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News » Private Eye

Unsocial Media

Twitter: The greatest uniter since CB radio.


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I’ve known Glen Warchol, Salt Lake Tribune blogger, for quite a few years, first being aware of him through common friends (yes, Warchol detractors, he has friends). He was working in the alternative press at the time for the Dallas Observer, and I knew plenty of the folks he worked for.

When he returned to Salt Lake City, we had lunch, and that was that. I never saw much of Warchol again until recently when I’ve bumped into him at the grand openings of a couple new Salt Lake City eateries. Last week, I attended the grand opening of the Sandbar on Pierpont Avenue. Warchol was there. I follow his Tribune blog, the Crawler, and I’d noticed recently he’d taken up tweeting.

Although I’ve been quite aware of Twitter for a long, long time—like eight or nine months already—I had never been to the Twitter site, nor had I Tweeted. Knowing that my newspaper industry is in transition, I was already preparing myself for the day I would become a twirp, uh, Twitter tweeter. Dan Nailen—himself another alternative press veteran and Tribune ex-pat also attended.

I didn’t want to confide to the hipster Nailen that I was still a Tweeter virgin. He’s the type who would point and snicker. So I turned to Warchol and asked for some tweeter tips. There was nowhere else to turn. It was bad enough two dinosaurs were in a room full of young hotties in the first place, but having both talking about something called “social media” instead of said hotties should be cause for concern to all of you.

Why? Because you’ll get there, too. But for now, the talk is indeed “social media.” Warchol said he’d e-mail some information, which he did. He also spoke to me in dinosaur. He said, “Who knows? Twitter could become the next CB radio.”

I looked around. I’m pretty sure there were only four other people in the room who even knew what a CB radio was, let alone able to grasp the meaning of what he told me. It was very nearly a Forrest Gump moment. Back in the day, CB radio was heralded as a great uniter, too—the voice of the people, the vehicle that allowed all of humanity to connect and communicate on the same level. Every self-respecting highway speedster had one.

On the flip side, CB radio was considered a valuable tool of the trade for all kinds of no-gooders—many a truck-stop tryst was arranged with the venerable CB and the cool phrase, “What’s your handle, baby?” Today, the only reason a prostitute would use a CB radio to announce her availability is if she’s in a wireless zone and can’t dial up Craigslist. Today, no one talks about CB radio except museum curators.

Back in the day, CB radio was heralded as a great uniter, too—the voice of the people

I had a CB. I’m old, but I can type. So I quickly set up a Twitter account (username: spikemall, a paean to working the track gang) and currently boast the grand sum of 26 followers, including an actress I’ve never met named Heidi who has an attention-getting background on her Twitter page. Thanks to that background, I follow her, too. What’s a “follower?” It’s someone who is interested in things that you are currently doing, writing or thinking.

For reasons known only to them, they await your tweets. A “follower” is nearly the opposite of a “following.” Those are persons whose tweets you follow, since you also don’t have a life. I currently follow 41 people, for example, and don’t really know why other than courtesy and scorekeeping. You follow me, I follow you, we both look like stalkers. Keeps the sane people off balance, I suppose. Like MySpace and Facebook, it seems people kind of track one another’s popularity (or, in a fantasy world, their influence) by the number of followers they have. I have 26. I’m a nobody on Twitter. Nailen, with 73 followers is nearly 3 times more popular than I.

He buys next time. Warchol has 141, which speaks well of him since he is being dragged downward, thanks to the death spiral the Tribune is wallowing in. My newest Twitter friend Heidi has 603 followers, so there you go—beauty trumps the beast once again. Heidi—I’ll buy! My buddy David Carr at The New York Times has 2,404 followers. He isn’t pretty, so there must be something to the notion that David is worth following for other reasons.

His smarts, perhaps, or his wit. Both score Twitter points. Oh, and he eats lots of meals with Hollywood and New York glitterati, so he adds the “let me tell you about my friend Jennifer Aniston” angle. Who can resist an insider who’s not a snob? Not me, so I follow Carr.

I thought that was the bar, but I looked up Barack Obama. On just his top Twitter site, he has 1,087,856 followers. Then, there are scads of Obama pages. Conversely, Dick Cheney’s top site has 491 followers. To be fair, it appears all of Cheney’s sites are fake. And that’s the weird and funny deal about “social media”—you really have to think in order not to be conned. I don’t care for Chris Buttars, but he’s been on Twitter longer than I.

He has four followers. I’m ahead of Buttars! Here’s his last and only tweet: “I don’t know what all the hullabaloo is over my comments that gays are like extreme Muslims. At least I didn’t call them dirty Mexicans.” Even I don’t think that tweet is from the real Chris Buttars. Or, is it? They say social media will replace dinosaurs like Warchol and me. Maybe. If it does, we’ll giggle more, but we won’t be better off.%uFFFD