Beat the Tweet

By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  July 22, 2009

We need our online crutches, even as they slowly suck the life out of us.

So how do we begin to take back our back yards and enjoy the precious few weeks of sunshine that are left of this wretchedly waterlogged summer?

The process of reclaiming social ownership seems more complicated than just chucking laptops and phones out the window and breathing a sigh of relief. It's about asking ourselves, "Why is it more important that my online microcosm of connections knows that I'm eating this cheeseburger than it is to actually taste this cheeseburger?" It's gooey and plump and there's juices from it running down my arm and that's what this simple pleasure should be about — not wiping my fingers on the side of my jeans in my haste to tell the world what I'm doing this instant.

(Easier said than done — over the course of writing this article, I've tweeted twice and checked my Facebook page about 40 times. Research. That's what I'm calling it. Not pathetic, just research.)

Ultimately, there's a decision to be made; would you rather read a poorly spelled, hastily written one-liner about how your "friend" went to a movie, or would you rather go to the movies yourself? Click on a link to a blog about waterskiing, or jump in a lake? It's a screamingly Pollyanna-ish notion, but the key to giving up online addiction seems to be to substitute it with real-time action, to remind yourself that, ultimately, your best moments will be actual, not virtual, and that it's okay if your entire realm of contacts isn't updated on how you're feeling about the ice-cream cone you purchased nine seconds before pushing "send" on a text message to Twitter.

A few of my friends recently pared down their Facebook connections, "un-friending" anyone with whom they aren't personally acquainted. Some have sworn off Facebook altogether. I may follow suit — at least until I can thwart my own "Look at me! Look at me!" compulsions to share my business with the world.

It's the first step I'm making toward actually enjoying my summer. So, unless you hear about it directly from my mouth (not my fingers), you won't hear a peep — or a tweet — about it. I'll be outside, unplugged, hearing only the birds and the tourists, not my CrackBerry, chirping.

Will the forthcoming college co-eds follow suit? After all, the requisite "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" essay surely requires more effort than simply aggregating and printing your BBQ-related tweets. What are you going to write about, kiddies, if all you have to write about is writing about things? Meta? Yes. But, sadly, increasingly on point. Now, excuse me. I have to go create a TinyURL for this article and blast it to my friends on Facebook.

Sara Faith Alterman is updating her status. She can be reached at salterman@phx.com.

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