Someone told me to keep in touch. I thought I knew what that meant but then I thought again. I’m in touch with hundreds of people each day through Twitter. I tweet whatever random thoughts pop into my head at any given moment. Like this blog, the tweets can be serious, ranty or juvenile. They’re often sarcastic or facetious. I tweet and often one or more of my followers (or their followers etc) will respond in one way or another. Of course, I read other people’s tweets so I’m in touch with them that way too and I reply to some. One of the wonderful things about Twitter is when someone follows you for something like a political tweet and then you discover the various other common interests you have later. We share things like links to information and songs too and share thoughts and experiences by linking to blogs.
Within my wider Twitter bubble there are quite a lot of people I talk the toot with regularly (I hate the word banter and re-read Robert Rankin’s Brentford trilogy recently, ok? One of these days I’ll probably end up using #talkingthetoot instead of #forcryingoutloudIwasbeingsarcastic). Just talking crap to pass the time. By the way, it’s reassuring to discover I’m not the only lawyer who snickers like a kid at finding the typo “tits” for “its” in a law report or who finds it hilarious that someone registered the trademark “booty call” (yeah – I searched the IPO myself to turn up that little nugget).
I also tweet @ people like George Osborne and David Cameron sometimes, often taking the piss out of their tweets (see To David Cameron: a note on Twitter for my rant on Cameron’s use of Twitter by the way) but I somehow doubt they think I’m keeping in touch. Mind you, they might because they sure as hell don’t seem to understand how out of touch they are.
Many people on Twitter use it for political commentary and activism. Anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Twitter knows I’m an unapologetic leftie. Often it seems like only the right has a voice (is there anyone left in my Twitter bubble who doesn’t know Nigel Farage has been on Question Time 14 times since 2009?) and Twitter is reassuring in that it shows that the left may not be popular with the media but there are a lot of us out there. When faced with things like the utterly absurd alternate Queen’s Speech Private Members Bill or GCHQ’s mass surveillance or the smear tactics used against Stephen Lawrence’s family, it makes the world slightly brighter to see other people on Twitter raging against them, to see that people care.
Sometimes I’m put in touch with people I’d rather not know exist. I find myself reading some abhorrent stuff retweeted into my timeline, most often from racists and rape apologists – my usually untweeted opinions of which are a. deny it all you like but yes, you are racist b. if you’re a rape apologist, the statistically astronomical number of rapes committed makes me believe you’re probably also a rapist. The purpose of those retweets is to name and shame. I resist the temptation to start yelling at the original tweeter but some ugly things get said on Twitter and some of the reactions can be nearly as ugly. I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve had tweets from UKIP supporters and Thatcherites in response to some of my tweets but they’ve always been pretty polite. Other people aren’t so lucky. That’s the unpleasant side of keeping in touch.
Twitter addiction also affects the way I want to use other electronic forms of communication. I know I’m not the only one (because Twitter told me so) who sometimes wishes I could just favourite emails, especially business ones, just to say “yeah. I’ve read it and it’s all good but I don’t have anything to say in reply”. I also want to put gestures in texts but if I put *shrugs* or something like that in a text to a non Twitter user, they won’t get that it’s just the emotional code we squeeze into our 140 characters on Twitter. It’d just seem weird.
The common theme is how easy it is to keep in touch with other people and how much we know about each other. We give a hell of a lot of ourselves in our tweets. The person who asked me to keep in touch has no idea that I’ve twice gone to put a second sock over the first one over the past few months. Twitter does (this thoroughly blonde fact alone is a good enough reason to keep my Twitter account anonymous) . He doesn’t know what music I’m listening to. Twitter does. He doesn’t know how filthy my sense of humour can get. The little corner of Twitter that lives in Kentish Town and Tufnell Park does. Come to think of it, anyone who uses the #bbcqt can probably figure that one out too. He doesn’t know my proudest moment this year was getting a compliment from the Bill Hicks Twitter account (run by his brother) for The Day Justice Died. Twitter does because I retweeted that compliment with utter joy – a compliment from a dead stand up comic I revere. Hell yeah I had to tell Twitter that. Come to think of it, he doesn’t know that my second proudest moment this year was my policy contribution of “hunt Tories with badgers” being selected for Mark Thomas’ second People’s Manifesto by my fellow audience members in Stevenage. Yeah. You’ve guessed it. I’d tweeted it before we even got out of the building. (Update 8/7/13: that more entertaining moment was supplanted when my post on the impact of inflation on foodbank usage got quoted in the Guardian, even if the quote did come from the soundbite paragraph at the end. Every so often posts can strike a chord and spread. When the serious ones do, it’s a good feeling to know I’m contributing something to the debate on important issues that matter to me.)
So much random information, so many thoughts and opinions and conversations and emotions (although the second rule of Twitter after never steal a joke is never tweet something which requires the response “u ok hun” and the third rule in my bubble is don’t abuse the English language by saying “u ok hun”, it’s ok to openly mention the really painful things like death, sickness, divorce and unemployment and my Twitter bubble is a compassionate place for the people going through those things), all being thrown into a well for people, many of whom don’t even know each others’ real names. I mean, come on. There are people out there who tweet photos of every single meal they eat (this becomes newsworthy if the meal is #sausagenews thanks to the more than a little bonkers @kentishtowncats who’ve sucked me into their vortex of weird). Twitter’s so easy and people I do know in real life can and do check in to see what rubbish I’m spouting on about at any given moment. A year ago I wasn’t on Twitter but I drank the Kool Aid and now I’ve forgotten how people who aren’t addicted to social media keep in touch out there in real life. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that you don’t share all the random stuff that pops into your head but where’s the line between that and saying nothing at all these days? What’s important enough to share? When? Maybe we should just give everyone a Twitter account just so I don’t have to think about this stuff.