Oh No! Not Twittering. Anything but Twittering.

When I started this blog, I was adamant that it would not be a 'blog': hence the title 'de-blog' - a play on words that allowed me to connect my name to this log of my life whilst at the same time condemning the shortening of the term web log / weblog.

With this in mind it may be surprising to read that last night I received a ticking off for my use of 'ur' as instant message shorthand of 'your' in a writers' chat-room, and rightly so. Sometimes these things occur out of force of habit and it's one I wish I hadn't acquired. Modern methods of communication are obliterating our language and it seems that I, like everyone else, have succumbed to the necessity to 'get with it'.

This is not to say that I despise new technology; far from it, I appreciate the simplicity and immediacy of email, something I have had far more success in using than I ever did with traditional postal mail. It is a long time since I had penpals, who undoubtedly went on to find other English speaking people who could be bothered to write back. To those individuals I apologise wholeheartedly: it was nothing you said or did.

Instant Messaging has proved to be an incredibly useful tool also, for I am not so adept with the spoken word, as any of those who know me will testify. However, the key is in the name: instant messaging. I am as guilty as the next person of being so impatient that typing a whole sentence just doesn't seem instant enough. In context, it appears appropriate to shorten long and winding statements or questions to the shortest form possible, providing that doing so doesn't lose the meaning.

I can also appreciate the need for protocol and the shortening of many phrases has resulted directly from this. We no longer refer to web logs or electronic mail and I don't think we ever used the term 'inter-net'. We log on to MySpace, Facebook and liveJournal without a thought to the connecting of words in such a manner. It is customary to capitalise each word when writing it outside the browser address bar, but the names refer to domains where spaces are not allowed and hyphens are abandoned in the quest for the simple and easy to remember. With the billions of sites out there, the last thing any company needs is a domain name that could be mis-typed and direct the user to entirely the wrong place.

I didn't want a 'blogspot'; I certainly had no intention of creating a 'liveJournal'; I was signed up to 'MySpace' by my students and joined 'Facebook' under the duress of friends who were already there, in spite of the fact that it sounds like the kind of action one contemplates when finally comprehending a difficult to read text (a la 'headdesk': the act of banging head on desk in despair).

But today I hit the bottom of the well, mentally and electronically. I'd been awake with toothache until 3am, then slept for four hours after taking anti-inflammatories. Two cups of coffee and a shower later I still felt dreadful, so I stayed in bed, ate toast topped with leftover beans and watched a couple of pretty lousy Christmas movies on TV. When I eventually managed to drag myself downstairs at 1pm, I read Jeff Atwood's Coding Horror Blog, which is something I enjoy and it's on my iGoogle page, but today it was merely a means of passing the time before taking my daughter to the dentist.

At some point, considering the title of this post, I have to get around to writing about 'Twitter.com'. The word itself is ugly and irritating: birds twitter when they wake us at dawn and we're not happy about it. Children twitter all the way through the TV programme we wanted to watch. However the verb is applied it carries negative connotations and I have yet to fathom why any website would wish to condone such a practice, let alone use the term for its domain name.

Last week some of my fellow novelists were "twittering about their progress" and I couldn't help but wonder why they were proud to boast this. Still, I took solace in the fact that the more discerning members of the electronic community tend to avoid twittering, and then Jeff Atwood's post referred to a friend's "recent twitter update". I concluded that if it was good enough for Jeff - well who was I to cast aspersions?

So I went to Twitter.com, where the buttons are labelled thus: 'What?'; 'Why?'; 'How?'.

What? I know 'what' twitter is and do my very best to avoid it in all its forms.
Why? because it's like the aftermath of a piece of grit under the eyelid.
How? I don't care how.

I returned to the Twitter homepage, where I noticed one final question:

What are you doing?

I don't think they meant it quite the way I read it.


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