Connectivity: Is Twitter a sign of poverty?

Have you read Virginia Heffernan’s article, “Let Them Eat Tweets“? In a flight of metaphoric ecstasy, she suggests that a craving for virtual connections reflects an individual’s real-life social poverty (citing Bruce Sterling’s remarks at a South by Southwest technology conference). People who have real wealth, whether of soul or of lucre, feel no great need to be linked in. “We live on the Web in these hideous conditions of [cyber-]overcrowding because—it suddenly seems so obvious—we can’t afford privacy.”

Be still, my swelling ego! This explains it all: I don’t do Twitter and I don’t do cell phones and I don’t do text-messaging because of my status as a member of the richly endowed elite!

I knew it, I just knew it.

LOL! Actually, what I know is that Twitter forgot my password, I couldn’t get in, and it’s taken the proprietors a month to answer my appeal to their “help” line. And I can’t afford a cell phone. And if I could, I can’t imagine where I would find time for texting. I haven’t even had time to open the message from Twitter responding to my call for help.

It’s an interesting rumination, though, one that poses über-questions like “what is wealth,” “what is poverty,” and “WTF”?

The real reason I don’t have a cell (when people who live on welfare certainly do) is that I resist having everyone and anyone calling me wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. An ordinary land line is intrusive enough. Why would I want people jangling me up while I’m driving the car, sitting on the train, walking around, dining at a restaurant, working at the office?

Far from a sign of “a strong soul or a fat wallet,” that turn of mind strikes me as a kind of psychic self-impoverishment: surely if I were nicer, more generous, a better person I would be open at all times to the tendrils of everyone around me. I don’t have a cell because I don’t want one, and I don’t want one because of a certain social miserliness. That’s a long hike from spiritual strength.

And while the whole idea of Twitter intrigues me, it strikes me (more strongly than it intrigues me) that Twitter represents a gigantic hole into which to throw time. A space-time warp, so to speak. As I would not fling myself into a black hole to see what’s on the other side, so I feel a bit dubious about Twitter.

My guess is, though, that the poverty metaphor doesn’t apply. If you can find the time and energy to build virtual relationships, you probably have more social wealth than those of us who would rather not, thank you, tweet.

Check out Twistori, BTW. Interesting, in a hypnotic way.

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!wanda April 19, 2009 at 11:31 pm

I don’t have a land line because when I moved to grad school, I lived in a cheap but semi-miserable rented room, and the only things I did there were sleep and laundry. (And I only slept there between boyfriends.) People would never get to call me at all if I didn’t have a cell. I don’t have cell coverage at work, though (something about being in the shadow of a mountain), so I don’t feel overwhelmed about being in touch.

My feeling is that Twitter, IM, and so on are just alternate ways of interacting with people. I personally prefer text.

Chance April 20, 2009 at 4:52 am

Twitter has enriched my life in many ways, but as a form of social engagement, not. I like it for breaking news, quick tips, and people who post really interesting links to longer pieces not usually on my radar screen. I agree with you, it may not be a form of social poverty, but it is not a social wealth builder either. Just another tool, like a hammer, one that tells me when 93 is closed cause of snow. Really interesting post.

Anne April 20, 2009 at 9:32 am

I’m a youngin’ (26) and only have a cell. One interesting comparison between me and my mom is that she always answers her phone. She feels, like you do, that it is intrusive but carries it for convenience. I cannot get her to wrap her mind around the idea that you only pick up when you want to talk to someone or think it might be important.

No one wants to talk to me when I’m cranky, so I just don’t pick up. No one wants me to pick up only to say “I’m sorry, I’m in a store and can’t talk, can I call you later?” That’s what voice mail is for. I agree with !wanda, though, I prefer texting.

Revanche April 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm

My 68 year old Overlord tried to tell me that “voicemail is out, texting is in” but since I don’t have unlimited text messaging or money, my soul takes refuge in the fact that he probably doesn’t yet know what Twitter is.

I used to take every single call as well, but I didn’t really find it terribly intrusive. Now in my *wink* later years, I’m just skipping calls because I don’t feel like talking.

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