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Reasons to be cheerful: Embracing Twitter

BY James Brown

1st Jan 2015 Technology

Reasons to be cheerful: Embracing Twitter

Think it’s just for people talking trivia? Wrong! It’s a real community out there, says Twitter convert James Brown.

When you tell a non-user that you love being on Twitter and they should try it out, they always reply: “But why would I want to know what someone’s having for breakfast?” It’s a strange perception of something that is essentially a very fast and inclusive news stream. As if all over the world, six million tweeters are furiously pumping out details of toast, cereal and scrambled eggs. Pausing halfway through a glass of orange juice to type about their orange juice. Ignoring their Frosties to fetch their phones so they can give an account of how sugary the milk tastes. Sure, some of this coffee-house chatter does go on, but I’ve been hooked on Twitter for over a year and I couldn’t tell you what Jonathan Ross, Alec Baldwin or Lauren Laverne have for breakfast.

If you’re not familiar with Twitter yet, it’s an easy-to-use, digital platform that allows you to tap into information and opinion being produced by the people you’re interested in. You can access it on a mobile phone or your computer. If you want to follow your favourite film star, sports team or gardening expert, or maybe check the weather or the share index, or you want to get the inside track on the funniest performers or cleverest minds on earth, they’re all here. Most importantly, you can locate and liaise with people you have something in common with. I doubt there’s a single hobby or pursuit in the world that someone isn’t tweeting about. If you want a running commentary on walks around the Lake District, just follow fellow RD writer and BBC broadcaster Stuart Maconie. You choose who you follow, and if they do start droning on about their breakfast and you find that tedious you simply “Unfollow” them.

Embracing Twitter

I think if Twitter hadn’t been called Twitter it would have been easier to approach. The word sounds irritating —like a high-pitched busybody or an annoying, precocious child. But if you can get past that, there’s a fantastic community you can tap into. For those of us who work alone or wait at home for the family to reappear, it’s a gateway to the world. I follow a lot of journalists, comedians and weirdos, and as I type away the constant feed of information popping up is like being in a big bustling office. You overhear other people’s conversations, are drawn in by humour, and watch in disbelief as rows develop. You can also choose who you “sit next to” in this virtual office. My favourite tweeters are Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran), Daniel Ruiz Tizon (@PleaseDontHugMe), and spoof tweeter Andy Dawson (@dianainheaven). Why? Because they make me laugh at least two or three times a day. You can also occasionally find yourself having a conversation with, or being “retweeted” by, people you admire. My colleague Matt at Sabotage Times was shocked during the last World Cup to have Lionel Messi, the best footballer in the world, reply to a request that his manager Maradona should join Twitter. “Lionel Messi has just tweeted me,” said Matt in a state of shock.

The less bothered you are about going anywhere, the better Twitter is for you. Before I’d even left my bed this morning, I knew the weather in London and Hastings. I’d followed a link to an article about how the New Zealand badminton team had got themselves into a spot of bother by renaming themselves the Black Cocks. I’d read a fascinating account of a bizarre psychiatric study in the London Review of Books, and I knew that Caitlin Moran had a personal history of “favourite fags”. Some of these things might seem trivial or uninteresting to you, but the point is I’d never previously read the London Review of Books or checked the local news in New Zealand. If you have an inquisitive mind (and you’re reading RD, so I guess you do), then the links posed on Twitter allow you to explore people, places and publications you might not usually come across. As I write, the American comic actor Garry Shandling is commenting on the ball game he’s watching, radio DJ Robert Elms is recommending the hot new crime novel Viva La Madness, and the night editor of The Guardian is describing misty London at dawn as “having an air of the 19th century”.

All of this can be a little like a good radio conversation without the music. It’s truly addictive. (I occasionally find I’m excusing myself from meetings to visit the bathroom to find out what’s happening on Twitter.) But so long as you can find time for doing things in the real world you’ll be fine. Writing this, I can see my old  Italian neighbour moving slowly round his garden cutting longstemmed roses for his vase. I’m going off to tweet that now—it’s a nice image to send out into the world. It dawned on me the other day that I could still be using Twitter when I’m my neighbour’s age. So long as it doesn’t stop me moving round the garden, I’ll be fine with that. By then, I’ll probably still be having cereal, a bacon sandwich or green teafor breakfast. But you’ll probablyalready know that by then anyway.

James Brown, founder of Loaded magazine now edits Sabotage Times—an online magazine with the motto: "We can't concentrate, why should you?" Since November 2010 James has written over 50 of his popular monthly Reasons To Be Cheerful Column in the Reader’s Digest, you can read more by clicking here. You can follow him on Twitter @jamesjamesbrown. And follow Reader’s Digest @readersdigestUK


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