I think I’ve become kind of a prick.
I know, I know. Half of you are probably dismissing this claim. I’m such a nice guy, you may be thinking. What have I been doing which has been, in anyway, prick-like behavior?
And the other half of you are probably rolling your eyes and saying: “What do you mean kind of?”
Here’s why: Recently I’ve seen some mention across the blogosphere of those who are simply addicted to their cel phones and mobile internet devices. (Here’s one well-written post on the subject.) The notion that there are some who simply can’t go out to dinner with friends without whipping out their iPhones and Crackberries is annoying at best. I was one of those who jumped on the bandwagon in agreement with this sentiment. I truly value the face time I have with others around me. Most of the time.
Yet when I was with my son at a birthday party for one of his friends from school — at which there were many parents with whom I had a decent share of conversations, I found myself checking my email and my Twitter feed at least four times. Mind you I wasn’t doing this while someone was trying to talk with me; it was simply something to fill the gaps between conversations. But still — I had this compulsion to be connected.
Part of the allure of Twitter has been its accessibility through portable devices. You can quickly send out a tweet from places formerly seen to be inaccessible without a computer. Whether you’re at an airport in South Dakota or a weather station in Iceland or orbiting one of the moons of Jupiter — you can use Twitter to shout something “quick n’ dirty” to the world. And chances are that you won’t get caught in the middle of those 140 characters.
Which is why there has been scrutiny about the way people have used Twitter and the potential impact such usage can have to our security and way of life. Example: Congressman Pete Hoekstra using Twitter on his trip to Baghdad which was perceived to comprimise national security. There are certainly times and places during which using Twitter is inappropriate, but it’s a subjective call as to what those times and places may be. Twittering is kind of like farting: there are places where it’s simply not cool to do it. But you can probably get away with it and nobody will know. At least — not until it’s already out there…
One of these taboo places in my life has been the synagogue during Shabbat (Saturday) morning services. Our rabbi is a stickler about this: the weekly announcement sheet regularly states that “God is taking all calls today – cel phones are not required!” And then more of a stern prohibition that cel phones be silenced on the synagogue grounds on the Sabbath. Not a bad rule at all — many traditional Jews abstain from using any telephones or electronics on the Sabbath; this really isn’t an environment for cel phones. Every so often (maybe once every three months) someone’s phone will ring in the middle of the service; the deafening silence which accompanies it is enough for that person to quietly die of embarassment for a fleeting moment before switching it off for all eternity.
I leave my cel phone in the car. (Yes — the notion of using a motor vehicle on the Sabbath is also prohibited by many traditional Jews as well.) And I’m realizing it’s probably a good thing: For me, Twitter is a means for me to spout random thoughts in the ether for everyone and anyone to hear. What would happen if I were to do this in this community setting?
This weekend I started to think of the type of way inappropriate tweets one would see coming from a synagogue on the Sabbath:
mr_shiny: Anyone out there know what page in the prayerbook we’re on?
mr_shiny: Really? You’re actually wearing blue Crocs to synagogue? If you were seven I’d let it slide. But you have a wife and two kids!
cantorstein: Let’s get a move-on with the Torah scroll already. WALK FASTER! I’ve already gone through two rounds of Oseh Shalom Bimromav…
redseapedestrian: OMG the kid who they picked to lead Ashrei sounds like Chris from Family Guy! I wonder if I could get him to do the message on my voicemail…
shulpresident: RT @rabbishapiro Shhhhhhhhhhh!
imadeaminyan: Longest. Haftorah. Ever.
knishfan1974: They have the fancy sponge cake at kiddush! NOM NOM NOM
anothercohen: @cantorstein Amen.
Let’s face it: would you be interested in reading this crap on a Saturday morning? Didn’t think so. (I’m happy to explain any of the tweets above if you’d like, but — believe me — you’re not missing much humor here.) Maybe it’s all for the best that we keep our services out of the Twitterverse…
ADDENDUM: A quick Google search picked up a site at http://www.jewitter.com/. Take a look — it’s clever and far more succinct than my blog post.