With youth tweeting on the rise in great numbers, we are seeing a societal shift that may never allow us to enjoy the quiet times of the past. A noise-filled stream of information and self-promotion is in danger of changing our entire existence into a world of brevity. It is happening as we speak, and some of you may find the results frightening.
Dr. Joyce Winthrop, of The De la Soul Institute of Future Sex, is seeing a world in which long courtships and tender romantic encounters will be replaced by a hard-charging universe of barnstorming orgasms that will occur in 140 seconds or less.
“This won’t only be for males. Women who are connected to the tweeting lifestyle will also experience orgasms within this time frame,” Winthrop explained with subdued confidence. “Think of a world where you just get right to the heart of the matter, not only during intercourse, but during the courtship process as well. You meet someone on a speed date one day, tweet them the next day to set up another date, then you have quick, fast and ultimately unsatisfying teenage-sex and part ways at the end of the evening. At this rate you can test out multiple partners and have thousands of forlorn lovers pining away for your attention for years to come. You can keep them at bay, and within your reach by a few tweets here and there. It’s truly an efficient, shallow, yet exciting time to be alive. It’s a vision of America and the world that native people have been yearning for…and it’s finally here. I think it’s just great.”
Dr. Winthrop has been studying attention spans in sexual behavior, and the new definition of friends since the advent of friendster in the early 2002. Suffering from Adult Attention Deficit Disorder and new-world nymphomania led the good Dr. to her fascination with sexual brevity and the word “friend”.
“What is most fascinating is the bastardization of the term friend. I think we will be searching for a new word that better describes our off-line relationships quite soon. Something along the lines of old friend, true friend, or good old buddy may be more apparent. It will be wonderful to see this new type of language emerge. And being a sex therapist that is also a nymphomaniac makes this all the more exciting. I’m not sure why…maybe that’s just me tweeting out loud.”
Tweeting out loud is something Dr. Winthrop says will be inevitable with chronic twitterers. It will appear to be some sort of turrets, but in actuality it will be certain humans vocalizing their tweets into microphones on blue tooth headsets while navigating their way through the sidewalks of New York, or braving the Los Angeles freeway traffic and beyond. You will hear such remarks as, “I’m eating a ham sandwich”, as you pass by a man at a backstage deli eating a ham sandwich. This announcement of action and assertion of existence will be ubiquitous in all aspects of life says Winthrop.
“You’ll hear it everywhere: screams from the car next to you or the person sitting next to you in the movies. But what I’m most interested in is the tweeting in the bedroom. It will not only allow us to get off quicker, so we don’t always have to Tivo our favorite show, but it will bring dirty talk back to the sheets where it belongs.
Klauss Gerhardt, the abstract artist and long-time failure, known simply as “Klauss,” loves when Twitter gets so bogged down with traffic that he can't post a message. It allows him the opportunity to, “see the beauty that is the fail whale.” Twitter's "fail whale," a giant whale being lifted out of an ocean by a small flock of tweeting birds, appears when the site is overrun, and is so popular it's on T-shirts and even tattoos. The icon -- which Twitter users call the "fail whale" because the creature appears only when the site has failed to load -- has gained a cult following as the social media site grows at breakneck pace.
Twitter, which lets users post 140-character micro-blogs, saw a 1,374 percent jump in unique visitors between February 2008 and February this year, up to 7 million from only 475,000, according to Nielsen NetView. With all of those new Twitterers, fail whale sightings and site crashes seem more frequent.
"I love that it is growing to the point that we will no longer be able to micro-blog,” explains Klauss, “we will only be able to sit, and watch this adorable whale; but also this thing that represents the Herculean tasks that we sometimes go about from day to day. I have the image tattooed on my hush-hush places, and, like Andy Warhol, I intend to re-interpret the image in all my future artistic endeavors.”
Klauss is not the only Twitterer to feel this way. Bill (mr_bill on Twitter), a 36-year-old San Franciscan, has organized parties in honor of the whale. The most recent, held in California in February, was attended by more than 300 people, including Yiying Lu, the artist in Australia who created the image. Bill, whose fail whale parties have featured an aquamarine martini in honor of the icon's color, said the whale's popularity comes from the idea that failures are worth celebrating and learning from.
"We're all trying to do a lot of things that seem pretty impossible," Bill said. "It's nice to identify something positive with those failures."
Paul Paulson, long time friend of Klauss, and serial failure, attempted a similar “fail whale” party on the East coast, but tragically it was a complete bust.
“OMG, I felt like Jimmy Fallon on his late show!!!, “explains Paulson, “awkward, anxious, unable to talk to anyone one-on-one.” It seems that the group updates that intended to crash the system were not working. “We were all doing the usual things,” reveals Paulson, “you know, trying to take that 'What are you doing?' question literally, and put very inane things in our updates every, like minute, but we just couldn’t get the glorious whale to show itself! I was tweeting friends that couldn't attend (manic, CP, CW, TW33), and was really trying to push my own boundaries with witty “speed” updates, because I’m in training for next years Shorty Awards (The year's best producers of short* content 140 characters or less, on Twitter). I couldn’t BELIEVE that I didn’t win anything this year, but the whale has taught me to keep at it.”
It seems that Twitter is adjusting to the new “fail whale” obsession. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in a statement to CNN, "We have made amazing progress from a technical perspective as far as accommodating this rapid growth goes and will continue to improve system and subsystem performance moving forward," So will Twitter’s advancements break up this new cult of complete failure junkies?
“Not at all,” opines Klauss, “We have failed. We must learn from failure. We must embrace our inner whale, and begin again.”
“Oh, we’ll see more and more of the “fail whale” in the future,” states Paulson, “ Celebrities are adding to the site's mainstream popularity, school’s in England are replacing studies about WWII and the Victorian Period with Twitter classes to expand communication! Imagine tweeting your teacher a 140-character book report on Moby Dick? I would love it!! People talk. That's what we do," continues Paul, "We're social creatures. We're kind of wired for this. We’ll overwhelm the system again. It’s only a matter of time before the “fail whale” will be a constant. If at first you don’t succeed…you know?"
The fail whale's account on Twitter has more than 2,265 followers. A Facebook group dedicated to the whale has more than 4,400 members. The whale has spawned art and merchandise, from coffee mugs to baby clothes.