OM 140



Someone suggested I set up a Twitter account.

Dear oh dear, don’t they know that people of a certain age and disposition find Twitter: a) Frivolous; b) Time-wasting; and c) Utterly Scary?

Like most people I had a little dabble when it was a novelty. The helpful suggestions of people to follow then included such as Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, and Stephen Fry, and since I’m not a bit curious about any of them I quickly lost interest. It hasn’t improved much. The world now waits breathless for its jewels from Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, and even among the non-singers neither Richard Branson, Alan Carr or Lord Sugar will ever find a home in my inbox. The only attractive character in the whole top list was Christiano Ronaldo and I’m more interested in his feet than his brains. Besides the whole idea of “Following” seemed to be a bit naff, with its overtones of fandom, even stalking (apart of course from Man U and the Cornish Pirates).

But it’s not like that, as so many of you found out long ago. I’m sure you can still tune in to find out what Justin’s been up to, Clarkson’s latest gaffe, whether Nigel Farage has finished his pint and so on, but Twitter is mostly just the instant headlines to whatever’s going on. Very little of its original intention of limiting messages to 140 characters now happens, as instead of few words you are enticed to click a link to what can be a full-scale feature, well-reasoned argument or, often, cute kittens. There are lots of photos, mostly of cake.

That’s a shame. The discipline of that random number had a certain genius, like a sonnet, and could be applied to so many different facets of life. Hamlet would have confined his musing to “To be or not to be, that is the question, so perhaps we’d all top ourselves if we had the choice but it’s all a bit scary so I probably won’t” It still works. The Lord’s Prayer would have ended enigmatically at “Give us this day our Daily…”.  Wordsworth could have got the whole first verse of “Daffodils” in, but with room to say only something like “They were nice” instead of the rest of the poem. Which wouldn’t have been a bad thing. On the other hand it’s difficult to say anything serious in such a short space without banality: “Oh dear it seems international thermonuclear war has broken out and we’re all doomed to die as the whole world explodes in flames.  Wot a shame.”

The worst of Twitter is the ear it provides to the vast and continuous babble of mankind at any point of night and day. We’re such a chatty lot, and it’s impossible to get more than a passing flavour unless you’ve got all day, and if you did what would you have at the end of the day except a lot of forgettable knowledge and an increased awareness of fluffy animals? And cake?

However I remember feeling this way about Facebook (still do), about mobile phones, pagers, calculators, the wheel… At some point we have to stop whining and jump in. Shift over, Cheryl.


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