I passed 40,000 tweets today, which is frankly ridiculous. Forty is a dangerous lean towards mid-life crises, or landmark celebrations involving overpriced sponge. What have I been doing?
There’s no point fretting. I rarely do anything now unless I’m going to get maximum enjoyment out of it – rather worryingly, I just had a phone call which listed its contents “in order of interest-to-Kat-ness.” I know exactly what I’ve been doing: bitching about reality television, making hashtag jokes, reading stories, getting massive life-crushes on people who do amazing things, and occasionally doing some actual work. A while ago, I got really irritated by someone I used to work with going on, and on about my enormous number of tweets. “How do you get anything done!” they asked, as though every time I looked at Twitter a golden apple fell out of my life tree. “You can’t do anything else! Do you have a life? Where do you find the time?”
Well, I find the time, just as smokers find the time to nip out for a fag. What keeps me on Twitter, both in terms of time and amount of tweets, is that it’s become a necessary part of my working and personal lives. As well as being an utterly absorbing source of interesting people, stories, anecdotes and jokes, Twitter is a conduit to opportunity: my first story in The Times came from an election night tip, and all my news stories since stemmed from Twitter-based news. I’ve learned about new software and tools that make life so much easier, and help me to do my jobs better.
When I wanted to do something, anything, to punch cancer in the face after my friend Ben and aunt Tina died, the @se1 feed helpfully pointed me in the direction of volunteering opportunities at Guy’s. I’ve found two flatmates, and a very nice illustration team who designed my mother’s Christmas present. Because of things I’ve said or posted on Twitter, I’ve been asked to write for people, to speak at conferences and on the BBC. I was invited to read at Literary Death Match, purely on the basis that I might write something funny. I’ve made new friends, and enjoyed seeing new sides to my existing ones. For all the boring bits about trolling, or when people turn purple with rage and start a Twitstorm, Twitter is simply brilliant.
Twitter gives people a voice, even if they don’t have a newspaper column, or a presenting job, or an influential blog – I love that. It works with my appalling inability to concentrate for long periods of time: it takes a matter of seconds to post or check. I read more stories, engage with the news more fully – you can’t just skip the boring pages if people you follow are bringing them to life – and am better informed about what’s happening in my local area.
It doesn’t change who you are, it just seems to amplify it, good and bad. I adore chatting to people – most of that enormous number of tweets are made up of conversations – but I’m not very good at Twitter in real life: I’ve never been at ease at networking events, so the big tweet-ups that I’ve been to, however lovely, have invariably resulted in my melting away after a glass of wine and a quick chat. I’d much rather meet up with one or two people at a time than a horde, and that’s fine.
Thank you to Tom Chivers for introducing me to Twitter three years ago when we were working at thelondonpaper (RIP). A world where you can bring entire businesses to a crashing halt for a whole Friday afternoon just by posting a link to a livefeed of kittens is one I really, really like being in.