Nerdy Birdy Tweets

April 12, 2018

Inaccurate, technophobic message only conveyed through sexism ex machina.


I'm getting tired of this message. "Social media is bad. Social media is taking over the world. We are neglecting our real friends in favor of social media. People who are on social media all the time cannot deal with real life."

The two characters are a little boy bird (possibly a sparrow? some kind of songbird) named Nerdy Birdy and his best friend, a female vulture imaginatively named "Vulture". Nerdy Birdy loves to play video games. Vulture thinks video games are boring. Then Nerdy Birdy joins a "game" called Tweetster where you make friends and play games with them. Basically like Facebook with the word "Tweet" in it (because of Twitter and hahaha funny pun). "Tweetster" is clearly not an actual game, it is a social media platform, complete with sending messages and images to other people which are unrelated to any game playing, and "friends" which are people you have never met. Vulture, predictably, is really bored with that. Nerdy Birdy would know that it's not the same thing. So they're just making their main character look like an idiot by not doing their research.

Nerdy Birdy somehow makes random online friends (apparently that's just a thing you do through Tweetster) and plays "Angry Worms" (LOOK AT THE PUNS AREN'T THEY HILARIOUS) with an ostrich or something, and ends up with 500 online friends and is amazed by it. Vulture just sits there watching him play on his... phone? I think it's supposed to be an iPhone, but it's gigantic compared to the small bird and it has a banana on the back of it (because haha mindless puns are so funny and nobody has ever made this apple-banana joke before). But he keeps playing on his phone while Vulture is visiting him, which she obviously finds really boring as she's being completely ignored, then she leaves. The next day when she visits, she's joined Tweetster also, and they play on it together in the morning and then they put away their phones at lunchtime and play and take pictures of each other like they used to do.

Then Nerdy Birdy sends out a picture of Vulture eating what appears to be a chicken drumstick (with the caption "@Vulturegirl is a messy eater. She eats dead things. Ewwwwwww!!") to his other 500 friends on Tweetster. Despite the fact that they normally make fun of each other's lunch, and she's shown no previous emotional reaction to this, she thinks it's embarrassing and is upset by this. She says, "Oh, why did you tweet it to everybody?" He says, "I thought it was funny." "Just because you thought it, doesn't mean you should tweet it." "Why?" "It's embarrassing." "I just thought..." "No. You didn't." Then she leaves. How was he supposed to know she was embarrassed by her natural eating habits? So he looks for her, because she doesn't come back for a week, and then he thinks to ask Tweetster, on which nobody responds except three people who basically tell him, "Uh-huh, sucks to be you." Then he closes down the game and flies off in search of Vulture. When he finds her, he says, "I'm sorry." She says, "You should be." He says, "I really am. One real live you is worth a thousand Tweetster friends."

It shows them afterwards actually playing video games together, and then says, "Some days they get together and tweet" which shows them singing (ha. ha. puns.).

These kids and their phones, darn them. Get off my lawn! Kids are not going to understand why Vulture was upset. It's not clear enough, and I think that's intentional, that the writer is trying to convey the message that social media is bad and that online friends are not as important as real-life friends. (Apparently video games are okay.) Okay, well, yes, you shouldn't be ignoring your real-life friends for your online friends (especially in the physical presence of the former), but that doesn't mean you should forego all online friends in favor of real-life ones. I don't know how this fictional Tweetster service works, but on things like Facebook I don't think anyone actually thinks that people they haven't met or had significant conversations with are equivalent to real "friends." Maybe the real lesson is that just because a program calls people you've briefly connected to "friends", it doesn't mean they're your actual friends? But it's entirely possible to have meaningful conversations with people online. Especially grating is the part where Nerdy Birdy asks all of his 500 online friends, ""My best friend is mad at me. What should I do?" And a day later the only three people that respond either insult him or say, "What do you want me to do about it? I live in Iceland!!" Certain places on the Internet are actually fairly helpful for things like that. People love to give advice. It might not be great advice, but they usually do their best. Reddit would be a great place to ask things like that, and some of the answers might be applicable. Maybe it's just that 500 people is too small a pool to ask advice from. Serious Redditors probably would ask more information about the circumstances and be quite helpful. People don't need to be your friends to give you advice.

If I'm being charitable, the message would basically be, "Don't always be on your phone communicating with other people when you're in the moment with your friends." Which is a good message, but it applies to actual phone calls and all kinds of other things. Don't write letters to your distant relatives when you're hanging out with your friends, for example. That's a good message, but that's not what comes out of this book. The book really says, "Social media is bad. Social media friends aren't real friends." But social media is a really good way to keep in touch with people who you might not be able to see very often, like relatives who live long distances away, or friends that you met in school or college that moved farther away. My best friend from high school lives in Boston, and we see each other only once a few years, only when she visits her family in my town. It's prohibitively expensive to visit her.

The whole thing about posting an embarrassing picture-- that comes completely out of left field. I don't think it's a coincidence that Vulture, the female character, is the one having an unreasonable, unpredictable emotional response to something that the nerdy male character does (especially an emotional response related to eating habits, how stereotypically female can you get?). It's just stupid. But then, I expected it to be, because I was going into this pretty sure that it was a "newfangled things are bad" book. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the way that the author treated video games (though of course the only video game they discuss is "Angry Worms" so these are mobile games, and probably not first-person shooters). Even though Vulture apparently still thinks video games are boring, she plays them with Nerdy Birdy.


Social media is bad. Social media friends aren't really your friends.

Publication Year
  • 2017
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