The wonderful thing about Twitter is it not only enables you to eavesdrop on conversations you’d never normally be privy to, but it also allows you to interact with a bunch of people in the public eye. Which is fun.
I quickly cottoned on to the fact I could follow ‘80s pop heroes like @realmartinkemp, @BoyGeorge, @GeorgeMichael etc and turn my Twitter feed into Smash Hits for the middle-aged. This never gets dull.
But an unexpected side effect is that sometimes the well-known take it into their heads to contact the unknown. This is fun, too.
My first experience of this was a few months ago when I Tweeted that I was reviewing Gary Younge’s book (@garyyounge), and he sent me a DM asking what I thought of it, which led to a little exchange. Out of the blue, a few weeks later, he followed up with a friendly DM apologisng for being unable to make a Festival of Ideas event here in Bristol.
Then there’s the fact that Twitter (and Facebook) have opened up a sprawling network of interconnected people who you can access with a few well-placed RTs. Take the recent ‘Close Hooters in Bristol Now’ petition, which went viral in about an hour, thanks in no small part to Twitter, the RT function and a few sleb endorsements – again, all thanks to Twitter. Without Twitter and its impressive function of endless RT-ing, it seems unlikely that Jonathan Ross (@wossy) would otherwise have heard of it. Twitter also enabled me to directly contact regular Tweeters like David Mitchell (@RealDMitchell) and Ian Martin (@IanMartin) and ask them to get on board, too – and they in turn RT-ed their zillions of followers.
Another aspect is that, in many instances, you can Tweet a particular known person and ask a question that, on almost any other platform, they would have been unlikely to answer – but a 140-character Tweet is easy to reply to. Last night and this morning, I had a Twitter conversation with Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) about some points in her book that I took issue with. Before Twitter, this kind of casual interaction with a ‘public person’ just didn’t exist.
It took me three attempts over two years to get to grips with Twitter, but having decided to embrace it since January, I really can’t remember how we coped without it (thanks to some excellent tutoring from @polywhat). The immediacy, the availability and the speed of information is unrivalled… and while much of Twitter is filled with mildly amusing tosh, there’s also a huge chunk of Twitter that’s vital and vibrant and necessary. #win