Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Twittering Classes

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


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