No Tweets at the Tea Shop



Suhair Lauck
  • Suhair Lauck
On Wednesday, President Obama held a news conference and the first question (from himself) came in the form of a tweet.

Also on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that privately owned Twitter, which was created in 2006, hopes to value itself and its 200 million registered user accounts at $7 billion. Only seven months ago Twitter was valued at $3.7 billion by a venture-capital firm.

For the record, Obama's question to Obama was "In order to reduce the deficit what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep — bo." It came in at just under 140 characters. There followed a stream of less friendly tweets from Republican members of Congress.

On my way to lunch, I picked up a copy of The Memphis News and read a column that began, "It's official. Twitter is not a passing fad."

I tried to digest this over a bowl of spaghetti and some corn sticks at The Little Tea Shop downtown, my favorite retro restaurant. Co-owner Suhair Lauck is surely one of the friendliest people in Memphis. She greets customers by name, and often with a hug if her hands are free for a minute. But she does not tweet and she is not even on Facebook, although there are some links to the restaurant.

She has friends and a wall all right, but they're the old-fashioned kind. The walls of the Tea Shop are decorated with color pictures of her customers, who are also her friends, that she has been given or taken herself.

"I have this," she said, pointing at her cell phone. "Why do I need to do this?" she asked, punching keys on the phone. She joked that "my VCR says 12/12/12" because she doesn't know how to set the display, but the kicker, of course, is that nobody has a VCR any more.

Many of Sue's regular customers are in the autumn and winter of the actuarial calendar. One of them, John Malmo, joined me for lunch. Malmo is cofounder of Archer-Malmo, the advertising agency, and writes books and columns on business advice. In short, he's a communicator. But he doesn't tweet or use Facebook either.

"Why would I?" he asked incredulously. "I mean, really, why would I?"

One crank to another, I suggested it could just be that he doesn't have any friends.

He entertained the possibility for a minute and laughed.

“There is a danger of a breach of privacy," he said. "Maybe one in a million, but who needs it?”

I concur, but I suppose, like Obama, I will break down sooner or later. Mayor A C Wharton tweets a lot and has thousands of Twitter followers and friends on Facebook. My real-life friend Henry Turley, who is even older than I am, has 1,833 Facebook friends. WMC-TV anchor Joe Birch has 4,997.

Marketing necessity. $7 billion. Questions from tweeps. Another day at the office.

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