks.
“I’ve just invented something,’’ Og says. “Come see.’’
So the two men walk out of the cave and Og rushes over and stands next to his creation with this big smile on his face.
Ug examines Og’s object with mild curiosity.
“What is it?’’ Ug finally asks.
“It’s the wheel! Isn’t it great?’’ Og says proudly.
Ug studies the object again. I’m guessing that at some point he kicks it because men have been doing that forever.
“Hmm. Interesting,’’ Ug says. “What’s it do?’’
Og seems a little taken aback. It seems so obvious to him.
“Why, it rolls!’’ Og says. “Watch!’’
With a big push, Og sends the wheel bounding down the hillside and begins to run after it. He looks back to see Ug turning back to his cave.
“Aren’t you coming?’’ Og asks.
“Nah,’’ Ug says in a disinterested tone. “You go ahead, though. I’m going back to the cave and drag the missus around by her hair for a while.’’
So there you have it. Ug’s enthusiasm for Og’s wheel expired not because Ug didn’t like new things – if Og could have applied his invention in a way that would have made it more efficient for Ug to convey his rapidly-balding wife from Point A to Point B, Ug might have shared Og’s enthusiasm for the wheel. Who knows? Ug might have even become an investor.
But Og never made the wheel practical and Ug was a very practical man.
Of course, I doubt even Og understood the implications of his invention.
“It rolls!’’ was the beginning and end of it for Og. And that was enough.
Now, all these eons later, the invention of the wheel is lauded as one of mankind’s first great inventions.
But I always thought the wheel gets too much credit.
The guy who invented the axle was the true genius, if you ask me.
So as I think about technology, I realize that I’m a lot more Ug than Og.
That is why I am drawing a line in the sand when it comes to the latest bit of technology, which is to say I have decided not to avail myself of the great benefits of Twitter.
Twitter, for you Ugs out there, is the latest advancement in “social networking.’’ Basically, Twitter allows a person to share what he is doing throughout the day with all of his “followers’’ in 40 words or fewer.
Where to begin?
First, the idea of having “followers’’ gives me the creeps in the general “let’s move to the jungle, wear polyester and off ourselves with poisoned Kool-Aid’’ sort of way.
Second, I cannot imagine why anyone would be even mildly interested in what I am doing at any given moment. Most of what I do each day is oppressively boring, even to me.
And finally, there’s the 40-word limit. I am a writer. I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast in 40 words.
Of course, given my track record, I would not be surprised to discover that, in a few years, the whole world is Twittering its fool head off.
But I think I’ll wait a while.
Wake me up when they put an axle on that Twitter thing.
I’ll be in my cave...


Kent said...

Tim, well, sure there's a use for twitter! For example, I picked up the user ID of suddenly_stupid for next to nothing. OK, exactly nothing. Then I use a search utility to find people who broadcast to the world that "My internet is broken" or "the internet is broken". Then I tweet back at them to tell them they do not have a personal internet, or that the internet we share is not broken.

So, there. I am conducting a very important function via twitterfication. Oh, yeah, I get to claim that I coined a that word.

The possibilities are limitless. :)

Kent said...

I need to sell an extra "a" from my previous comment and add the link to the search utility. Can I do that?