Portraits by Other Means

Tweeting Into Oblivion

Tweeting Into Oblivion

The internet can be a really fun cocktail party or a hall of horrors, full of people saying things you don’t want to hear. There’s always at least one day a month when I wish I didn’t know how to use it. Regardless, we can’t go back in time, so we must cope.

Gene Sharp, Intellectual

In this era of Twitter revolutionaries, the Internet holds little allure for Mr. Sharp. He is not on Facebook and does not venture onto the Einstein website. (“I should,” he said apologetically.) If he must send e-mail, he consults a handwritten note [his assistant] Ms. Raqib has taped to the doorjamb near his state-of-the-art Macintosh computer in a study overflowing with books and papers. “To open a blank e-mail,” it reads, “click once on icon that says ‘new’ at top of window.”

Bill Clinton, Former President

[Clinton] began on a lighthearted note, admitting that maybe he wasn’t the most credible person to weigh in on technology. “I sent a grand total of two emails as president,” he said, “one to our troops in the Adriatic, and one to John Glenn when he was 77 years old in outer space. I figured it was OK if Congress subpoenaed those.” When he took office in ’93, he added, there were about 50 sites on the Internet, and cell phones were so heavy that they were best used for bicep curls.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Former Supreme Court Justice

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is not on Facebook or Twitter, but she wants to use the power of the Internet to get young people interested in civics.

“Two-thirds of Internet users under the age of 30 have a—whatever this is—social networking profile,” the feisty 80-year-old said in a speech at New York Law School Tuesday.

“We need to bring civics education into the 21st century.”

Tom Hanks, Actor

The 54-year-old actor, who is a big fan of Twitter.com, used his time onstage to encourage students to embrace modern technology and even showed off his own cell phone.

He told the crowd, “Please do not turn off your electronic devices. Leave your iPhones, your iPads, your Sidekicks, your Droids, your Blackberrys powered up—recording photographing, texting out all that emerges from this stage over the next few minutes. Later on today, you can compare your ‘Tweets’ and your Facebook comments with those of others to figure out if anything memorable went down.”

Steve Martin, Comedian

Using his Twitter name @SteveMartinToGo, the comedian, a prospective juror, at 12:10 p.m. on Monday tweeted: “REPORT FROM JURY DUTY: defendant looks like a murderer. GUILTY. Waiting for opening remarks.”


A spokeswoman for Martin said he was a juror awaiting selection but wouldn’t reveal where.

“He is not actually tweeting during a trial but is on jury duty. He’s making jokes that are really funny, nothing actually factual though,” she wrote in an email to Reuters Legal. Asked if a judge had removed Martin from the jury pool, the spokeswoman responded: “Not kicked out yet.”

Jill Abramson, Incoming New York Times Executive Editor

Isn’t it a bit weird, I suggest, that the next editor of America’s most important paper, the person vested with the crucial task of steering it through a period of unparalleled digital change, hasn’t even yet sent her first tweet?

“It may be weird,” she says. “But I haven’t felt the need until now. I’m an interior kind of person.

Nawaz Sharif, Former Pakistan Prime Minister

[Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz] Sharif just looked at me. “How can you get a text message that long on your telephone?”

“It’s an e-mail,” I said, slightly shocked that Sharif was unconcerned about what I had just said. “This is a BlackBerry phone. You can get e-mail on it.”

“Ah, e-mail,” he said. “I must look into this BlackBerry.”

Credit: “Crowd Scene,” Edward Austin Abbey


TMN Editor Leah Finnegan is from Illinois by way of Texas. She splits her time between New York City and her website. More by Leah Finnegan

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