Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Tag: twitter


During the memorial service for the Tucson shooting victims, Andy Borowitz let loose an invective against the proceedings on Twitter: “We are now turning every occasion, even tragedy, into a TV show. The audience is cheering as if for American Idol,” he wrote. Borowitz is something of a Twitter star, filing sometimes hilarious and almost always somewhat predictable political humor tweets under the name Borowitz Report. He has almost 50,000 followers. I’m not a Malcolm Gladwell apostle, but Twitter is the science lab for his theory that sometimes innovations are inevitable. To see many human minds working at once, just load up your Twitter feed, and see all but the keenest observations made simultaneously, in real time. Such was the case with Borowitz’s tweet. Twitter was full of people calling the event, almost to a person, a “pep rally,” and I quickly decided I had had enough.

I, not immune from Twitter’s pull, had jumped the start myself. As President Obama’s touching speech wore on, I encountered a problem. I had a joke, and it was a good one. But I couldn’t let it fly on Twitter without sounding like a total hypocrite. The joke was that since Obama’s speech was so good, I was going to Tweet that Armond White hated it, because Internet users would find an Armond White joke funny. I typed it into my iPhone and waited for Obama to stop talking. Then I had second thoughts. First, I was pretty moved by the speech at the end, and didn’t feel like making jokes. Second, influenced by the first, was my consideration of whether it was fair to Armond White to write such a thing. What if my Tweet got RT’ed all across the Internet? Yes, I had monomaniacal Twitter visions, and was already planning ahead to how I would defend myself against the self-styled king of contrarians. As I thought about the validity of my argument, I erased the Tweet. Just as soon as I did, I wrote it again, and posted it.

I would say I have one rule for my Tweets, but I really have several. I’ve said before that one shouldn’t Tweet unless it’s good enough to Retweet, but I don’t really believe that. That’s making Twitter sound more important than it is. Twitter is dumb. I think the best real-world representation of it is in the video of the Brooklyn Heights Jeep-destroying snowplow, where a videographer captures the whole event and screams impotently at the snowplow driver, with all its undertones of class warfare and passive-aggressiveness and self-importance:

Twitter is basically rich people talking to each other as if they weren’t rich. If you have time to sit around and make stupid jokes and complaints on a silly website, you’re pretty well off.

At the same time, I love Twitter when I love it. I love it when it points me to something really interesting or someone makes the actual rare unique observation. I love it when I gain followers, even if I have no idea why anyone would want to know what I have to say. I don’t mean in principle—I’m sure I can be very interesting—but in practice. I can’t stay on one topic long enough to get into a niche where my success in the medium will build upon itself, though it’s not for lack of trying for spells at politics, sports, whatever. Instead, I’ve approached it like I approach after-work sports, as an amateur who’s there mostly to help his friends. If there’s anything Andy Borowitz’s Twitter success has proven, it’s the reassuring, persistent notion that hard work conquers all skill. The more skill you bring to the work, the better, but the work will win out.


Health Care Tweets For Your Funny Bone

Here’s are my Health Care Tweets. Some of them are funny. Some of you read my Twitter feed, others don’t. I will probably write some more.

Peal and Repeal are walking down the street. Peal falls and breaks his arm. Who’s pissed that it doesn’t bankrupt him?

Dammit, I got 11th in my pre-existing conditions fantasy draft. I’m gonna be stuck with bacne.

Boehner said health care reform would be done over his “dead body.” So was that angry guy last night the smoke monster?

Republicans in 2003: If you don’t love it, leave it. Dems today: If you don’t love it, stay and we’ll take care of you when you’re sick.

VIDEO: Obama’s statement in its entirety

If I do say so, I’m on fire tonight. Good thing in our socialist paradise, I can call the FDNY for free.

Good news for *some* GOP members. They can now claim racism as a pre-existing condition.

Looks like I picked the right week to start sniffing glue.

George W. Bush to House GOP: Quit your whining. I didn’t have the most votes, and I still won.

The Art of Tweeting Gracefully

I’m on Twitter. Sue me. Just make sure to Tweet about it 43 times too.

The last time an Internet phenomenon spread this quickly, it was YouTube. Between the moment I first heard about it and the moment one year removed from that, it had grown from a wisp of an idea to a full-fledged powerhouse. YouTube was the place for Internet video, period, end of story. It served a niche that hadn’t been filled, and did it so well, that it became the brand name for online video. “YouTube” is to video what “Kleenex” and “Band-Aid” are to their markets.

Twitter did the same thing. It’s the blog for people who are too fussy, too important, or too busy blogging to blog. You can find virtually anyone on Twitter, which is what makes it different than blogs. People, and their 140-character thoughts, are easily turned up, making your tweets available to anyone who wants them, and not just in the Wild West internet way: in a controlled, stable environment.

It seems great, right? Well it isn’t.

The problem is that not all Tweets are created equal, or, to be more precise, not all Twitterers are created equal. I care more about what my friends have to say, though I’m careful to mind Twitter as a supplement to, and not a replacement for, our actual relationship. But how am I supposed to find them when CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller Tweets every five minutes, all day? I have (albeit briefly) worked on the White House Unit of a major news operation, so I understand the amount of news created and the importance of every piece of it. Right now, though, it’s 9:26 in the morning and Knoller has tweeted 21 times today. 21 times!

He is far from the worst abuser (and as far as overtweeting goes, you’re not going to find a more informed, more important stream. He’s still clogging my inbox); according to most sources, Tila Tequila tweets about as often as she breathes. In light of a recent lawsuit she’s filed against her NFL-playing boyfriend, her Tweets are “protected,” which means I can’t see them without sending a request that would certainly be accepted. That won’t happen. But “Tequila”‘s Tweets get to the heart of what Twitter really is: the greatest marketing device ever invented. You can connect with brands, people, imaginery characters and they will talk to you — sometimes directly.

Here’s an illustration: the other day, Major League Baseball was giving away a jersey for the 500th person who Tweeted the slogan for their recent advertisement, which was “Beyond Determination.” I tried, twice, but wasn’t number 500. For the contest, you had to go to to view the commercial. When I was there, I noticed a repeated spelling error, and I snarkily Tweeted about it. Within 90 seconds, MLB had sent me a direct message — which came ONTO MY PHONE — thanking me for catching the error and attributing it to an third-party company. I immediately felt bad about being snarky, but felt “closer” to MLB as a company — hey, someone was reading! — than I had before.

Contrast that with last night, when I was doing today’s New York Times Crossword Puzzle early. (I’m something of an addict) When I realized the phrase “Don’t Tase Me Bro” appeared in the grid, I jumped for joy — and lunged for my computer to Tweet “Rex Parker,” who runs a great NYT crossword blog. My elation was diffused within minutes, when he responded to my “I’ve been waiting two years for this” Tweet with a zinger of his own: “Good 2 yrs ago when Onion did it 1st.” Now, since I had apparently missed one instance of it two years earlier in a crossword I don’t do, was I not supposed to be excited? I’m not sure that helped.

In short, the rules of Twittering can be summed up with a Tweet-length primer: Be nice, be interesting, and may your tweets be sparing in number. I’m just the messenger. Don’t tase me.