Hard at work, on that Twitter
I love Twitter. This seems this is an increasingly unfashionable point of view. If you listen to various media reports (and my dad), you’d think that to tap into Twitter is to ensure the wrath of the mighty - or at least the sweaty, typing away in dusty, unaired bedrooms, possibly in their pants – will fall upon your head.
That’s certainly true for some. If you are famous, especially famous while female, have an opinion, or have made a mistake, said something strong or perhaps a bit silly, friendly interaction can be drowned out by an avalanche of grimness, bile, appalling spelling and unresolved mummy issues.
But for the rest of us, it’s still possible for Twitter to open up the world in a rather wonderful way. As a journalist working from home, the only thing I miss about office life is the cosy, helpful, sometimes scandalous chat each day.
My cat is a very poor substitute. Dixie has few opinions on the Real Housewives of New York. She cares not if a certain chef does or doesn’t have a gastric band, or whether the roadworks at Old Street roundabout will be completed in our lifetimes. She doesn’t know if the Sugar Tax will make any difference, who might win the Man Booker Prize, the possibility of Spurs ending the season higher than Arsenal in the League, or which mascara is absolutely, positively waterproof.
Twitter can be like the most useful and friendly drinks party, one where no one cares that you haven’t brushed your hair or changed out of yesterday’s ancient top. My Twitter pals provide me with a constantly evolving list of books, plays and exhibitions I must fit into my life, advise me on how to prune my roses or what malevolent creature is eating my gooseberries (sawfly), where to find a new dog groomer or a person brave enough to come and clean my oven. If I want to discover why that helicopter has been hovering over my house for two hours, Twitter’s the first place I turn. And wherever I am in the world, I use Twitter to find out where to stay or to eat from people who live there. It’s like TripAdvisor without the latent psychopathy.
At its best, Twitter has the power to bring out people’s fundamental need to be kind. On many occasions, it has figuratively and literally helped me with my shopping. I even got a book deal out of it, when a gardening writer I know only from Twitter put me in touch with her publisher who was looking for someone who could write about both cooking and gardening. So thank you for that, @alexmitchelleg.
I’m fascinated by the way it demonstrates human complexity. I love how Irish novelist Marian Keyes, (@MarianKeyes) follows her traditional greeting of ‘Lads!’ with everything from nail varnish, to Strictly, Irish Tayto crisps, her Mammy and unflinching honesty about her depression. That actor Sam West (@exitthelemming) tweets beautifully about birds and nature, that Ian Martin (@IanMartin), Emmy-award winning writer on Veep and The Thick of It, is so knowledgeable about architecture.
In a world which seems increasingly to want to pigeon hole people, to allow them only to be one thing - often not of their own choosing - it’s a useful reminder that you can be interested in Syria and lipstick, Beowulf and Happy Valley, restaurants and kayaking.
It’s wrong to assume that all keen tweeters are eschewing the real world for a cosy or combative virtual one. For me, the opposite is true. I flip through my diary and see that half a dozen or so of the people I’m seeing this week are some of those I first met in communications limited to 140 characters. Now we sometimes talk for hours, share stories, laughs, drinks and problems, give each other career tips and romantic advice. Just like proper friends because we have become proper friends.
For me, communicating with people I would never have got to know in a life before Twitter, has been unequivocally life enhancing. It’s egalitarian and fun, the easiest way to find your faraway tribe, wherever you are and whoever you are. Whether you’re interested in rare breed sheep or mediaeval manuscripts, or just want someone to listen along to #TheArchers with, you just have to find the right @s for you. And for that, we all owe a friendly debt to the little blue bird.
I tweet as @lickedspoon. Come and help me procrastinate.
PEOPLE WHO ARE SURPRISINGLY GOOD AT TWITTER
Kathy Burke @KathyBurke Upliftingly sweary and funny. Passionate supporter of the NHS. Kind and consistent retweeter of lost people and dogs.
Carrie Fischer @carrieffisher I want whatever she and her French bulldog Gary are having. Gives great emoticon.
Cher @Cher Hard to know what she’s going on about sometimes, but you wouldn’t want to miss it. You know when she’s awake. Loves capital letters.
Reverend Richard Coles @RevRichardColes Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live, former Communard, priest of the parish of Finedon. Follow him for his wry look at the world and excellent pictures of dachshunds.
Joanne Harris @Joannechocolat Award-winning author of Chocolat and many other novels, short stories and cookbooks. Generous with advice to writers; admirably, patiently ruthless with sexists and any other form of bigot.
Jeremy Lee @JLQuoVadis Lively tweets from the charismatic chef at London’s Quo Vadis; part food, part flowers, part flirt. Generous and heartwarming stuff with edge of wickedness.
Gary Linekar @garylinekar Come for the football, stay for the Piers Morgan put downs and self-deprecating funnies.
Alison Moyet @AlisonMoyet Engaging, chatty, funny and kind. Essentially you want her to be your best pal in a total FanGirl way.
Nigella @Nigella Warm, informative and responsive to her followers, unlike some. Good on recipe tips and pointers to the latest cookbooks.
Richard Osman @richardosman The co-presenter of quiz show Pointless, or ‘You know, that guy from that thing,’ as his Twitter biography would have it. Prolific, funny and generous.