Suddenly, a day without Twitter was like a day without sunshine. My apologies to Anita Bryant.
It wasn't that long ago that face-to-face contact was the preferred means of keeping in touch with those close to us. Nothing was better than sharing a cup of coffee, or a tasty adult beverage, while we spent some time catching up. Since our list of people that we truly considered friends - people we thought to be coffee-worthy - was limited, those were special times to reconnect.
With the advent of email, it became easier to dash off e-notes to people, including those whom we most probably would not have bought a cup 'o Joe, but e-friends are different than real friends, so it seemed perfectly reasonable to share a summary of our comings and goings with them electronically. Since it took some time and effort to compose and send the email, we had to put a little thought into the information we were seeking to relate, because we didn't want to pen a 1 megabyte electronic missive. Who has the attention span to sit and read that?
Then came MySpace, Facebook, and most notably, Twitter, on cellular smart phones, that allowed all of us to provide quite frequent, and mostly unnecessary, updates to the scores of "friends", and they to us. We weren't that concerned with whether they had any real interest in knowing that we were eating Chinese food, or that we were having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, because when they added us as friends, such updates became part of the unwritten, but underlying social dynamic: you read my drivel, and I'll read yours. At least I'll tell you that I read yours, but I'll really just skip past it to see if you posted any new pictures.
Twitter, particularly, with the 140-character limit, was perfect for the short-attention-span-theater crowd, and it gave the perfect excuse to jumble together words, semi-words, sentence fragments, and numbers into an almost indecipherable conglomeration of useless jetsam that could be rocketed to thousands of souls around the world with the click of a mouse. Hey, they asked for it.
With this week's DDOS, varying levels of cyber-panic set in among Twitter devotees. CNN reported the phenomenon thusly:
What may prove more lasting about the day social networking suffered its first major blackout is the degree to which people cared. Near-panic erupted in some corners of the Internet as people lost cherished links to their online friends, family members and news feeds.
Their story contained numerous anecdotes from those panicked and paralyzed:
Some people are mocking the blackout. A user named PaulWilks, for instance, wrote, "I took up juggling."
Others seem concerned. "I did absolutely nothing. It's like my heart was gone," wrote a user named HarajukuxBarbie. "I felt so empty inside," wrote another Twitter user called freinhar.
Now that Twitter is back online and the anxiety has subsided, have Twitter-users tossed away the keypads and iPhones, choosing instead to go outside, read a book, or call their closest friends to invite them for a latte so they can catch up on what was missed?
Of course not. Everyone is too busy following the most popular conversation thread, "whentwitterwasdown."
Image by xotoko via flickr