I once knew a woman who asked me, I swear, every five minutes, "What are you thinking?" That question asked occasionally is not too annoying, especially if I might have stopped listening to the other person's conversation and am staring off into space. The content of my mind at the moment is fair game. But, over and over and over? That results from a deep insecurity, which is undersandable. But it deeply invades my privacy, which is intolerable. Half the time, I'm thinking nothing in particular; the other half, it's not something I want to share.
I thought about her I read this story about Twitter, the new Internet phenomenon for people who think even email and instant messaging are just too slow:
Twitter works by hypercharging social networks such as those on MySpace or Friendster. A new Twitter user creates a very basic profile and then creates a mini-network by linking to his or her friends, family, acquaintances and pretty faces found through browsing the site. Then, whenever the mood strikes, the user logs in to Twitter.com (or sends it a note via text or instant messenger), answering the "What're you doing" question in 150 characters or fewer. Once you chime in with your latest activity or pondering, your message is then radiated out to all the members of your circle, who can check in at their webpage to see what their friends are up to, or better still, receive flashing updates on their cellphones or instant messengers whenever a friend checks in.
The result, according to Jack Dorsey, the force behind Twitter, "brings you closer to everyone, because you know what everyone is doing, things you would never imagine."
On a typical Sunday evening, a glance at Twitter's public page, where its users' collective messages are posted, does indeed reveal a cross section of what might be a moment in the life of the Information Generation. Among the updates posted within a one-hour period:
"watching cat videos on youtube"
"Trying to finish my senior thesis. Or start it."
"Our guests have just leaved. They were all danes, who were over for a drink and danish cakes. Yummy :D"
"watching HOME ALONE with the Chris Columbus/Macauley Culklin commentary track."
"making venison spaghetti. :)"
"shrieks at just receiving her dreaded student loan bill, which is larger than what she was expecting. Much larger"
"At Sushi Roku in Pasadena"
So, all these Twitter users -- these Twits -- are going to spend all their time, no matter what else they're doing, constantly asking and telling each other what they are doing at the moment. A lot has been written lately about the disappearance of privacy in this new digital age. This is even worse, I think, the overwhelming of the capacity for real intimacy with superficial nonsense, inane chit-chat as a 24-hour obsession.