Maureen Dowd Reluctant to Use Twitter: This could be something to Tweet about!
“Maureen Dowd Reluctant to Use Twitter: This could be something to Tweet about”
I have a love/hate relationship with the NYT Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd.
Throughout the presidential campaign, I read with bitterness her pieces on Hillary and Sarah, for her voice was scarily anti-feminist, the most loathsome type of all, that of a woman-hating-woman. At the same time, I have always appreciated her sarcastic, witty, and highly allusive style. When I learned that she was an English major at Catholic University in D.C. , I gained insight into why, for example, she was once compelled to compare the awkward political triangle that was Hillary, Obama, and Bill to Elizabeth Bennett’s courtship in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
In her most recent article, “To Tweet or Not to Tweet,” Dowd interviews Biz Stone and Evan Williams, the inventors of Twitter. In her standard fashion, she summons both Hitchcock and Shakespeare in this brief, but amusing piece. She asks, for example, if the Bard would have tweeted, to which Evans replies with an ironic line from the long-winded Polonius in Hamlet: “Brevity is the soul of wit.” It seems all people have time to read or write these days is a few words. Of course, the status updates on Facebook and My Space only allow you so many characters. Twitter allows up to 140. Beyond online communities such as these, Smith Magazine has been soliciting Six-Word Memoirs for years now. As Dowd and many other commentators in recent times have pointed out, just how good and relevant these word bursts are is entirely another matter. If brevity is indeed the soul of wit, then what is its heart? Keen perception? Conveyed concisely and leading to both pleasure and insight? Okay, but just how many of us are aiming for wit when we post updates or tweet?
A skeptic at heart (in her headshot, her eyebrows even appear slightly raised in foreboding doubt), Dowd claims she, “would rather be tied up to stakes in the Kalahari Desert, have honey poured over me and red ants eat out my eyes than open a Twitter account.” While I can’t say I feel that strongly opposed to tweeting, I do find myself scratching my head in awe of the constantly emerging technology, such as Twitter, and hoping for a temporary reprieve in production so that some of us can catch up. I, after all, just started this blog in March. And Facebook just celebrated its five year anniversary, yet I only opened an account last August. I joked at the beginning of this semester with my students about unplugging, cutting the e-cord, if only for a few months, returning to the ways of a simpler time, if not stone tablets or tree carving, then at least sitting under a tree with a pen and paper or talking face to face.
All the technology is both a blessing and burden, and sometimes the learning curve feels more like a learning curse. This is not to say that tweeting requires a great deal of intelligence or time, but gaining subscribers is another matter. So I find myself asking, why? And when is it ever enough? Are we all putting our thoughts out there in memes, blogs, and tweets because it makes us feel fulfilled? alive? important? Simply because we can? Or because we feel we must, we feel a pressure to keep up with the Internet Joneses?