Wednesday 21 February 2018

Nightwatch: Being a twit

Declan Cashin

I've never been particularly good with names. It seems the old grey matter simply can't master all those vowels and consonants, not to mention the intensive memory work required. I always believed that technology was invented for defective humanoid models like myself; a brave new innovative frontier to which I could outsource all those pesky operations like thinking and comprehending, and a handy way to assist my attempts at functioning socially in the real world.

Instead, technological progress is making matters worse. Owing to my (f)addictions to Facebook and Twitter, I now have a greatly expanded list of people that I speak to -- or, more accurately, speak @ -- online everyday.

This isn't a problem; I love it, in fact. As someone who works largely from home, I see these sites as the equivalent of the office water cooler or the canteen, or even those internal, often pointless, but nevertheless sanity-sustaining emails that flit between co-workers several times a day.

No, the problem is that my love of social networking has now started a dangerous affair with my lunk-headed failure to recall names. Over the past two months, I've had quite a few people I follow or who follow me on Twitter coming up to me in pubs and clubs. They recognise me, they know my name, they've taken the plunge to say hello, and so they fully, and rightfully, expect a someway-decent attempt at conversation for their efforts.

What they get instead is me hesitantly mumbling things like, "Oh hey ... you. How's it, erm, going in your daily endeavours doing whatever is it you do ... in life?" Awkward is not the word.

Naturally, I lump the blame onto everyone else. My Twitter name is simply 'declancashin', whereas others have adopted monikers such as 'She-Ra', 'MacBoy' and 'Fashionmagazinesmakemefurious-smashysmashygrrr'. If people simply used their real names, then I'd be much better at matching the real person to their online persona. Hey, that's my defence and I'm sticking to it.

Luckily, such conversations often swing around to some topic we had been discussing earlier that day or that week, so my limited powers of deduction can often come to the rescue in the nick of time.

It hasn't been all rosy, however. There is one guy who I keep running into, in total Ned Ryerson-in-Groundhog-Day-fashion, who knows my name, and what I've been talking about on Twitter and Facebook, but whom I cannot, for the life of me, place.

I do vaguely recall him giving me the essential details late one night in the smoking area of a club, but, true to form, his name and his association to me have been completely usurped by that merciless memory-and-dignity succubus known as Drunky McShiteTalk. Needless to say, we keep coming across one another, and now he positively scowls at me. Social networking? Social not working, more like.

I'm definitely the kind of guy who should be availing of Tweet Ups, specially organised gatherings where people who know each other from Twitter get together to meet (and, let's be fair, judge) one another in the flesh. I'd imagine initial awkwardness and 'who-the-hell-are-you-again?' ice-breakers are common, if not essential to such soirees. I'd be right at home.

Facebook, meanwhile, is also making (non-cyber) life more difficult. I seem to collect friends like George Clooney's character does air miles in the movie Up in the Air (almost 800. I'm so cool ... right? Right??).

My Facebook home page is quite unwieldy as a result, and so I've hidden some -- some! -- people's status updates from my news feed. Consequently, I don't know what they've been up to, but they know what I've been doing. When we subsequently meet in person, I'm the one who comes across as rude, drawing puzzled looks as I fumble for some basic up-to-date titbit on them. Argh!

Thankfully, it's just a few people that inspire these mental blocks, these failures of 'netiquette'. Please believe me when I say that, all evidence to the contrary, I do take my social networking duties very seriously. And to those online compadres who may doubt me, I leave you with this: I may be a Twit when it comes to names, but I never forget a Facebook.

Irish Independent

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