Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Twitter: random thoughts from a broad
Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I am going to refrain from another long, earnest essay, since I subjected you to one of those yesterday. I have many, many thoughts on Twitter - I suspect that it might be one of those phenomena which is more important than its constituent parts, and therefore deserves some contemplation; I suspect that people miss the point on account of being blinded by the 140 characters thing, and the jargon of tweets and tweeps and twitterverse. However, I am not going to spill my musings out in one indigestible blurt, but scatter them around graciously like confetti, over the coming days. For this, you need to picture me as Grace Kelly in High Society when she is pretending to be the most tremendous society girl in a huge swirling dress to frighten away Frank Sinatra. As if anyone could frighten Frank.
It took me about six months to start twittering. I signed up, had a look, and could not get the point. I just could not see it. I did not understand it. I felt old and cross and out of touch, even though, oddly, Twitter is not really a thing for da kids, but beloved of middle-aged men like Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry and Toby Young. But still, it was a new internet 2.0 kind of deal, and I did not get it. So I turned away in disgust, and easily joined all those ranks of critics in the mainstream press who had decided it was clearly the spawn of Satan, designed for the pathetically narcissistic and the terminally mad. I wrote, crossly, on this very blog, that it was a site of staggering banality.
Then I thought: oh come on, what the hell, let’s try again. And after a couple of days of still not really getting it, I suddenly realised: Twitter is like the great British pub. The whole narcissism trope misses the point entirely – if someone is out for a drink talking a little too loudly about what they think about things, you would not write them off for high-grade solipsism; that’s what people do in social situations. Twitter is a social situation. Just like the pub, it has its bores, its kooks, its regulars. It has the ones who are really just playing the slot machine all night, the ones who are showing off about their great new business, and the ones who are so fascinating that you just want to eavesdrop on them until your ears fall off. It also, in oddly British fashion, even though it is an international operation, has the ones who love to talk about the weather. (Eddie Izzard, you know that means you, you little tinker.)
So, as in any gathering, there are the dullards – ‘having coffee at work and thinking of booking a summer holiday’. There are the frankly incomprehensible: ‘I unlocked 2 X box achievements on Assassin’s Creed!’ (I know, NO idea). There are the slightly unexpected: ‘Thinking of going back into US navy to help catch pirates’. And there are the funny: ‘Thinking of writing brilliant novel: ‘A Tale of Two Tweeties’. Would be 21st century epistolary novel in 140 character bursts’.
It’s also very friendly, in the tradition of the public house. People you have never met before will buy you a drink. They will politely laugh at your jokes. There is a great deal of unspoken etiquette.
So for the grumpy columnists out there who are convinced it is the end of civilised discourse as we know it, I say, as would the clearly fake but highly diverting Tim Westwood – chill the fuck out, brothas. It’s just the Dog and Duck.