It seems everyone is at it. But is Twitter for people with
too much time on their hands? Or is it the best new way to communicate and keep
up with the news? Jo Craven takes the leap and finds out
I never thought Twitter would be for me. I’ve had many
conversations where my girlfriends and I puzzled over what kind of losers found
time to tweet. Wasn’t it just a lot of over-sharing? Tweeting was for Stephen
Fry, or people with things to sell, wasn’t it? I’m a married mother of two. It
wasn’t for people like me. But, somehow, Twitter crept up on me. Three
years ago, I took the first step and created an account (I had to be @CravenJo,
as some imposter had got @JoCraven first).
Is It Time To
I had an initial flurry of following a few famous people
-@AlaindeBotton for wise sayings and @StephenFry, because everyone follows
him – but was never tempted to tweet. I was what Twitter users sniffily refer
to as a ‘lurker’ – silently stalking people without ever joining in the chat.
But then I started to notice that actual conversations were happening. Witty
banter was taking place, with people firing tweets back at each other. I had to
wonder: was I missing out? Was it time for me to join the Twitterati and
actually – gasp – write a tweet of my own?
It’s 11.59am when I sit down at my computer. I dawdle and
look up my friend Chloe, who started tweeting a few months ago, and see she
gave up after 15 tweets. I can’t decide if my goal is to ‘trend’ like feminist
author Linda Grant did on International Women’s Day when her question about
examples of sexual discrimination threw up thousands of responses in hours and
put her top of the Twitter Trending list. Or do I just want to be popular and
funny, and have lots of followers? Who exactly is @CravenJo? Is she newsy and
topical? Or is she wry and amusing?
Nearly a whole day
has gone by and all I have done is send one pathetic tweet. I’m beginning to
think Twitter might get a little time-consuming.
And what if I upset someone? We live in the age of
cyberbullies and if someone doesn’t like what I have to say, I’ll soon hear
about it. I don’t want enemies: I want this to be fun. Also, what if (worst of
all) it turns out I’m a boring tweeter that no one wants to follow? Enough
procrastination, I need to settle on a voice and get going. As I’m a
journalist, fellow writers and fashion commentators are the main people I
follow, so I could ape their style, which is a bit
tough-girls-in-the-playground. But what on earth could I possibly think worthy
from my life to share? Perhaps I’ll try replying to someone – a toe-in-water
approach. It takes three attempts, but I finally send a reply to Sunday
Times journalist Camilla Long (7,000-odd followers). I can’t bear to repeat
it here: it was too tragic. I am sick with regret, but my tweet seems
immediately to disappear into the ether. But nothing ever truly disappears on
the internet. That cringy first tweet of mine is now part of my ‘digital
footprint’ – out there, somewhere, forever. I must try harder. Nearly a whole
day has gone by and all I have done is send one pathetic tweet. I’m beginning
to think Twitter might get a little time-consuming.
Somehow, I have 13 followers. It turns out I know all of
them, except one. Who on earth is this person and why are they following me?
It’s a little like being started at by a stranger on the bus. But I will have
to get used to this as my followers soar (they will, won’t they?). No response
from Camilla. Admittedly she is in Uganda on an assignment, so I can’t take
this personally. I tell myself I need to be more thick-skinned.
Twitter is an
excellent way to pass the time. This is an indisputable fact.
Tweeting is not coming naturally. I see now I must make a
concerted effort to tweet. In normal life, if I see something remarkable or
make an observation, I tell whoever may be with me. Occasionally I’ll remember
to email something relevant to someone, but generally I forget. Now, as a
tweeter, I must reassess these thoughts and weigh them up for quality. Is that
cinnamon bun, new dress, funny picture of a dog, worthy of a tweet? Do I have
an opinion on that Daily Mail article everyone’s tweeting about? Another
hour goes by as I read my Twitter feed, clicking through to links and twitpics.
Twitter is an excellent way to pass the time. This is an indisputable fact.
I tweet Christa D’Souza, a former colleague, who is
travelling in Kabul. I refresh the page. Then I refresh it again. No reply.
It’s not like I sent her a personal email to which I might be more hopeful of a
reply. A tweet is just a tweet. Yes, she’s ignoring me, but that doesn’t mean
we’re not friends… does it?
Oh god, an old boyfriend is following me and I’ve just
tweeted a link to a photo of the cast of Downtown Abbey pictured as dogs. Is
that like telling a terrible joke at a party that everyone’s heard before?
An old boyfriend
is following me and I’ve just tweeted a link to a photo of the cast of Downtown
Abbey pictured as dogs. Is that like telling a terrible joke at a party that
everyone’s heard before?
I believe I have learned lesson number one of Twitter: tweeting
is all well and good, but what you really need is people to tweet back. What’s
the point of tweeting into the abyss? It’s supposed to be a conversation, isn’t
it? I follow the writer James Delingpole and see with envy that he has hundreds
of people tweeting him back advising how to deal with a rude person. How can I
get that kind of response? My feed is still deafeningly silent.
Ti honestly all feels unnatural – this ‘sharing’ is pretty
un-British, and I am struggling to get the tone right. I decide to strip back
to basics and tweet something sweet and innocuous about walking my dog and
looking for the first bluebells. To my absolute joy, almost instantly, my
lovely, wonderful friend Christine, @Remodelista, retweets my tweet. Success!
A mini-flood of new followers arrive. I skip a little.
. I decide to
strip back to basics and tweet something sweet and innocuous about walking my
dog and looking for the first bluebells.