Please never text me: an open letter to Jon

Jon, I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier to your text about whether I’d heard the new Sinéad O’Connor song. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to the four texts you sent after that, either. I should have; I know I’m a bad friend. But we’re pretty close, you and I, so I need to address a topic for you and everyone else who cares about keeping in touch with me. And that topic is: Please never text me.

I have a terrible, shitty smartphone. I know, I know, I should get a new one. Do you know how terrible and shitty my smartphone is? If I had even a half-decent smartphone, I would have been able to take screenshots of your texts for this post, instead of taking a picture of the whole phone in my hand using my computer. I don’t have a half-decent smartphone, though; I have a terribly, shitty phone. I’m not even comfortable calling it a smartphone, except for pure taxonomical purposes.

So I hate having a conversation on it. It takes for-fucking-ever just for the keyboard to come up sometimes, and also my reception is worse at my house than anywhere else in Madison, so even after the keyboard comes up, it also sometimes takes for-fucking-ever for the message to actually send.

But you know, even back when I had a half-decent smartphone, I hated text conversations. Because I have to pick up an entirely separate device (i.e., my phone) to have them. I spent nearly all day in front of my computer. It’s sad, it’s really sad. But it’s true. And I often work from home, so sometimes I don’t even bring my phone into my kitchen/office when I’m working; I just leave it in the bedroom, plugged in. If someone really needs me, they can email or use my beloved landline, which I prefer for phone calls because of (1) the reception thing and (2) its ergonomical superiority.

I miss texts all the goddamn time. I mean, I eventually see them, but sometimes it’s already the next day. I didn’t see your text for hours, Jon. And I’m not going to change. I’m already chained to one piece of digital machinery. I will not be darting back and forth between two. Especially when one is shitty and terrible.

If you need to get in touch with me outside of purely practical information (addresses, phone numbers, what time you’ll be somewhere, you need my underwear size because you’re buying me bespoke underwear), please, Jon — and everyone else, too — please just email me. Please never text.

I enjoyed the Sinéad O’Connor song. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I hope you and Stephanie and the cat and your prospective child are doing well.

Your friend,
Josh

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A few words about why Twitter is the best

My favorite thing in the world right now is probably Twitter. I mean, also my kid, but Twitter has never woken me up at 4am and not gone back to bed, and Twitter has never ratted me out to his mother after I said “shit” one morning when we were late for preschool. No, I love him more than words can bear, but if I’m honest about it, I look forward to being on Twitter more. I have never abruptly stopped masturbating just because I wanted to see what was going on with him.

Facebook is pretty good, too — better than people give it credit for. But Facebook and Twitter are totally different. (OK, not totally different, but they’re pretty different.) For starters, unless you’re George Takei, most of the people you communicate with on Facebook are gonna be people you know. Facebook is family; Twitter is friends. And Facebook is “I had English with you sophomore year,” whereas Twitter is “You’ve read the same books as me.”

Twitter is more than that, too, though. Are you aware of Black Twitter, which is just black people on Twitter? It’s called Black Twitter because it really does feel separate from the Twitter of white people, which is just called Twitter. People act like online life is super different from offline life, but actually, our online communities mirror our offline, “real-life” communities to a great extent. The white people mostly hang out with white people. The black people mostly hang out with black people. I think the cats on Twitter probably mostly hang out with the white people, too.

Anyway, I’m not really qualified to speak about Black Twitter — I just follow a handful of accounts, and it’s only been for a few months. It’s just wonderful, though. I’m not exactly suffering from a surplus of black or other minority voices in my life, either talking directly about minority issues and their experiences with racism, or just, you know being people. Twitter is worthwhile to me because it delivers both those things: philosophical engagement and a sense of the beauty and mundanity of other people’s lives. You can just sit back and listen. You learn so much.

It’s also very funny. Twitter is class clown paradise. Plain Twitter is funny, Black Twitter is funny, Feminist Twitter is so funny that for anyone who follows it, the stereotype of feminists as humorless has been forever obliterated. I have a feeling even Republican Twitter is funny, and that is saying something, because those guys have historically had trouble with that.

The popular line on Twitter is that it’s inane, that it’s people telling you what they had for lunch or lazy laptop activists who think you can save the world with clicks. There’s some of that. But what it’s been for me is a window into other people’s perspectives, both the quotidian and the momentous. There’s a roundedness there, far more than you get from reading a weekly newspaper column by a professional journalist. It’s much more like getting to know an author over the course of many books — you get a sense of their interests, their big concerns, their beliefs, how seriously they take things, how seriously they take themselves. And of course, though many people on Twitter have tremendous facility with the language (it’s a natural home for poets), most people posting aren’t professional writers.

More thoughts on Twitter to come. But I want to go on the record as saying that I think it’s going to prove to be pretty important; and it wouldn’t surprise if we saw a competitor pop up in the next few years. It wouldn’t have to be an American company, either.

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“You should read this. I haven’t.”

Not sure why I started paying attention, but I’ve been a little shocked to realize just how many links I share or retweet without first reading them in full to determine if I really agree with them. I know that sounds really stupid — it is really stupid — but it’s true. But I suspect I’m not alone.

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