Monday, December 10, 2012
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What's on Your Mind? The pluses and minuses of social media

Kevin Kittredge
is The Roanoke Times' What's on Your Mind columnist. whatsonyourmind
@roanoke.com

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Q: This octogenarian doesn't want to Twitter or take part in whatever else is going on with the social media. But so he won't feel entirely off on another planet, can you enlighten him about this stuff? For one thing, why do @ and # now have a new meaning?

Bob Willis
Fincastle

A: Let me tell you a story about social media, Bob. The other day I was in an airport in Boston, hurrying to catch a plane. And I heard my name, coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the men's room. I turned around - and there, standing all alone in the middle of the airport corridor, was a middle-aged man I was quite sure I'd never seen before in my life. He turned out to be the guitar player from my rock 'n' roll band in college. I hadn't seen him in 30 years. But he recognized me, white beard and all, from my Facebook picture. If not for Facebook, we would have passed within a couple of feet of each other and never known. This is just one way that social media is changing our world - to my mind, mostly for the better. Facebook is a business, of course, and like any business, it's ultimately about making money for the people who own it. Still, I'd be lying if I said it hasn't enlarged my circle of friends and enriched my life.

As for Twitter - well, I haven't gone there yet. However, if you want to understand the lingo, and impress the heck out of the twenty-somethings, I suggest you study the glossary of terms on the Twitter website. The first entry is for "@," and it reads thusly:

"The @ sign is used to call out usernames in Tweets, like this: Hello @Twitter!"

And under the entry for "hashtag" is this definition for what used to be a number sign:

"The # symbol is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet."

So there you go, Bob. You'll find tons more at support.twitter.com/articles/166337-the-twitter-glossary.

Tweet, tweet!

A hard stand on school zone speeding

Several weeks ago, in response to a reader's question, I wrote that the town of Blacksburg does not enforce school zone speed limits when school is not in session. Meadows of Dan reader Forrest Fiedler, who used to live in Tulsa, Okla., told me they do things a little bit differently there:

"The city fathers reasoned that a law that is applied arbitrarily, or is not enforced, is a law that will be ignored. So, they set up a two-step program to prevent accidents in school zones.

"Step one: When the school zone is active, the lights will be flashing. If they are flashing outside of this period, the principal of the school is fined.

"Step two: The active school zones are monitored by the police with radar (not every zone, every minute, but most of the time). If you are speeding, or otherwise driving recklessly, the chances are very good that you will be ticketed. If you are ticketed, you will be fined a significant amount, and maybe serve some time in jail.

"If this sounds Draconian, ask the parents of school age kids what they think about it."

Thanks, Forrest. Certainly we should all err on the side of caution around a school zone, whether the lights are flashing or not.

Have a question? An answer? Call Kevin Kittredge at 777-6476 or send an email to whatsonyourmind@roanoke.com. Don't forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.

Look for Kevin Kittredge's column on Mondays.

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