Cathy Hamilton: New fad has her all aTwitter

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It's springtime in a Disney-fied Technicolor forest. Flower, Thumper and Bambi are watching two little birds fluttering and tweeting above them. Their adorable cartoon faces appear puzzled.

Flower: "Well! What's the matter with them?

Thumper: "Why are they acting that way?"

Friend Owl: "Why, don't you know? They're twitterpated."

Flower, Bambi, Thumper: "Twitterpated?"

Friend Owl: "Yes. Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You're walking along, minding your own business. You're looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you're walking on air. And then you know what? You're knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head!"

That scene was from "Bambi," one of my all-time favorite animated pictures, released in 1942.

Sixty-seven years later, it's almost springtime again, and I'm surrounded by a bunch of twitterpated tweeters who've been knocked for a loop and have completely lost their heads.

This isn't "Bambi 2: The Next Generation." These tweeters aren't lovebirds flitting through the trees. They are human beings whose fingers flit fleetingly over their keyboards.

Their heads are in a whirl. Woo-woo! They're twitterpated over Twitter.com.

For those of you living under a rock - no, let me rephrase - for those of you who are actually out there experiencing life, as opposed to habitually texting about it, here's the scoop on Twitter from Wikipedia: "Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them."

In other words, Twitter is a place where you can learn what your co-worker ate for breakfast (blueberry scone, coffee with soy milk and a banana ... yum!), how many miles your neighbor just logged on the treadmill (5), how much your niece REALLY loves Beyonce (OMG, let me count the ways!!), what the temperature is outside on a minute-to-minute basis (72 ... 75 ... 80 - yay!) and any number of insanely useless tidbits of information you could SO live without knowing, in 140 characters or less.

In the last week, there's been an outbreak of Twittermania in the newsroom where I work. Colleagues who used to have pleasant, if not altogether scintillating, face-to-face conversations are now hunched over their laptops "tweeting" each other:

Twitterpated Guy: "Awesome day. 80 degrees. Just walked back from lunch."

Twitterpated Dude @Twitterpated Guy: "What'd you have??"

Twitterpated Guy @Twitterpated Dude: "Burger with bleu cheese. Too much bleu cheese."

I actually took time out of my day to read this captivating exchange. What a waste of a perfectly good 20 seconds.

So, does that mean that I am on Twitter? Of course, I am.

Listen, I know what it's like to be at the bottom of the social networking food chain. I learned my lesson with Facebook. I've felt the pain of having only a handful of virtual friends to call my own. Only after sending out a desperate, humbling plea in this very space did my friend count reach a respectable number. Never mind that I have so many "friends" now, I wouldn't know some of them if they ran me over in the street. The point is, I'm in the game. I'm not about to be left behind by the Twitter train.

Besides, Twitter isn't just about paltry pieces of pesky pap. By following the right tweeters (CBS News, NPR or Anderson Cooper, for instance), information junkies like me can get a steady stream of breaking news and other factoids that I can link to, read, then promptly forget due to my filled-to-capacity short-term memory bank.

The problem, as with Facebook, is the junior high-like pressure that comes with the social networking territory. Do I have enough followers? Am I following enough people? Can I quit following my Beyonce-obsessed niece without her finding out? And would someone tweet Anderson Cooper and ask him if he likes me? You know, like, "like-like"?

Friend Owl was right. Nearly everybody gets Twitterpated in the springtime. But, I'm not about to go down without a fight.

In the meantime, please, please, please follow me. I'm @BoomerGirl1.

- Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.

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