Why Twitter is Sinking Some Relationships


In the age of Twitter, it may be necessary to lay down some rules - such as, don't let your personal gadgets interfere with your personal relationships. Or to say it in Twitterese: Put down that phone! (Only 20 characters.) For some, the rule on a first date with a woman is clear: No Twitter twaddle. No cellphones, no iPod, no BlackBerry, no blinking device of any kind. "When I take a woman out and her cellphone is glued to her hand, there is no second date," says a man who meets women through MySpace. "One woman was so obsessed with MySpace, she had to check it while with me at my home - and then proceeded to get into a virtual argument with her ex. I escorted her to the door."

Think that's bad? Try this scenario: You are having dinner in a restaurant with a friend and you are both twittering away, sending out banal remarks - "tweets" - in 140 characters or less to hundreds or thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people around the world who "follow" you on the rapidly growing microblogging messaging service. On your phone, you see her tweet: "I don't like the chicken I'm eating." What? Why doesn't she send it back? Suddenly, it hits you: She's telling scores of random strangers around the world that she doesn't like her meal, but can't be bothered to tell you sitting at the same table?

As seen in USA Today, Twitter is not the only culprit in the competition for a loved one's attention: Facebook and MySpace, e-mail via BlackBerry and iPhone, blogging and video blogging, video games, plus text messaging (and its naughty twin, sexting). The fight between pop-music couple Rihanna and Chris Brown started because, according to the police report, she saw a text message from another woman on his cellphone and got upset. But Twitter is the latest big thing, and it's not always put to inane use. Last week, The New York Times reported on its front page that young dissidents in the former Soviet state of Moldova used Twitter (and Facebook and text messaging) to organize a huge rally against the government that led to a riot. Also, some police and fire agencies are using Twitter to spread information quickly, such as word of traffic tie-ups or suspect descriptions.

Launched in July 2006, Twitter is the fastest-growing social networking service, recording a 1,841% increase in accounts between February 2008 and February 2009, says co-founder Biz Stone. It now has an estimated 8 million users. Still, all the world's not a-Twittering (yet); is there really a problem with personal gadgets ruining personal relationships? "I do think it's widespread," sighs Soren Gordhamer, an expert on the over-stressed and over-connected, and author of the forthcoming "Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected." Gordhamer says technology aimed at bringing people closer through communication also may be creating distance.

"There are cool aspects. The challenge is: When do we use them and when do they use us?" Gordhamer says. "A tool isn't good or bad; it's just a tool. The question often not explored is what are some of the ways in which it's actually reducing quality of life and relationships?"

IRL,
Erin



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