Gregory Dennis: The time suck that is Twitter

My name is Greg and I’m a Twitterholic.
It didn’t used to be this way. Back before my addiction took hold, I could just look at Twitter for a few minutes and then go on with my life.
Now, though, I can’t escape the giant time suck. The pull of the keyboard, the angry post and the witty riposte.
Some people pour their entire lives down the bottle. I’m in danger of pouring my life down the Twitterverse. And when you’re drinking from the firehouse that is Twitter, the high never lasts.
Like most other addictions, this one started slowly. “The first hit is free,” said the dealer. In fact, it turns out every hit is free, technically speaking.
Soon enough, though, it takes bigger and bigger doses to get the same rush that you got the first time someone “liked” one of your tweets.
After the first like, the big new rush comes when someone retweets one of your posts, broadcasting it out to their Twitter followers.
Being retweeted feels like it did the first time someone passed you a note in grade school and you realized: “They like me, they actually like me.”
Here are some basics for those of you who are lucky to have normal lives — the kind where you’re not being dragged down by your Twitter jones.
Twitter is a free social-media service available to anyone with an Internet connection. Once you decide on a nom de plume (a “handle,” or Twitter name, usually accompanied by a photo), you’re free to roam the Twitterverse.
You can lurk and read other people’s posts, or you can post your own thoughts and links to material you’ve found online, with most posts limited to 140 characters. You can also like or retweet others’ posts.
Various subjects are called out by being marked with a hashtag. It’s a sign that you’re not a novice if you know to use the hashtag.
These tags also turn out to be a fun way to follow uniquely Twitter humor, as with #RuinABookTitleInOneLetter. For example: “Lady Chatterley’s Mover,” “Guns, Perms and Steel,” “Stranger in a Strange Band,” “The Bun Also Rises,” and “The Drapes of Wrath.”
Soon enough, you can reach a point where — unless you stop this madness — you wake up each morning and find yourself wondering what’s on Twitter.
From there it’s just one small step to pondering what wise, cutting, insightful or deliciously vindictive comment you can make about it on your personal Twitter feed.
I joined the service as a way to stay current on news and opinions about climate change. Among the best sources: Ripton resident Bill McKibben. At 261,000 and counting, McKibben has one of the biggest followings of any Vermonter. But it’s small compared to the 6.7 million people who follow Bernie Sanders.
The best climate-related tweet this week belongs to Sen. Tim Kaine: “Syria just joined the Paris climate deal, leaving US as the only nation on Earth opposed. So by ‘America first,’ they meant America last.”
Twitter is a great place for anyone who has an axe to grind.
Among some Democrats, for example, the Hillary vs. Bernie Wars of 2016 are being endlessly replayed a year later. Leading many of us to conclude that these people really need to get a life and start worrying about the 2018 elections instead of fighting the last war.
In the wake of what was immediately labeled the #TexasChurchMassacre, Twitter has this week been alive with thousands of posts on both sides of the gun issue.
MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted this: “Americans are living like packs of warlords, with heavily armed people everywhere, any one of whom can kill dozens at will. This is insane.”
When President Trump said it was a mental health issue that prompted the Texas murders, Stephanie Ruhle responded by tweeting that Trump “blames mental illness, but signed a bill allowing the mentally ill to buy guns & supported healthcare reform that didn’t cover mental health.”
Said Keifer Lirette: “The 2nd Amendment was written at the same convention where they decided slaves were only 3/5ths of a person so maybe it’s worth reexamining.”
But there have been plenty of pungent comments on the other side of the gun issue, too. James Woods, the politically conservative actor and producer, cleverly called out Keith Olbermann.
The latter had tweeted to say that if the Texas killer were a Muslim, Trump would have called for the death penalty.
To which Woods replied: “Kinda hard to enact the death penalty against a dead man, genius. #RavingLunaticOlbermann.”
The Tweeter-in-Chief, of course, is President Trump. He makes news with virtually every tweet, and it’s speculated that some of his posts will be used in court as evidence of obstruction of justice in the #TrumpRussia imbroglio.
Trump has over 42 million followers. It is not reassuring to know that many of those are thought to be not real people but “bots” — which inflate the size of Trump’s account and may have been used by the Russians in their disinformation campaign to disrupt the 2016 elections.
For the record, my favorite bot is @everyword, which according to Wikipedia “has tweeted every word of the English language. It started in 2008 and tweeted every 30 minutes until 2014.”
Of course we Twitterholics are always trying to get our friends to join us. Kind of like drunks who ask their friends to join them at the bar “for just a quick one.”
#Vtpoli, for example, turns out to be a great way to see what’s being said in real time about Vermont politics.
You should check it out.
Gregory Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @greengregdennis.

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