How to enjoy Twitter without a cell phone

by Mr. Sheehy

We had a fire drill this week and our department chair tipped me off, which was helpful since it came at the end of class and I would have been grumpy if I’d been left with a classroom full of laptops and no students to put them away. One of my students was on crutches (stitches in her foot) and 1/3 of the way down the stairs she grew tired of it and walked the rest of the way. Doctor’s orders mean nothing in the face of peer pressure and practicality. It’s the kind of thing I might have twittered if I owned a cell phone.

I like the little Twitter blips, as their effect is so similar to my enjoyment of life. So often the things that make me smile are series of little incidents and bits that, when strung together, make the happy collage that is my life. The end result is best described by the Twitter comment of my former college adviser:

It’s cloudy outside but partly sunny in my soul.

Make that partly cloudy. But only partly.

Of course, in South Dakota “cloudy outside” is a rarity, but the quote still counts since the speaker is near Chicago.

What I put in my own Twitter comments varies, and I like to call it my mini-blog and cast off other people’s insistence that I stick to the question: “What are you doing?” Such insistence misses the point of open vision and open source.

It’s still not a perfect site for reliability (I tried twice today to recommend something I found linked on No Traces. It’s the Best of Photojournalism 2008. I may not have time to read junk, but I have time for the best. I liked the Washington Post’s views of Calvin Coolidge Senior High), but I go back because I like it.

I mention it because my Twitter infatuation has spiked temporarily, mostly because I found a couple new people to follow – people I know or enjoy. I keep my Twitter circle small and tend not to agree with many of my Web-colleagues’ oft-cited reason for loving Twitter – the influx of links from various web readers in a particular professional circle. I realize such links would be fun and worthwhile, but I really don’t have time for more. When I write the phrase information overload I figure it should be written “OVERload.” After a couple years of frantic consumption of information regarding education, I feel little need to go out and gather more, at least not until I’ve had some time to try out the myriad things I’ve already discovered.

I’m not opposed to learning, and I won’t stop reading and mining through research, of course; my point is that I don’t need six million more links to sift through in addition to the six million already unread in my Google reader.

While on this topic, allow me to quote that same college adviser, this time from an article just published in First Things, where he discusses the “Commonplace book” he keeps on his tumblelog. I find his observation quite applicable to this raw consumption of everything – and the nagging feeling that somehow we’re supposed to keep on top of all this information:

The task of adding new lines and sentences and paragraphs to one’s collection can become an ever tempting substitute for reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting what’s already there. And wisdom that is not frequently revisited is wisdom wasted.

That said, even with my small circle and no cell phone extension of the application, I love Twitter. What I’d really love would be for my college buddies to use it. To them, however, it appears to be one more web site they’d need to check and try to follow, since they don’t have silly cash lying around to buy unlimited text messaging. In a sense, they’re exactly like me – except that I use it quite a bit.

Why? What makes me a Twitter fan? I realized today that Twitter’s appeal for me depends entirely upon my iGoogle home page. I have a Twitter widget on there and so every time I open a browser window, I see my Twitter feed without going to Twitter. I only go to Twitter to write, so it doesn’t interrupt me when I’m in the middle of something else (as IM does), and I don’t have to go regularly to another website and feed the brainless Web-surfing-sloth that can develop from such habit. It’s great.

And it’s great because it’s got a feed, it’s mash-able, and it’s widget friendly. This web keeps getting better.

Thanks for reading.