Alone in the Twitter trenches

"good morning my little vectors of contagion"

And with that ''tweet'' from comic book writer and novelist Warren Ellis, I entered the world of Twitter.

How long I plan to stay there is anyone's guess, but for now I find it amusing to receive random and cloying updates from the lives of people I'll never meet.

Here's how it works: You visit to create an account (on my deathbed 15 years from now I'm sure I will despair when it hits me that 20 percent of my life was spent creating Internet accounts) and choose a snarky moniker by which you will be forever known in the Twitter universe.

From there you can toss out 140-character micro-updates to those in your network. Anything goes.

My political tendencies lean from strict libertarian to just-right of Rachel Maddow. However, I'm an unabashed technological conservative, bitter and afraid.

A sampling of statements I've made over the years: "The World Wide Web shall prove useless once everyone realizes how much they'll miss feeling a book or newspaper in their hands"; "I will never, never, never have an e-mail account. Never"; "MySpace is doomed to failure. It will never replace human interaction"; "YouTube? Just another fad."

Little did I know every job I would take in the future would require the creation of an in-company e-mail account and that I would prepare mentally for these columns by watching a YouTube clip of Big Black doing "Bad Penny" from a legendary 1985 show in Chicago.

I've enjoyed my time with Twitter so far, though it has given me pause when considering the accounts I choose to follow.

What does it say about me when the first five people I decided to follow include terrorist-torture artist Jack Bauer, Prez Barack Obama, transgressive comic writer Warren Ellis, porn queen Sasha Grey and Darth Vader?

As you can see many Twitter accounts are fake, but that's where the fun begins, my friends.

For instance, a Lord Vader tweet: "Just found out Fett's been lying to me. Can't believe I've been hanging out with Boba Berkowitz all these years."

You can tell this Internet ship remains captained by geeks as most of the fake profiles are characters from "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Trek." Sadly, my newest nerd obsession "Battlestar Galactia" is underrepresented.

Perhaps I should do something about this? Should I digitally masquerade as Starbuck? Or Lt. Lee Adama?

You hear stories about people landing jobs with tech and media companies, but that's beside the point. Twitter is a time waster, pure and simple.

Sure, you can follow NPR or BBC breaking news, but you're a responsible American who will always check the news feeds before diving into the Twitter-verse.


I've managed to avoid social networking sites on the basis of time constraints and the fact that my life is not at all interesting.

I find Twitter more appealing than Facebook or MySpace because of the strict parameters the site developer placed on the users. Facebook updates can drone on and on, while Twitter grants one a mere 140 characters with which to communicate a thought.

It's interesting how this structure fosters creativity through brevity. Call it the death of language. Fine. At least I will be laughing as the machine shows flatline.

An Ellis tweet: "Sometimes I pity the 5226 people following me here. And then I think: no, you like the taste of my brain custard as I shoot it into your eyes."

The depressing factor sets in when you receive updates from people who you assume lead lives of risk and adventure of which you can only aspire, only to find existence is tedious and plebeian for them as well.

"Just woke up. Am taking the morning dump," tweeted filmmaker Kevin Smith a while back. That was the first idea communicated to me that morning. I had to take a step back to reconsider the Twitter thing.

Weirdness ensued a few weeks ago when I tagged Obama's profile for updates as he worked to push the stimulus bill through Congress.

Upon subscribing to his profile, I received a disturbing e-mail that read, "Barack Obama is now following you on Twitter."

I expected this message, but given the fact this guy has access to the Secret Service and a fleet of black helicopters, I was for a moment taken aback by the thought of him "following" me.

Such is life in this wired world.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail

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