Until very recently, I was pretty self-impressed with my social-media savvy; I know how to say things like “social media,” I have my own Facebook account with three Facebook friends, and every morning before I get in the elevator at work I text my coworker to see if she wants to get coffee with me. Look at that: I even use "text" as a verb. If someone had told me five years ago that he was going to text me, I would have thought he was an IRS agent with a speech impediment, or maybe he thought he could turn me into a font or exclamation point. This whole book-publishing effort has informed me just how ignorant I still am about social media and what it does. That’s a problem, because I’m also informed that book writers “must” have not only a Facebook "page" (which is different from a Facebook "account"), but also a Twitter account. Twitter? People don't need to know when I'm moving from the frozen food section at Vons to the meat department, do they?
Well, apparently Twitter can be used for much more than that. But it also turns out that Twitter has its own language and rules of etiquette. I feel like I've been invited to a party in Burundi: I can find it on a map and probably even figure out how to get there – but I might make a complete fool of myself as soon as I arrive. For example, I know how to say, “Je, una uhakika a ni wafu? Nadhani niliona ni mguu hoja.” That’s Swahili for, “Are you sure it’s dead? I think I just saw its paw move.” This is just something I’ve learned to memorize in the host language of whatever country I find myself in. It’s important. Trust me on that. Anyway, I don’t know if Burundian custom is to politely make such an inquiry, or simply bolt for the exits hoping to beat the children and any adults with slower reflexes or canes.
I’m equally ignorant of Twitter’s rules, though I’ve learned that you only get 140 characters to say what you have to say. My Swahili phrase is 56 characters long, which leaves me with enough to ask for a taxi and where can I buy new shorts, so that’s not too bad. But I’ve also heard that it’s poor form to announce in every tweet, in all caps, things like, “MY BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE, AND THE LIVES OF ALL YOU HOLD DEAR, AND ALSO HELP YOU TO LOSE WEIGHT.” I understand that in the case of my book, such a statement would be a bit of stretch (read: completely untrue), and that statements of this sort are uncouth and rude. And if one keeps repeating them, one finds oneself standing alone at the Twitter no-host bar, deserted by the other Twits or Tweethearts or Tweeties, or whatever the kids are calling themselves these days. But I don’t know if it’s okay to make such pronouncements, say, I don’t know, once a week -- maybe without all caps?
It’s all so new and confusing.
I joined Twitter today (@timstutler). But I’ll be honest: Twitter scares me. I think I’ll just tweet about my Vons experience for a few months.
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