I wrote this piece for a magazine just after I joined Twitter. A year has passed since then and, like all relationships, Twitter and I have had our ups and downs: there was the passionate honeymoon phase, followed by the ambivalent plateau stage and then the "even the way you chew drives me crazy" period but, as we celebrate our first anniversary together, I want to pause and look back at how it all started.....
I Tweet, Therefore I Am
In the time-honoured tradition of my conflicted relationship with all things technological, I came late to Twitter. Informed by those in the know that tweeting was the latest “big thing,” I decided it would be best to bury my head firmly in the sand and ignore it for as long as possible. What was the point of embracing this new media phenomenon sweeping the world when I could simply pretend it didn’t exist instead? After all, this was a policy that had worked perfectly well for me in the past. I was already successfully blanking Facebook, Bebo and all those other convoluted social networking tools - I wasn’t about to be seduced by this new kid on the block. Besides, if I wanted to talk to people without having to go to the trouble of actually speaking to them I still had my dear friends - email and texting - to rely on.
But, as time rolled on, I began to get curious. Just a little. And so one night, I logged on to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t going to get sucked in of course, I was just going to look, prove to myself that I was right to avoid this Twitter like the rabid plague it surely was. But before I could say jeepers tweepers, I found I’d opened an account (twitter.com/niamh_greene), and uploaded a dodgy photo to accompany it. It had all been so incredibly easy, even for a tech dinosaur like me – either this tweeting thing was a piece of cake or I was a computer genius and I just hadn’t realised it before.
“What’s happening?” my new page asked me flirtatiously that fateful night. My fingers hovered over the keyboard as I dithered about how I should reply, a wave of sudden uncertainty washing over me. What should I say? I could hardly admit “Em, not very much to be honest.”
Foolish pride prevents me from revealing here just how long it took to compose that first tweet. Let’s just say my husband asked me, more than once, if I was feeling all right as he ferried cups of tea up and down the stairs to me.
The trouble was, the truth was dawning: My tweets had to be witty and relevant. They also had to be concise - I had just 140 characters to play with. Not only that, I had to reach out into the abyss to other tweeps – “follow” people, get them to “follow” me. This made me feel quite ill with fright. It was the nail-biting cyberspace equivalent of going to a party where I knew no-one and standing at the edge of the room, nervously plucking up the courage to join in the conversation, hoping someone, anyone, would talk to me. (On the upside, I didn’t have to roll out the Spanx to squeeze into my little black dress - pyjama wearing and tweeting go hand in hand.)
Then there was the lingo to contend with: what were tags, RTs, abbreviations like LMAO? When someone #FF me, I didn’t know whether to thank them or run and hide. It was all so strange and unknown. But the conversations - as people shared information, interesting websites, personal angst - were fascinating.
Within days, and against all the odds, I was hooked. Before I knew it, I was refreshing my page constantly to check for new messages. I was also sneaking away from the dinner table to consort with my PC like some sort of Twitter junkie. Where was the harm? It was all such fun right?
But Twitter has its downsides too, as I would soon sadly learn. Just like at parties, there were people on-line who wanted to corner me near the cold meat buffet and tell me their every waking thought – like they were thinking about cutting their toenails soon – yes, really.
There were also lots of fakers. Take a new follower of mine – let’s call her Julie. Julie seemed perfectly nice to begin with. Until, that is, she kept asking me to look at naked photos of her. You see, Julie didn’t want to befriend me at all – she wasn’t even a real person - she was spam.
But, despite the negatives, I keep going back for more. Mostly because, although I’m still a newbie, I have already found real connections on-line – Twitter is a wonderland for writers like me. I’ve even met some famous faces. My claim to Twitter fame - and a story I hope to dine out on for many years to come - is that I am one very well known person’s 666th follower. When I pointed this out to him, as I felt duly obliged to, he kindly tweeted back, wanting to know if this meant that if he read one of my novels backwards it would be Satanic text. I’m taking it as a compliment - after all, chick lit has been called lots worse. Now, I really must go, I haven’t checked my account in, oh, at least twenty minutes. Who knows what I’ve missed….