It was James Taylor — currently being celebrated in a musical tribute at the Camelot Theatre — who best summed up the current state of cyberspace.
"I can only hope," he said, "that something like this never falls into the hands of someone desperate enough to use it."
Taylor, back in 1979, was speaking of the potential firestorm that would occur should nuclear weapons rain down upon the land.
But ... it applies to Twitter as well.
The folks behind that little blue bird of unhappiness will be conducting tests to see whether the limit of 140-character assassinations should increase to 280. That's double the current limit — for those of us who were told there would be no math — and, therefore, double the opportunity to be twice as stupid.
Would that the Twitter honchos, instead, have reduced the number of characters in search of an author. What matters isn't how long what you have to say is; it's how you use it.
Hemingway is often credited with penning the most famous brief short story. It runs 33 characters, including spaces:
"For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn."
But we've become a somewhat Brave New World subliminally Soma'd into submission by our adrenal addiction to social media ... and what do the suppliers want to push next? Increasing the dosage. Just take a look at the instant reaction to recent events.
A CBS executive (now fired) tweets that she didn't have much remorse for those killed in the Las Vegas shooting because the victims were likely to be Republicans, because they were attending a country music concert. Not to be outdone, whackjobs on the far right posit on Twitter that the tragedy was the work of "deep state" operatives working in cahoots with Democrats who want to take away our guns.
O ... kay.
How about just a thumbs-up emoji! Our poor thumbs. Once they turned green through planting crops and flowers. Now, they're instruments of opposition, liking or disliking the opinions of others while turning red from the constant pounding on the keypads of our cellphones — as those being targeted, or bullied, or returning fire tell each other where we can stick them.
Blast you, Siskel & Ebert.
It isn't that longer tweets are necessarily a bad thing. Neither's eating too much chocolate — although an overdose of either can send your mind spinning in directions it wasn't meant to go.
Twitter this past weekend told us that rock legend Tom Petty was dead. And, a little later, that Petty wasn't dead, just on life support. And then, a little later still, that Charlie T. Wilbury Jr. had indeed joined brothers Lefty and Nelson at the end of the line.
We basically have one objective in this life ... don't screw up. But in the great wide open that is the Twitterverse, mistakes are ephemeral potholes along what used to be called the Information Superhighway. Take the case of pro basketball player Kevin Durant.
Durant, of the Golden State Warriors, the most valuable player of the NBA Playoffs, ventures into the Land of Twits and Hisses to talk basketball with fans. Until recently, that is, when it became known that @KDTrey5 had a few other aliases — from which he would defend himself under assumed names.
And as Felix Unger once demonstrated in court — using a chalkboard, not a cellphone — we all know what happens when we assume.
Perhaps no recent story better displays the foibles and follies that can befall twitterers than what happened in a California county this past week. Words, and fear, spread quickly when it was learned that an elementary school was on lockdown after a suspicious individual was seen scurrying about in the playground.
Police arrived to discover that the man's home was next door to the school, and he was busy trying to track down a chicken that had escaped its pen.
Crisis averted, the offending fowl was caught before it fell into the hands of someone desperate enough to use it.
— Mail Tribune copy editor Robert Galvin cannot be followed on Twitter, under his own name or any assumed one. He can, however, be reached at email@example.com.