When I was first told about Twitter, I thought it was the most self-indulgent, dumbass thing I’d ever heard of. Condensing blogs down to 140 characters? Could Western civilization BE a little more a.d.d.? Why would I give a rat’s ass about what so-and-so thinks about anything?

In my defense, that was back in 2007, when Twitter really WAS just a handful of douchebags running programs that would auto-post every song they listened to in iTunes. It’s not good tv, and it’s terribly self-indulgent.

Here in 2009, Twitter is still terribly self-indulgent, but it’s gotten a lot more entertaining. I’ve found it pretty darn useful for everything from keeping track of random thoughts for future blogs and stand-up acts, but also for getting quick advice, hearing about events, and having random chuckles. I’ve even badgered more than one friend onto Twitter and, as a result, had to teach more than one friend how to get tweets sent to his/her phone. I’ve done this so many times that I thought a tutorial might be in order. Shall we?

Sending Tweets To Your Phone

Step 1:
Go to settings > devices and set up Twitter to work with your phone.

Step 2:
Go to the page of each person you want to be sent to your phone and turn “device updates” on.

Who can and can’t hear you.

Unless you’ve set your updates to “private,” everybody on Earth can hear everything you say, and Google will hear you, too. Beware.

@ replies

If you @ reply someone who IS following you, that person will see your @ reply in their stream. If said person is having you sent to their phone, your @ reply will come to their phone.

If you @ reply someone who ISN’T following you, your @ reply will still appear in said person’s stream.

Master class:
If I @ reply Jen (aka @wiltedrose23), anyone who is following BOTH of us will also see the conversation Jen and I are having. For example, if Jen and I are tweeting at each other at goth night, Abbey will hear us, even if she stayed home, because Abbey follows both Jen AND me.

If I @ reply something personal to Jen, it won’t get broadcast to everyone who follows me. BUT, if someone makes the effort to go to my profile page, those @ replies WILL show up. Again, beware.

There are a number of applications out there that allow people to monitor two different Twitter accounts at once (for example, a personal account and a work account). I like Twhirl, but beware: there’s a limit on how many times per hour Twhirl will check for tweets. If the limit is 60 per hour and I’m logged in to 2 accounts, Twhirl will check one account 40 times and the other account 20 times. Or 30/30. Or 50/10, depending on the preferences that I specify. I’ve found desktop applications to be a bit spotty and unreliable, as they frequently resulted in a time lag or other weirdy-beardy behavior.
LoudTwitter will either blog your tweets or email them to you, with or without @ replies, at intervals you specify. I use it to have my tweets emailed to me for further “would this be useful as a stand-up routine?” screening. Dave from The Strand has his tweets posted to his LiveJournal.
Takes long web addresses and converts them to smaller addresses that use up fewer characters.
Allows you to post pictures on Twitter. You can’t send a picture message yet, but if you have email on your phone you CAN email a picture from your phone. and songza
Allow you to post links to songs on Twitter.

Random Tips:
1. be interesting or funny. I don’t care if you’re at the grocery store, but I DO care if you think Germaine is the most ironically-named Jackson.

2. Pick a name that’s easy to spell. If I’m @ replying you from my phone, it’d much easier to type @tim86 than @timlivesforfeta4evr.

3. If you install a widget to broadcast your tweets elsewhere (MySpace, Facebook, your blog), DON’T forget that you did it. Also, the “post all of my tweets on Facebook” application should be used with caution as it may piss off your followers/friends if it’s overused.

4. Do NOT accidentally Tweet from your phone when you mean to send a text message to one person.

5. Beware of drunk tweeting.

See also: Twitter Content Help Blog

Twitter: Ur Doin It Rong.

I am not a social media expert. I did not major in marketing. I didn’t even have an account on LinkedIn until just a couple weeks ago. However, I do use Twitter. I know what I like. Like everybody else on the internet, I think my opinion is more important than yours. Seeing as how you people keep trying to woo me (and everyone else on Twitter), I’ll do you a favor and tell you why it’s not working.

Social media had good intentions. All of the socially awkward programmers and web dorks could pretend to have social skills by setting up accounts on MySpace and Facebook filling out surveys about whether or not “they’ve ever…”

Twitter, at its best, can be wonderful, random and comedic. Complete strangers tell me hilarious things all day long, and I get to filter out people who bore me. Famous people can give their fans what fans have wanted since the dawn of fandom: a direct link. I’m never going to hang out with anybody from Fall Out Boy, but it’s bizarrely interesting that, even if you’re famous, everything boils down to whether the waitress at Chili’s Too remembers to bring your extra mayo. It’s like there’s a party where everybody’s got a blindfold on, but people can still mingle and talk without the threat of someone getting drunk and having awkward booze sex.

Well, sort of. Drunken, regretted-in-the-morning Twittering is quickly becoming a rite of passage.

The problem is that Twitter has become “the next big thing.” Companies assume that joining Twitter will be some kind of short cut, allowing them to stop buying advertising and thinking about being in the first page of results on Google. What they’re not getting is that, for Twitter to work, you have to Tweet something that someone would actually WANT to read. Showing up at a party solely to hand out your business card is considered douchey, so why haven’t people realized that the rule applies to Twitter?

“Hey, how are you?”
“Have you seen my business’s website?”
“No, dude. Really. What’s going on?”
“Have you seen my business’s website?”

Businesses, let me break this down for you: if you add me, prompting me to look at your profile, and I see that the only thing you ever say is “here’s my company…here’s my company again…” I’m not going to add you. I’m going to leave the virtual party and let you sit alone in your living room, showing virtual vacation slides.

So, what works?

Amuse me. Tell me something fun. Talk about something other than your company’s products. If you can’t do this, hire somebody who can. Find someone who seems to embody what you company is, then hire them. (PS: if you don’t know what kind of person would embody your company’s tone and image, your Twitter is NOT your biggest problem.)

For example, the guy who does Clandestine Industries’ Twitter (@jensenclan88) mainly makes snarky comments about sports figures and pop culture. I know who he works for, I looked at the site and I even know the name of his art gallery and what it’s showing right now. Only 10% of his posts are about his businesses, but I know the names of them because I’ve stuck around long enough, and I stuck around because he’s hilarious. The trick is to be a real person, with something real, random or amusing to say. It’s a leap of faith to say “represent us, but be yourself.” Most businesses usually go for the “no, really, we CAN please all of the people all of the time” strategy. As a result, they end up afraid to say anything interesting. A knife that isn’t sharp is just a piece of metal. You have to have an edge to get anything done. Is JensenClan88 a happy accident or a brilliant marketing plan? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s working.

Have some balls. Say something worthwhile. If you don’t, nobody’s going to listen to you anyway.

“What makes you tick?”

A few days ago, someone on Twitter asked the question in the subject line above. I didn’t have an answer at the time, but the simplicity of the question caused it to stick in my head. Maybe the question stuck in my head because I didn’t have an answer at the time. “Does this mean that I’m going about my life like a company with no mission statement? An essay with no thesis?”

The question continued to roll around in my head, off and on, off an on, like a slow-cycling strobe. What makes me tick, damn it? Work? Art? Orneriness? Then it came to me: what makes me tick is neurosis.

I’m neurotic about work because I’m deathly afraid of being unemployed, especially right now. A life as a graphic designer is a life of waiting for the world to decide that some guy who writes computer code can do your job better than you can. It is a life of waiting for web 3.0. The end of print media. The day when design is considered a stupid luxury, right along with bling watches and pimp cups. It makes a girl nervous, and it turns a girl into Lil Wayne. That is to say that I’m afraid to stop moving. As I recently told a friend after telling him my annual income, “but that’s not cause I’m a good designer…it’s cause I have a good hustle.”

While art certainly does make me tick a little, and good art inspires me to keep going, the art that I create separate from my life as a designer is done for three reasons. One: to keep myself sane, to give the universe a bit of math to live by and to feel a little powerful in said universe. Two: my hands don’t like to sit still, so they tend to make things. Three: the new house has a lot of wall space, so I have to make stuff.

The orneriness is an offshoot of the neurosis. The Brain is always ticking away on something, bringing questions up over and over again until they get answers. Often, the answer is to do something ornery or weird. It’s not that I’m rebellious or punk rock, oh no. I don’t do rebellious things for the sake of rebellion because I’m not fifteen (no matter what my Kool-Aid and vodka habit may imply). I do rebellious things either because they’re funny or they need to be done.

After I sent a poison pen email to the president of Former College regarding the conduct of a former teacher, Katy said “did you actually send that? that’s so punk rock.” I sent it because I had something to say. Because somebody needed to tell that guy all of the crazy behavior Former Teacher was trying to pull. I sent that email because it needed to be done.

All of these reasons are why I’ve grown sort of comfortable with my neurosis. It’s very functional if it’s controlled and focused, kind of like the red laser that shoots out of Cyclops’s eyes. Keep the visor on, and you’re a super hero. Take the visor off, and you’re trashing Grand Central Station. It’s a living.

Connected (For Better Or Worse)

Every so often, something happens that makes me glad to be old. Well, in this instance, I should say that several things happened to make me glad that the internet wasn’t as evolved back when I was nineteen or twenty.

These days, things which keep track of our lives are everywhere. Almost everyone in America has at least one camera on his or her person at all times, usually in the form of a phone. Many of those phones even take video. Many of those phones can access the internet. Thus, it’s nearly impossible to have a lapse in judgment that doesn’t have the potential of being saved for all eternity. This is such a part of how we live that it’s easy to forget that things weren’t always this way.

When I was in middle school and high school, the internet as we know it didn’t exist. Oh, I’m sure there were some geeks in a college dorm somewhere chatting in some DOS-looking IRC-type chat room, but chatting and internet use weren’t in every home in America. Sexting didn’t exist. TEXTing didn’t even exist.

It was about junior or senior year in high school when my friend’s family got AOL and I witnessed AIM for the first time. I thought it was the coolest thing EVER. People from all over the country could talk to each other about nothing! For free! Well, sort of for free, because you still had to pay by the minute back then. And, you could only talk to a few people because nobody was online. Not the point. It was COOL!

Fast-forward 15 years, to a time when people can drunk Twitter from a phone. I’m so glad that my crazy, high-drama years were lived out when I didn’t have such an ability. When I was in my dorm room having boy-related freakouts, I just wrote those freakouts in a notebook that I kept by the bed. Now, people Twitter that stuff, putting their insanity out on the front porch like a proudly-carved pumpkin. Baby bats at goth night will have their awkward proto-goth phases captured online for all eternity. Their friends will never let them forget their “white foundation” phase. Thank God, nobody got pictures of mine.

I have great empathy for the teenagers of today, having to deal with the awkwardness and stupidity of high school, knowing that everything they do can be put online to haunt them forever. Just when you think that something is gone and forgotten, a potential boyfriend or employer Googles you and finds out about that time you peed in someone’s plant at a party. It’s no time to be a teenager.

I’m not saying that the internet is what’s finally going to make “these kids today” lose their collective shit. People have been predicting that for centuries, and it hasn’t happened yet. I’m just curious as to what kind of legacy this will leave. Will it force us all to be better people if we know that we’re always being watched? Will we get better at accepting our own imperfections? Will liquor sales decrease?

Who knows. I hope I live long enough to find out, though. I would so hate to miss the ending of the book.

Where’s My Poncho, and What’s That Smell?

As is so often the case on Twitter, a discussion yesterday resulted in a mini shitstorm. It’s such a small storm that it doesn’t much bear repeating, but I’ll give you the reader’s digest version:

Someone said something about what a punk Chris Brown is. Then a discussion ensued about whether Rihanna is now partly to blame for her own fate because she’s gone back to him (as you can imagine, this would be when the storm started). The storm eventually came to a halt when the person who started the conversation clarified that he was just pointing out that we should be held accountable for our actions. Even Rihanna.

Stop. Don’t send hate mail. Let me clarify.

It’s all about shades of grey. I think, in abusive situations, both parties need help. The man needs to seek help because he was almost surely the target or observer of abusive behavior in the past. He doesn’t need a good ass-kicking (though I will admit that I would certainly enjoy being given the opportunity to beat up some of these guys). He needs counseling. Reprogramming. He doesn’t get to dismiss crappy behavior just because that’s what he saw as a kid. He knows damn well that it’s not considered OK to hit women, and he needs to take responsibility for what he did (even if he thinks he had a good reason for it).

Of course, women who allow themselves to be treated like this also need counseling and reprogramming. Physical violence is usually preceded by controlling behavior and verbal abuse. Right? I’ve never been in a situation like this, so I am admittedly talking out of my ass right now. It’s not like, when a woman gets hit, she’s completely surprised by it. She’s in shock a little, but most of the reason why she’s not hitting back is because she’s not wired that way and she’s probably been verbally beaten down by emotional abuse long before any actual fists hit her. A woman who would hit back wouldn’t put up with the controlling behavior and verbal abuse. She would ditch the guy in question long before the fists come out.

So, what’s my point? In an abusive situation, both parties are to blame. The blame isn’t equal, but both parties have some work to do on themselves. Saying “but I’m a product of abuse” is a reason for one’s behavior but, at the end of the day, we still have free will. We have to take responsibility for what we do. If a woman is to ever leave an abusive relationship, it’s ultimately up to her. Friends and family can offer support, money, and a place to stay, but the woman has to be the one to say “enough is enough…I don’t deserve this.” Women who have gotten used to a pattern of abuse (and who have probably been convinced that they deserve it) will find this hard, but a lot of things in life are hard. No one can come in and captain your life for you. It’s your ship, and you should be at the helm.

As for the guy, he also needs to realize that what he’s doing isn’t OK. He needs to be enough of a man to say “this is unacceptable, even if I grew up seeing my dad do it.” He is also at the helm of his own ship.

So, to get back to the celebrities in question, should Rihanna have forgiven Chris? Well, you know what? I don’t know them. I don’t know the situation. As much as my knee-jerk reaction is to say “NO!!!!,” I don’t know them and that is none of my business. Generally, I don’t think there’s any excuse for a man to hit a woman, period. But, on a case-by-case basis, things aren’t always so black and white. But, if the two of them were my friends, I’d get them in a room and say this:

“You (pointing at Chris) were wrong for that and you know it. That shit is fucked up, as you probably know because somebody probably did it to you, too. I have empathy for what you went through, but stay away from my friend until you’ve completed therapy. Even then, you should know that I will burn down your house if you hit her.”

“You (pointing at Rihanna) are getting away from this dude, and you will not be making a professional victim of yourself as long as I’m around. You’re better than that. I’m introducing you to my shrink, and then we’re taking up Judo.”

I know that it may seem non-committal for my thesis statement to be “well, it’s complicated,” but…it is. No one here is completely right or completely wrong. It’s greyscale. It’s complicated.

If nothing else, we’ve all gotten a bit of a dialogue out of this, and that’s important. It’s important for us to get together and talk about stuff, even if it results in the occasional shitstorm. The key is to be able to disagree with each other like adults, having a productive debate without resorting to name-calling and interrupting each other.

Drawls in Print

I was watching a Tivoed show last night in which these two linguist dudes go to far away places to document dying languages. You see, linguists like to look at how languages mix and intermingle, how they evolve through various colonizations and wars.

I’ve thought about all this before, but not as it pertains to some tribe living in Siberia. I’ve thought about this in terms of the English language that we speak everyday. I’m endlessly fascinated by little variances that happen between regions. I’m even more fascinated by the effect that the internet and text messaging are having on us. Am I about to indict everyone who abbreviates “wtf?” No.

John McWhorter made an excellent point is his book, Doing Our Own Thing. Little changes in English are natural progressions that happen in a living language. Am I OK with people not knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re?” Hell to the no, but I think that the inventions that we’ve come up with out of necessity are still interesting.

With the growing popularity of Twitter and text messaging, does this mean that we’re going to come up with increasingly less-charactered ways of talking to each other? The people on Twitter have found ways to abbreviate a lot of stuff because of Twitter’s 140-character limit. I even had to look up “fml” on (“fuck my life”). Will the increasing popularity of the internet slowly merge all languages into one language? It would certainly simplify things, even if it would homogenize us a lot. Will the internet cause us to lose regional slang? Will people ever agree on a way to pronounce “syrup” and “pecan?” For example…

I follow the tweets of someone who tends to greet us with “what’s good?” I finally broke down and asked him if said question was rhetorical. He’s pretty much using it like “what’s up,” but I had never heard this expression before. He only lives 8 hours away.

There was recently a big to-do about a contestant on American Idol telling judges “be careful” as he was leaving the room. Those of us in the south know that he meant it like “drive safely” or “take care,” but the Idol judges took it as some kind of threat. Idol eventually issued an apology, worded in such a way as to imply that Kentucky (home of said contestant) was some other planet.

I’m still a grammar nazi at heart, but I also really enjoy slang. It’s a little snapshot of the time where we live. “Rad” screams 1980s, and “sweet” says 2000s. If you know what a grizzy is, you’re either from the hood or listening to rap music. If you’ve ever spoken the phrase “handstapleforehead,” you’re probably goth. The way we speak says a lot about where we’re from, but the way we type does, too. In a world where we type as much as we talk, it may pay for us to learn to hear an accent in type.