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Learning from Matt Barkley has him atwitter

All right, tweeps, I’m hip now … AAMOF I’ve got a new avatar thanks to @MattBarkley. Ready, bros, to go on hashtag binge. #Page2

How’s that? And 12 characters still remaining.

You’re never too old, until you realize you’re sitting next to a kid born on Sept. 8, 1990 and your own birthday is Sept. 2, 1950, and the kid knows more than you ever will.

He’s some kind of computer whiz, who also happens to be USC’s starting quarterback and as good a candidate as any in the land to win the Heisman.

Right now, Barkley is looking at me like he might a black and white movie, but he has agreed to teach me how to be cool and tweet, twit or whatever.

“People tell me all the time I have a Twitter account,” I’m telling Barkley, “but I wouldn’t know how to get to it and have never twitted.”

Barkley is chuckling and I don’t know why.

I turn on my computer and he’s clearly impressed.

He mentions something about a typewriter, like he’s ever seen one, and “marriott.com” pops up on my screen while I’m trying to find my Twitter page.

I still say typewriters are quicker at times than my computer. He mutters something about having to attend practice, I presume before he turns my age, so he takes over.

He asks me to sign in. He might as well have asked me to go deep and catch one of his passes.

I have to call the office, get a username, a password, and there I am. Someone has been tweeting my columns, and as mean as people say I am, I wouldn’t do that to people. Who knows what else they have sent under my name?

Barkley says something about my avatar, and I know it’s a movie. He says it’s my picture, and let me tell you, it’s not my kind of picture and I would never see it.

He says “We got work to do,” and shows me his avatar, @MattBarkley.

It’s his picture; he’s wearing a helmet and looks ticked.

“It used to be a pic of me holding up a sword at the end of the UCLA game,” he says. “At the start of camp I changed it to this one. The serious face is because of unfinished business, and it’s time to do something serious.”

I put on a USC baseball cap, since I have the Trojans No. 1, and I’m not lying like Lane Kiffin, who says whatever anyone wants to hear. I wonder if he tweets one thing and texts another.

Barkley takes my picture before I can strike a Heisman pose, and it comes up @LATimesTJSIMERS.

Now that I’m going to be young again, I wonder if I should also color my hair.

“Keep it real,” says Barkley, and the kid is so right on.

He then tells me he deleted tweeting from his phone this summer. So why am I starting?

“I wanted to focus on my family and girlfriend, so I only tweet on the Web,” he says. “I got to the point where I was always looking at my timeline.”

Tell me about it; I’m sitting here looking at my 62-year-old wife.

“It’s time to tweet,” says Barkley. “The famed 140 characters; people say it dumbs down writing.…"

Finally something I know about.

“I just think you have to be creative, use your words wisely and condense,” says Barkley. “And you don’t have to worry about being grammatically correct.”

Anything to rid the world of editors can’t be a bad thing, so this modern age of communication might really be the way to go.

“Now if I’m sitting at one of your games and you’ve just thrown an interception …,” I say, and Barkley interrupts.

“I don’t think that will happen this year,” he says with a straight face.

I’m so used to covering UCLA football, I just take for granted there will be lots of interceptions.

“Should you throw one,” I continue, “is it a race then to see who can tweet the nastiest thing about you?”

“In most cases,” says Barkley, “but when I tweet, I’m not really negative.”

So then why would anyone read what he has to say?

I ask what it’s like when USC loses.

“I won’t even check it. What’s the point?” Barkley says. “As it is, they pound the heck out of me. Oregon fans rip me consistently.

“But you can block people so you don’t see their tweets.”

“Can I block Jim Mora?” I ask. Like Kiffin, Mora struggles with the truth when cornered after saying something stupid.

“You can block Jim Mora,” says Barkley.

He shows me how. “Click on his picture,” Barkley says. “Harder.…"

I’m not sure it’s necessary to do it harder, but maybe it’s just a USC-UCLA thing.

We go to @MattBarkley. He has 61,032 followers and the tweets he’s sent sound as if Mary Poppins is the author. He’s probably never heard of Mary Poppins, BTW!

@LATimesTJSIMERS — that handle is way too long — has 7,784 followers, and I haven’t even tweeted yet. Will that number go up or down when I start?

“You have to be active online, engage with fans,” says Barkley, “And you have to be witty.”

Is he?

“Often,” he says, and looking at his page, he obviously isn’t spending all his time with his playbook.

“I kind of went on a tweeting rampage,” he says. “I was answering questions — see, here I was asked about my favorite Olympic event and I replied, table tennis.”

Young people sure are strange.

Yet the kid is so gentle with a dinosaur. USC is going to imprint a different hashtag on the Coliseum field for every game, and I still don’t understand the purpose of a hashtag.

He patiently explains, not knowing I took a year of physics and never understood a word.

“Got to jam,” he says finally. “Tweet if you have any questions.”

I’d feel so much better if I could just occasionally write him a letter. #Page 2

t.j.simers@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimestjsimers


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