I could have sworn I'd clicked “No, thanks.” But instead I must have clicked, “Hell yes! Sign me up now because God forbid I should have only 17 other points of access to all the mundane shit my friends (or should I say ‘friends'?) are up to.” Thanks to the shiny new Gmail Buzz, Google's answer to TwitFaceMySpaceLinkedInPlaxoWave, I now get all the mindless shorthand drivel in octuplicate. Oh, how quaint, the days of a handwritten letter.
Sometime last week—after I'd wasted an hour on Facebook (OK, fine, so it was two hours) and an unspecified amount of time perusing the photos of my contacts on Flickr, and then a while or so reading only headlines at three newsy sites, and one quick dip into Twitter for Emily Alpert's updates on the San Diego Unified School District Budget Kerfuffle: The 2010 Edition, while simultaneously conducting three chats, one direct-messaging session, writing a blog post, taking a phone call, tweezing my eyebrows and helping my daughter complete 29 Valentine's Day cards—I noticed the word “Buzz” and a brand-spankin'-new rainbow-colored thought bubble just below the link to my Gmail inbox.
Since I had some spare time, I clicked on it.
And lo! The information came screaming at me in layers and layers of layers. Without doing anything, I already had 30 followers, was following eight people and had a bold-face offer to follow bunches more. Some of my followers and followees were already engaged in lengthy—though, let's be honest, not exactly riveting—conversations with people they follow or who follow them, many of whom I do not know or follow. You follow me?
I felt like I'd arrived at a friend's house in sweats and slippers with cold cream on my face expecting an intimate dinner of take out and chick flicks, only to find a hedonistic gala with beautiful guests decked out in Alexander McQueen finery (rest his poor soul). Apparently, I didn't get the memo.
“So... is there a way to just link my Twitter feed to Buzz? That'd be so much easier...” wrote one friend whom I'm automatically following.
“Buzz can take your tweets but you can't update Twitter through Buzz yet,” responded his friend, whom I am not following. That friend continued, “I feel like a big stupid jackass for using those words in that sentence.” Hmmm. Self-deprecation is a feature I dig—maybe I want to follow this guy, after all.
As I scrolled down in blurry-eyed dismay, I read some of the—what are they called? Buzzards? Buzzits? Buzztwits?—and noticed that most of what I was reading, I'd already read during my earlier Facebook time-suck. With the same exact content in multiple places, it would be safe to say that the linking of platforms is well underway and my friend needn't worry about sending his message out multiple times. One voice command into his trusty-rusty iPhone and his could be the Tweet heard 'round the world. Holy Merriam-Webster! Am I even speaking English anymore? R u?
Seriously, people. It's a sorry state of affairs when we can link all of our accounts but can't manage to link with the people sitting right across the dinner table because we're busy twatfacebuzzering—that is, if people actually come together in the same physical space to begin with. Our relationships have been watered down to pokes and useless virtual cocktails and serial IMs. We're so constantly in touch that there's hardly a need to meet.
I have numerous friends whose marriages are on the edge of a knife in large part because the blue glow of technology has taken the place of intimacy. Hell, I could end up being one of those people if I'm not careful: Just this second—literally as I typed—I was chatting with a friend in Boise and half-conversing with my husband, who was standing in front of me folding my laundry. The only reason I spoke to him rather than texting him from my Blackberry is because I knew responding would have taken him away from fondling my underwear, his only opportunity since my multitasking doesn't often include getting naked with him.
Speaking of my phone—to which I upgraded from a 5-year-old, sticker-adorned flip phone in December—I can now check e-mail and Facebook and all that twattie-yahoodle from my car or the beach or the movies or the grocery store or the gym. If I want to, I can buzz all my friends—and their friends and their friends—to let them know I'm at 80 percent of my maximum heart rate. Right! This! Second! Instant gratification is dog-slow compared with the offerings of the 3G Network.
With all these options, it's increasingly difficult to live in the present. But I'm old-fashioned at heart, and I'm pushing back against this nonsense. I prefer letters to listservs, and once in a while, I have to unplug. Two weeks ago, I forged ahead sans cell phone, albeit unintentionally. And that day, I heard raindrops—actual droplets of water falling from nimbostratus clouds—crashing on my sunroof. I watched them bead up and slide down my windows. I had a driveway moment during which I wasn't texting, e-mailing or talking. It was raining, and I was listening. L-I-S-T-E-N-I-N-G.
This week, I got a postcard from a good friend in Switzerland. A physical piece of paper with ink on it. The original 140-character communiqué. In cursive, scrunched together to fit the limited space, my friend wrote, “Can you stop over in Zurich on your way to the Amalfi (I read about it on your blog)?”
I decided right then that a letter was the only appropriate response. But we're modern girls and I needed her physical address. And since I'd already shut off Buzz in disgust, I asked her for her digits the old fashioned way: I e-mailed her. Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.