They say life is sweeter for Twitterers who Tweet

Coda • GREG BEAN

The email message was enough to make little beads of sweat break out on my forehead and set my heart to thumping with dread.

It said one of my brothers had invited me to join Twitter so he and I could Tweet.

It’s not easy keeping true to my Luddite philosophies in today’s society, but I do my best. I am extremely skeptical of new technology and technological fads, and I always wait as long as possible to jump in. If I wait long enough, I find that many of these fads will pass before I’m forced to commit.

Our lives are already filled with too many things that demand our time and attention. Why add more? When Henry David Thoreau urged people to “Simplify, simplify,” he was talking about possessions like furniture. But you can just imagine what he would have done had you handed him a cell phone so his pal Ralph Waldo Emerson could call him 30 times a day to talk about the minutiae of transcendentalism. He would have tied that cell phone to a rock and pitched it into Walden Pond.

I didn’t buy a CB radio when everyone was using them, for example, because it was my theory that talking on a CB radio actually killed brain cells and lowered IQ. Try saying “10-4, Good Buddy,” with conviction, and you’ll know what I mean.

I didn’t get a pager when everyone was carrying them and held out until one of the IT guys in our company handed me one in a box and said I ought to use it.

“Why?” I asked. “Do you think there’ll be a headline emergency?”

“No,” he said, “but the boss wants you to have one.”

I think he was fibbing, but I took the thing and kept it in the box in the bottom drawer of my desk. Whenever people tried to page me and complained that I didn’t answer, I’d just shrug my shoulders and make some lame comment about the battery probably being dead.

It was pretty much the same thing with cell phones. People at work insisted I needed one, so I got a cell phone. Then, I promptly set about not using it. For about three years, I kept calls to a minimum by refusing to print my cell phone number in the company directory, and also refusing to give the number to anyone but family members. One of them finally leaked, however, and people started calling me, so I was forced to protect myself by refusing to turn it on. One day the boss called me on a landline while I was visiting our satellite office to complain that he’d phoned me three times on my cell, but that I didn’t answer.

“The battery must be dead,” I explained.

“Baloney,” he said. “I’m never calling you on a cell phone again.”

“OK,” I said, relieved.

I’ve finally come to terms with having a cell phone, though, and I admit it might come in handy in an emergency. But I still never turn the thing on. Last month, in our shared family cell phone plan, my wife burned up 137 minutes. My son churned through a whopping 654 and had a bunch of other charges for text messages, pictures and the like. I used seven minutes of airtime for the same period and couldn’t remember who I might have called. I finally figured out how to check the callsmade log, though, and found out I’d spent my seven minutes calling the service station to report a dead battery in my pickup. I can’t rememberwhy

I just didn’t walk into the house and use a landline, but the cell apparently came in handy in that case. So considering my aversion to things as ubiquitous as cell phones, you can imagine how freaked out I’d been about the growing popularity of Twitter. They

were talking about it on television; there were dozens of stories in the newspapers. According to The New York Times, lots of celebrities and politicians are Tweeting to let their fans know what they’re up to. Martha Stewart Tweets, as does Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Rachel Maddow, Emeril Lagasse and Jane Fonda. Ashton Kutcher apparently Tweets a lot about his wife, Demi Moore. Every day, it’s reported that Twitter signs up 2,000 new users, and the total number of users is in the millions.

I became increasingly convinced that huge segments of our society had finally gone insane.

For my fellow Luddites out there, Twitter is what they call a “social networking” site that allows you to send brief messages (no longer than 140 characters) to selected or large groups of people. These messages are called Tweets, and most seem to be answering the question “What am I doing?”

You can send a Tweet explaining that your dryer is on the fritz, for example, and you’re going to the laundromat to dry your clothes. You can send a Tweet telling people that you’ve opted for the chicken fried steak at the diner, because you’re sick of meatloaf.

The variety of inane, 140-character messages that people can send each other is mindboggling, and of course as the number of users on Twitter has grown exponentially, some people have become obsessed with Tweeting.

I watched something on television recently saying that Jennifer Aniston (an actress whose movies I never watch) had broken up with her musician boyfriend John Mayer (whose music I’ve never heard) because of his obsession with Twitter. If it’s true, I don’t blame her. I think a guy who would rather compose 140- character Tweets than hang out with Jennifer Aniston probably deserves whatever happens to him and should never be in a situation where he might procreate. He’s so dumb he would pollute the gene pool by siring children.

I have a semi-obsessive personality anyway, and I can’t risk that happening to me. So when I spoke to my brother last weekend, I had to tell him that I would politely decline his invitation to Twitter, or Tweet.

“Why?” he asked. “It might be fun.”

“Some people think driving roofing nails into the soles of their feet is fun,” I said. “But I’d rather sip a nice merlot and listen to Van Morrison. Besides, my wife won’t let me Twitter. She knows what happened to Jennifer Aniston.”

He bought it, temporarily, but I don’t think I’ve heard the last of this. Therefore, I have a question: If I eventually give in to his invitations and join Twitter, can I have him Tweet me on my cell phone?

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.