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Tweet your way into the historical record

I am, admittedly, pretty far behind the times when it comes to technology and social networking. I have an outdated cell phone that I only use to make calls. I have an iPod Touch that I only use to listen to music, and I have a Facebook account that I visit about once a month and have yet to update the status of.

Oh, I suppose I know how to send text messages with my phone, but I try to refrain from doing so, as I consider texting by anyone who isn’t a girl in junior high school to be exceptionally lame. And if I absolutely had to I guess I could figure out how to get online with my iPod, although I honestly didn’t know I could download apps for it until about a month ago.

The Facebook thing happened almost by accident. I missed my 20-year high school reunion and was told I could only see pictures of it by signing up for Facebook, so I did, despite not ever wanting to.

For about a month I found it mildly amusing. I thought it was a contest to see who could amass the most friends, and even though in real life I have maybe five friends total, I managed to track down 400 people who remembered meeting me at some point in the past and befriended them. However, when it finally dawned on me that no prizes were forthcoming — and that Tila Tequila had 8,000 more friends than I did — I quickly lost interest.

But at least I understand the appeal of Facebook. I mean, I’d love to believe I actually have 400 friends. Who wouldn’t want to be that popular? That would make anyone feel good about themselves. I get that. The thing I don’t understand, though, is Twitter.

First of all, what sort of egomaniac needs to constantly update people about what they’re doing or thinking? More importantly, how sad must one’s own life be to make one care what other people are doing at every minute of the day and sign up to receive updates from them? The whole endeavor seems incredibly self-indulgent and rather pathetic to me.

Nevertheless, Twitter has apparently become so important in American life that the Library of Congress — yes, that Library of Congress — is moving forward with a plan to archive every single tweet ever posted publicly. (In case you were wondering, that’s billions of tweets so far and about 55 million new ones every day.)

Imagine if you were a writer, and you finally got a book published, and you opened a copy to see your Library of Congress cataloging information. It would probably make you very proud to know you were going to be sharing space with such literary giants as Hemingway, Poe and Melville … until you realized you’d also be sharing space with millions of nobodies with user names like Bieberdelicious, spricey and thekooksmusic.

So why is the Library of Congress doing this? According to Twitter’s general counsel, Alex MacGillivray, “I think it shows the tweets are an interesting part of the historical record.”

Really? Let’s take a look at some of Thursday’s top tweets. Most of them are from Justin Bieber fans letting us know that they are “Beliebers.” That’s definitely important for everyone to know. Carmelo Anthony says, “Congrats to the homie Kevin Durant for the scoring title. He deserved it.” Historians will naturally be interested in that centuries from now. And some guy named John writes, “I think I have Jared (Allen) convinced to join Twitter — standby. This might be hilarious.” I know I’ll be checking in every five minutes to see what happens.

Certainly, there are some tweets that we might want to preserve for posterity. Barack Obama sent out tweets right after he was elected president. Those might be of interest to someone, but beyond that, I would imagine that 99.9 percent of all tweets are pointless drivel.

The Library of Congress is home to a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of only four perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible, and more than 21 million books that real authors spent countless hours writing and rewriting until they were worthy of publication and inclusion in the Library of Congress.

To even hint that a tweet such as Nick Jonas’ recent observation that he “just realized I finished the Administration record about one year ago” deserves to be in the Library of Congress is not only asinine, it also cheapens everything the library is supposed to stand for.

About The Author

Todd Hartley

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04 2010

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