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Robert E. Brown

I am married to a crowd

By Robert E. Brown
April 10, 2009
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THREE-HUNDRED people are following my wife - most of them strangers. That's a little worrisome. But now she has dropped the other shoe: She's following 500.

OMG, Twitter! What have you done to our marriage? Five years ago, I thought I was marrying one woman, not a crowd.

And it's not just you, Twitter. It's you, too, Facebook and GoDaddy.

Goodbye, intimacy. We're surrounded. Our marital duet has the production values of that Verizon Wireless commercial that shows a battalion of strangers that the voiceover boastfully identifies as "the network."

Holy Blackberry, Batman! I married a network.

Not that this digital ménage is limited to humans. Even our Siamese cats have gotten into the act. Two weeks ago, they went viral. An hour after my wife posted a photo of them on Twitpic, Sadie and Clara became Twitter icons with 5,000 "unique views," in Internet jargon. Their admirers - Russians, Chinese, Texans - leave adoring comments. Our rock-star cats generated such a feline love rush that we got an e-mail from Biz Stone, a co-founder of Twitter, and a recent guest on the "Colbert Report."

"These cats really dig Twitter," he tweeted.

The geek-chic entrepreneur was so impressed with Sadie and Clara's digital celebrity explosion that he put their photo on his network of 165,000 followers. I should be grateful: My wife hasn't broken a thousand. Yet.

As for my wife's online life, it has morphed into our social life. We recently dined out with one of her long-lost girlhood friends who she found online - a woman who my wife hasn't see since they were third-graders at a boarding school more than 40 years ago. They were reunited by my wife's blog, her daily chronicle of having been shipped off to a Dickensian-looking Catholic school on Staten Island - just across the harbor from my wife's Lower East Side apartment, but a million emotional miles from home for a 7-year-old girl.

There we were, at a restaurant in Cambridge - two 50ish women and their husbandly satellites. Fortunately, it turned out to be a pleasant evening, refreshingly free of trauma-inducing girlhood memories of sadistic nuns out for blood. After a few drinks, the four of us began to sound as if we'd all been sent away and were meeting to celebrate our collective liberation.

Notwithstanding my whining, I must admit that my wife's romance with the virtual world has not been without its benefits. I'm a college professor three times the age of my undergraduates. Being married to a Twitter queen has done wonders for my reputation with the Wired Generation. It's my digital botox. Now I can share my wife's geekster stories, and explain her Brand-Me marketing platform strategy to my graduating seniors who've got the jitters as they face the worst job market since the fall of the Roman Empire.

As for Brand Myself, I'm up to15 followers - three more than the disciples at the Last Supper, though hardly a crowd.

But who needs a crowd when you're married to one?

Robert E. Brown teaches writing at Salem State College and the Harvard Extension School. He blogs at gatheringthelight.wordpress.com.

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