“What are you doing?”

This one innocuous little question is at the heart of yet another unnecessary social networking site. Twitter, begun by three bloggers in California in 2006, is a free social messaging utility and micro-blogging site “for staying connected in real-time.”

I discovered Twitter only recently, so I clearly have not been keeping up with the online social networking scene. I had previously failed to realize that MySpace, Facebook and an infinite number of blogs are no longer enough. Apparently, technological progress and human ingenuity have reached the point at which even our blogs need blogs.

The first thing our mothers taught us was to not talk to strangers. When social networking sites became wildly popular about five years ago, the cardinal rule likewise became never to share any identifying information – like your address or phone number – on your profile. At the same time, stories of underage girls being propositioned by sexual predators online flooded the media and middle-school assemblies.

The use of Facebook to keep track of various vague acquaintances or even random strangers has become so widespread as to warrant the coining of the phrase “stalkbooking.” Even our parents have MySpace profiles, and it’s perfectly acceptable to create a pseudo-Facebook for the sole purpose of knowing exactly what all the objects of your interest are doing at any given point in time. Far from allowing us to “communicate and stay connected,” Twitter is just creepy.

Granted, my first – and last – experience with Twitter was watching the demo video posted on its Web site, but honestly, that’s all I really want or need to know. The video centers on Carla, a fictional new Twitter user, who joins the site to stay in touch with her friends and family.

Personally, I don’t particularly care for my “contacts around the world” to know my every move. This may be a novel concept to some, but perhaps the reason Carla doesn’t send an e-mail to her friends informing them that she is getting coffee is because, shockingly enough, they wouldn’t care. If it’s not important enough to send your friends an e-mail about, much less call or tell them about in person, you don’t need to share it with the world via Twitter.

Of course they don’t need to know, Twitter retorts, but what about the people who want to know about the little things that happen in your life? According to Twitter, “real life happens between blog posts and e-mails.” How absolutely heartbreaking – the solution to missing out on life is more blogging. When did it happen that life came to be measured in “short, bite-sized updates?” If real life means that Carla needs to know that Julia in London is reading a new investment book in order to feel connected, I’m not sure that’s the kind of connection I’d like to have. If she needs Twitter to learn that Steven in Seattle likes baseball, I wouldn’t place much faith in the value of their friendship.

In the demo video, Twitter lauds itself as more or less “the real world” in a revolutionary new form. If Twitter is what the real world has become, then the real world is in even worse shape than I thought.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Facebook as much as the next person. (I have, on occasion, been known to change my status more than once a day). Unlike many of our parents and grandparents, I’m not one to bitterly scorn technology as the downfall of humanity. All things considered, the astounding ability to mobilize millions of people with the Web has been a net positive, not a negative. In Feb. 2008 alone, Barack Obama’s campaign raised $45 million on the Internet. With so much potential to implement social networking for good, it is downright embarrassing that, with over five million members and counting, Twitter (along with its inane networking counterparts) takes up so much time in the life of the average American. In 2008, Americans spent 27 hours per month (more than 13 days of their lives per year) online. Please, if you have any self-respect at all, don’t waste it “tweeting.”

To make matters worse, the ability to check our e-mail, post on our blogs, log on to Facebook and “tweet” on our handheld devices has given us yet another excuse to blatantly ignore the people around us and preoccupy ourselves with iPhones and BlackBerrys. At this rate, in a few years, in the name of so-called progress, we will have completely obliterated the need for any legitimate face-to-face social interaction. Instead, we will have entire relationships based solely on exchanges of 140 characters or less. I can’t wait.

Ena Dekanic is a sophomore in the College and director-general of NAIMUN XLVI. She can be reached at dekanicthehoya.com. Crying Over Spilled Milk appears every other Tuesday.

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