Tag Archives: Twitter

Oh privacy, rest in peace


The assaults on our personal space, our thoughts – both grand and small – have become, in recent years, the principle battleground of democratic debate.

Do we deserve our privacy, or shall we surrender it to the onslaught of media? Do we expect full accountability from our elected leaders, or shall we give them a free pass even as their spy agencies harvest every morsel of information about us for uses not yet articulated?

We have become a “live-in-public” polity. Anyone who doubts this might cogitate for a while on the way mainstream celebrities (and their Twitter monkeys) manage their various images through social media.

Consider, for example, the strange case of Ashton Kutcher – a Hollywood actor of some fame and fortune. He reached out to his fans a couple of months ago to beg their support for his mindful campaign against the paparazzi that plague him and his loved ones.

According to a Fox News report in May, “Ashton Kutcher has taken to social media to blast news outlets for publishing paparazzi photos of his 7-month-old daughter, Wyatt. The actor publicly slammed publications on Twitter after photos emerged of a casually dressed Kutcher carrying his baby girl in his arms, with a clear view of her smiling face. The paparazzi pics were taken while Kutcher and partner Mila Kunis were visiting the seaside town of Carpinteria, Calif., with Kunis’ parents.”

Tweeted Mr. Kutcher: “Why is it so hard for publications to respect that I would like the identity of my child kept private for safety reasons?”

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because you have 16 million followers and you can’t stop talking about yourself.

The actor’s dilemma mirrors our own. In a world where professional value becomes a commodity through personal revelation (even if the cry is for privacy) reason is antiquated. And what becomes antiquated becomes suspect. Suddenly, your business is mine, and mine is yours.

Naturally, you and I have never met, never shook hands, never looked each other in our bloodshot, media-savvy eyes. We’ve never actually conducted a private conversation about what really matters to either of us. We just tweet in series of 147 characters of callow, bland absurdities.

As we do, of course, the world is cloud-banking every stupid thing we say for only one reason: Our love of the confessional pyre, the altar of unsolicited solicitude, to which we happily supplicate ourselves, turns its cranks; and, in so doing, manufactures more ways to penetrate our secret spaces.

We claim our right to privacy in public even as we squander it, undermine it, and, finally, render it meaningless by opening our big, fat mouths about the utterly inconsequential just in time for the next crop of spin-doctors, operating on both private and state allowances, to turn our choice words against ourselves.

It happens all the time. Whole networks in the mainstream media are dedicated to unveiling the “larger” truth behind a pebble of personal information “leaked” to them, lest the pillars of democracy topple in the absence of some celebrity’s full disclosure about the style and shape of his underwear.

And, of course, just like Mr. Kutcher, we lap it up, even as we despise it.

In a Daily Mail Online piece from 2011, the actor “became the first Twitter user to reach one million followers. But, it seems, Ashton Kutcher has finally fallen out of love with Twitter. The 33-year-old actor handed over the control of his account to his management team.”

Really, who could have blamed him?

But, then, what’s stopping the rest of us?

Tagged , , ,

Exactly why twitter is so aptly named


With nearly 300 million twits mouthing off each and every day on what must be the most pudden-headed social-media platform ever created for, again, 300 million twits each and every day, one might have hoped that the mayor of New Brunswick’s capital city and the current president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities would have curbed his lip, or, at the very least, sit on his hands.

But, alas, no. Here’s what Freddy Town’s burgermeister, Brad Woodside, had to say about linguistic duality in New Brunswick on his Twitter feed last week:

“Bilingualism I understand, duality makes no sense. This should be on the table Mr. Premier as we look to save money. You asked.”

Indeed, Brian Gallant did ask. He just didn’t expect such an idiotic response.

Or, maybe he did. The young premier is, after all, proving himself to be an able political warrior – routinely stripping the veneer from his partisan opponents to reveal their true colours. Care for a game of bait and switch, anyone?

Poor, old Mayor Woodside. He knows not what strife he causes for himself by attempting to condense an extraordinarily complex and controversial subject into 140 characters or less. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. #Dumb@brucescribes.

Still, he’s in good and much more illustrious company than his own.

Twitter has been luring otherwise smart and accomplished public figures into thoughtlessness for nearly ten years. There’s just something about the freedom to whip off any stray thought that seems irresistible to those who should properly put down that tenth cup of coffee and head straight to bed.

According to a recent story in The Daily Mail online edition, “Shortly after it emerged that (former Republican governor of Florida) Jeb Bush had hired Ethan Czahor as his campaign’s chief technology officer, the Hipster.com co-founder set out to do some spring cleaning on his Twitter. But it was already too late to discreetly delete a handful of ‘jokes’ the Santa Monica product manager had made where he calls out ‘sl**s’ and frets about gay guys at the gym.

“‘New study confirms old belief: college female art majors are sl**s, science majors are also sl**s but uglier,’ one deleted tweet read, with an expired link. Other deleted tweets include a couple gay panic jokes Czahor made about working out at the gym. ‘When i burp in the gym i feel like it’s my way of saying, ‘sorry guys, but i’m not gay,’ another said.” 


But no more so than former U.S. federal legislator Anthony Weiner, who, in 2011, tweeted what he apparently considered was the best of himself in tighty-whities. (“I did not have sex with that pair of underwear,” he was overheard, possibly apocryphally, to have insisted in private).

Meanwhile, that same year, occasional funnyman Gilbert Gottfried reportedly tweeted in the aftermath of the tidal wave that wrecked coastal Japan: They (the Japanese) don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.”

Then, there’s actor Jason Biggs who freelance San Diego writer Alex Matsuo reports, “found himself in hot water after he tweeted from his account @JasonBiggs,

‘Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?’ This tweet occurred 65 minutes after it was announced that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had crashed. Followers began to reply with their disgust over Biggs’ words.”

In this offensive company, Woodside is quite likely bush league.

Still, here’s a tip, mayor: When you want to issue an incendiary statement about linguistic duality in this province, don’t tweet it. Write an Op-Ed.

Then, put down that coffee, and get some rest.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Fare thee well, sociable media

Adieu to the feeding frenzy that is social media

Adieu to the feeding frenzy that is social media

My on-again, off-again romance with social media is off-again. This will be my first trial separation from LinkedIn and Twitter, my second from Facebook. I’m even reconsidering the role my blog plays in my newly simplified life.

I’ve deactivated my accounts for a couple of reasons: First, I’m genuinely interested in discovering the degree to which I have become hooked on these seamless communications platforms. But, mostly, and in the words of Greta Garbo, I just want to be alone. It’s time to leave the cocktail party that never ends, at least for awhile.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I have grown to dislike my online friends, followers and contacts. On the contrary, I’m quite fond of them (from a distance, naturally, as I don’t know most of them personally). It’s simply that I can’t get myriad updates and “timelines” and status reports – theirs and mine – out of my mind. The busy work of social media is taking over.

It wasn’t always this way. As a tenderfoot in the online world, I was happy to ignore the dozens of ways I could use it to distract myself from the actual business of making a living (or, simply, living). I was happy because I was ignorant. I didn’t really understand how Twitter worked, or what distinguished it from Facebook.

The more I learned, however, the more determined I became to wield these instruments of my virtual identity as they were designed: with near consuming attention to detail and timeliness, regardless of need or import. (Does the world really need me retweeting somebody else’s observation of a junior league hockey game?)

In fact, I am not alone in hooking off. About a year go, just prior to Facebook’s initial public offering, CNN reported, “With a website that boasts 901 million active users,  it seems unlikely that once you get on Facebook, you’d ever leave. But deactivating from the social networking site is not that unusual. Close to half of Americans think Facebook is a passing fad, according to the results of a new Associated Press-CNBC poll. More and more people are stepping away from the technological realm and de-teching. There are even sites where they can pledge to delete their Facebook accounts.   And tech writer Paul Miller from The Verge decided to leave the Internet for a year to reassess his relationship with it.”

Regarding his decision, Mr. Miller explained on his blog last April, “I’m abandoning one of my ‘top 5’ technological innovations of all time for a little peace and quiet. . .By separating myself from the constant connectivity, I can see which aspects are truly valuable, which are distractions for me, and which parts are corrupting my very soul. What I worry is that I’m so ‘adept’ at the internet that I’ve found ways to fill every crevice of my life with it, and I’m pretty sure the internet has invaded some places where it doesn’t belong.”

I’m, not especially “adept” at any of this stuff, but I appreciate his point. Just as I do Jonathan Minton’s. According to Dahlia Kurtz, Sun Media’s social media columnist, in a piece she wrote in January, Mr. Minton, “calls Facebook mental junk food. He twice de-activated and re-activated his account. ‘It became a mind-numbing and addictive distraction,’ says the 31-year-old. So why did Minton return? ‘Because it’s a mind numbing and addictive distraction.’”

As for Mr. Miller, now that his year-long hiatus is nearly up, what has he learned? In his latest column (a colleague posted it for him) he writes, “Leaving the internet was so great. . .at first. It was the relief of pressure that I’d wanted for years. No more push notifications, no more calendar invites, no more reply-all’d email threads, no more retweets, friend requests, text messages, or rabbit holes. I was alone with my thoughts. . .But then old habits reared their ugly heads. Time-wasting habits like video games and pulpy sci-fi novels, and then more disturbing signs like a general avoidance of social activities.”

So, then, maybe there is no solution, no real escape from the inescapable. Technology is not the enemy. As American cartoonist Walt Kelly once wrote, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

I’ll mull this over in the weeks ahead, while I’m not updating my Facebook status.

Tagged , , ,
%d bloggers like this: