There’s a blizzard of info-nonsense that blows across cyberspace all day that takes the name Twitter. And I try to monitor some of it with a software thing called TweetDeck. In TweetDeck, I not only have a column that shows tweets from people I’m following. It also has columns that show categories of tweets.
I can search the Twitter universe for certain words or phrases. This can be handy if you’re a reporter who’s waiting for some news to break. The minute some expected event happens – Supreme Court ruling, whatever – somebody out there with an Internet connection will tweet and spill the beans so you can follow up.
One search term I have programmed into TweetDeck is “light rail.” I’m not expecting any big news, necessarily. But I figured I might hear about some interesting studies, stories or developments that I can turn into news.
It turns out the stuff I got in my light-rail column was a lot more interesting.
It’s not news. Far from it. It’s a collection of gripes and trivial observations made by people who use light rail. The first thing I learned as I started to look at this stuff is people really do call light rail light rail.
I thought that was an expression only academics and transit wonks used, while real people called it the trolley, the train or something like that. Nope. The people who ride it call it light rail, and when they complain about the loud drunk they had to sit next to as they were headed downtown they talk about the guy on the “light rail.”
Not all of the tweets are from San Diego. They have light rail in Minneapolis, Denver, Boston, Sacramento, Phoenix, Portland, etc. Most of the time I can’t tell where these people are. I just know they’re using light rail.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
–Oh god someone just brought delicious smelling curry onto the Light Rail train! Just remind me how hungry I am, Indian Diaspora! Thanks! :p
–@Ned_Miller some random nigga who got on the light rail lol
–Barely made the light rail and accidentally left 50 cents at the pay station. I prolly just made a hobo’s day today. #GoodSamaritan **
–Why is this lady cussing her reflection out on the light rail? #werido
–On this ghetto light rail with crack heads and ratchet children. Smh
–We are riding the light rail for the first time!!! http://t.co/zDjXnGAT
Every day brings a new collection, all of them connected to a photo of the correspondent. And while the details change the substance remains the same. I sometimes wonder why I keep the light-rail search tag. Why do I enjoy reading these pointless, aimless, often-profane tweets?
Maybe it’s the beauty of small talk. Somehow, it’s comforting to hear people broadcasting their small rants, stories and enthusiasms. Put it all together and it paints a perfect picture of everyday life.
And… come to think of it… life is the very thing these tweeters are observing. I’m sure I’d be less interested to read the tweets of people who rant about something they saw on TV or something they read in a magazine. But put someone in the midst of humanity, riding in a light-rail car? Now THAT’s something I might want to hear about.
Meanwhile I’ll try to tweet more. I guess someone out there will be interested in hearing what I have to say, as small as it may be.