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Joining the small-town universe

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RICHMOND B.C. -- I confess I am a bit of a naØf, but after two whole days as a member of Twitter, I concluded the twitterverse is populated by a gang of low-information children in a schoolyard brawl, piling on to the enemy du minute. Tweeters rush from one side to the other, from one issue to the next, and back. It's like watching water slosh back and forth in a swimming pool on a cruise ship in rough seas.

I sure hope somebody's making money on this, or isn't losing much.

I joined Twitter to see what all the fuss was about. I haven't much experience with commentary under 140 characters. Normally, I can't get through an introductory paragraph in under 140 words.

The first thing you learn is to use shrthnd, or its dgitl eqv, which for twtr users means dmping vwls and using codes such as BTW for stock phrases like by the way.

BTW, Twitter was originally invented for people who wanted to use a format like texting to keep in touch with friends and family. So you tweet, and your parents and kids and friends who "follow" you are up to date on the minutiae of your life.

Twitter is kind of like Facebook for lower IQs. Or high-IQ illiterates. Or people who just have a compulsive need to share things we might have been better off not knowing.

In reality, Twitter lives up to its motto: Keeping you connected to everything happening in the global town square. It is the virtual equivalent of living in a small town.

I only follow about 14 people who represent the yin and the yang of our political world. I chose a group of political pundits from media outlets across the political spectrum. I wanted to compare right- and left-wing tweeters. I included the prime minister (whose tweets are kind of boring but inoffensive and accurate) and the president of the United States (who obsessively tweets about how many people have signed up for Obamacare).

I also follow Justin Trudeau, who keeps tweeting (in both languages) that we can win a dinner with him! Twelve chances! Or if not dinner, then at least a signed, numbered, limited-edition tea towel! Or something! And give money to the Liberal party! S'il vous plait! The small print assures us our chances won't be affected if we don't give money.

One of my new year's resolutions is to follow the leader of the Opposition too, but I keep forgetting.

Following a Twitter thread is exactly like watching a cartoon in your head.

As with all small towns, rumours run rampant. For a day or two last month, the Inside the Ottawa Bubble tweeters had the prime minister resigning in January. Wap!

Then, out of the blue, someone started a rumour of a snap election in the spring. Bam! Which brought a whole bunch of other tweety birds out of the woodwork to say: "What happened? I thought he was resigning in January!" etc. Bop!

The issue was dropped and they all rushed off to the next one.

They got really excited about a recent private member's bill to "curtail PM power." You could taste and smell the excitement about how sweet it would be if 15 per cent of caucus could actually take down PMSH! (which is how tweeters refer to the prime minister.) Wap! Bam! Bop!

So it was hilarious when Kady, a CBC journalist who had actually bothered to read the bill, tweeted that it wouldn't become law till after the next election. Everybody got all moody and downcast. "Are you sure?" one tweeted mournfully.

I guess one good thing about Twitter is no one is really anonymous. Or at least the main players don't seem to be. They want to be followed because it looks good on their resumés. (Hire me. I have 5,000 followers!)

I am probably naive here too. On the Internet, basically anyone can say anything. Who knows what dark forces are afoot behind proxy IP addresses and cute handles?

I am now working up my courage to tweet something. Anything. Just to get my feet (claws?) wet. I don't have any followers, not even my kids.

OK, I lie. There was one follower who magically appeared on my virtual doorstep a millisecond after I got my wings. WTF? So I quickly learned how to block people.

I blocked him not because he was bad or anything, but because he shouldn't be following me so soon after I got airborne. We don't know each other. It's simply not proper.

Tweet. PS thr is a svr lck of rght wng twtrs. Chrp!


Marilyn Baker is a freelance writer in Richmond, B.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2014 A7

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