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What I Had for Lunch Today

Do you Twitter?  Maybe I should say “Tweet.” Twitter is the vehicle; to tweet is the activity. Together, they’re the hottest thing in human communication.  If you don’t “T2,” as my trendy friends like to put it, you are axiomatically…well, the nicest thing I can say is, w-a-a-y uncool.

Oprah does it, as do the royal Brits. So do Ashton, Miley, and Demi. Barack used to do it. (Osama and Fidel may be in there; they have yet to respond to my Twittered inquiry.) 

Ordinary people Tweet, too . . . endlessly. It was estimated late last year that almost 5 million people send messages via Twitter. And bazillions of “followers” subscribe to individual Twitter offerings. Far-from-ordinary Martha—you know, Stewart—has 466,000 followers; Oprah, half that number, despite the obvious fact that her thoughts on every imaginable topic are readily available on television, in her eponymous magazine, and on her blog.

As you may know, Tweets enter cyberspace as texts from the computer keyboards or phone keypads to which we all see people vigorously applying fingers and thumbs. The messages cannot be more than 140 characters—a limit that has spawned non-words such as “2K” for talk.

In a letter to the New York Times, one disciple hailed Twitter as “the ultimate news medium,” a claim that gets its shred of credibility from the fact that Twitter, along with cell-phone cameras, has become a standard device at would-be revolutions in far-flung areas of the world. In April of this year, Moldovan anti-communists tweeted massively to organize protests against the government, and in June, Iranians did likewise while protesting apparent fraud in the re-election of President Ahmadinejad.

Maybe Twitter should be a required tool among all political activists bound for the barricades. Twitter’s success stems from nothing more—or more important—than young (and not-so-young) America’s insatiable need to be constantly “connected,” no matter how inconsequential the connection and the information it provides. Commenting on the mobile phone in its early years, Garrison Keillor said that its most incessant users—who open most conversations with, “Hi, I’m [wherever]. Where are you?”—were not really communicating, just marking their passage through the world. One might say the same of Tweeters. Seldom have so many reveled in so little.

So Tweeting may not be your thing, but if you’re still interested in connecting, you might want to try out the new netbooks. These laptop computers, scaled down in both size (a few pounds) and price (from the low $300s to less than $500), are fun little machines. If you principally want mobile Web access and email capability, the 10-inch screens and downsized keyboards are absolutely manageable—better than you would think. Less apparent is the need to recharge the battery after only a couple of hours, although some models boast as much as a 10.5-hour battery life—certainly long enough to navigate your way through the “Interwebs” in more than one sitting.

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—Roger M. Williams

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