I try to be cool and keep up with new technology trends, but in my fourth decade on this earth, it’s not easy. Hardware, software, sportswear, evening wear — it’s all the same to me. I know nothing about computers other than how to turn them on, and use the Internet and basic word processing programs.
I wasn’t even on Facebook for the first several years of its existence. Friends kept telling me, “You HAVE to be on Facebook!” But I resisted. Isn’t Facebook — like Trix — for kids? When I moved to Brazil in 2008, my friends laid down the law. “Look, grandpa, Facebook is the only way you can keep in touch with us here in the States, unless you have Skype.” Huh? What’s a Skype?
So I gave in, signed up for Facebook, and discovered they were right. I thought it would be something akin to the “computer programming” class I took in high school, when the only programming language was BASIC. Instead, it was this amazing, user-friendly platform that helped me stay in touch in real-time with my friends on the other side of the equator. I quickly fell in love with Facebook, and eventually learned how to Skype, too.
That was five years ago, and it was the last time I really expanded my computer horizons and learned something new. About a year ago, I started getting the lectures from my friends again, only this time it was about Twitter. It started with a colleague at the paper who asked me for my Twitter “handle” (What’s a handle? Like a CB radio?) so she could “tweet” my handle when she tweeted my stories. I told her, “Sorry, I’m not a twit.”
Then the chorus began. “How can you be a writer and not be on Twitter?” Well, my columns aren’t published on Twitter, so it’s pretty easy. “Everybody is on Twitter, you’re like a technological Neanderthal.”
Two weeks ago I decided to teach this old dog a new trick, and I signed up for Twitter. The whole thing was quite perplexing. Every posting had all sorts of weird markings. “#Nemo killing us here, 4ft of #snow. #endoftheworld. How much do you have @warlock_king.” WTF does that mean?
It took a week or so, but I finally got the hang of it. The hashtags denote a topic, so any user can click it and see what everyone else in the Twittersphere has to say on that particular subject. The “@” sign denotes another user, so if you use @ and their handle, that person sees your tweet.
The main difference I’ve discovered between Facebook and Twitter is that Facebook only allows you to connect with someone if there’s a mutual desire to do so. Twitter is a completely public platform that lets you “follow” (not “friend”) anyone you want. The other difference is that messages must be 140 characters or less, which can be quite a challenge.
Don’t ask me how Twitter does this, but it also suggests other tweeters that you might want to follow, and it’s remarkably precise in its suggestions. Twitter realized I was gay in the first five minutes and started suggesting appropriate tweeters to me. The Human Rights Campaign, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Roseanne Barr, even Neil Patrick Harris.
It was disconcerting; how did Twitter know that I think Roseanne is the funniest comic ever, or that NPH is my secret TV boyfriend? But after about 100 of those it got old. Yes, Twitter, you outed me, I’m gay… but I’m interested in lots of other things that are not homo-related.
I did a search for the NFL and started following a couple of football-related tweeters. Suddenly Twitter suggested that I follow Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. What?! They’re on Twitter too?! As the only two NFL players to aggressively support marriage equality, I have a totally one-sided bromance with them both. Of course I clicked “follow.”
I was fumbling my way through Twitter a few days ago, still trying to figure it all out, when I got a message that I had an “interaction” with someone. I didn’t know what that meant, but hit the link. It took me to my “interactions” page, which I didn’t even know existed. There I read the most beautiful words I’ve ever read in my life: “Brendon Ayanbadejo (@brendon310) mentioned you on Twitter!” OMG! One of my football heroes actually read what I wrote and retweeted it to his legion of followers! That never happened to me on Facebook.
Then, a few hours later, it got even better when I got another notice. I clicked the link, went to the interactions page, and saw, “Roseanne Barr (@TheRealRoseanne) favorited your Tweet!” Seriously? My favorite comic, who’ve I’ve loved since she was the original domestic goddess in the ’80s, and the first person to prominently feature gay and lesbian characters and storylines (and actors) on a TV sitcom, not only read my Tweet, but “favorited” it? I was in Twitter heaven.
At first I felt like a social media manwhore, cheating on Facebook with Twitter. It felt dirty sneaking around to spend time with my new love. Now I’ve decided to make it official. I’m divorcing Facebook so I can publicly and proudly declare my love for the younger, prettier and more exciting Twitter. It’s scary leaving a comfortable, long-term relationship for the relatively unknown, but I guess it’s my version of a mid-life crisis. Hopefully, Twitter will keep loving me back.
Doug Allen fell in love with Twitter just in time for his Macbook to crash. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org  or on Twitter @Doug__Allen (two underscores).