A couple of years ago I joined Twitter.
Prior to that point I had spurned its charms, condemning it as pointless, solipsistic and tedious. But then I was about to have a book out and Penguin had sent me a guide to maximising your internet presence; its advice included having a Twitter account.
So, what the hey? Why not give it a go?
Like most people I dipped my toe gingerly into the water and grappled with hashtags, DMs, following, unfollowing, celebrities etc. I wasn’t sure what to write, I wasn’t sure to what extent to swear, I wasn’t exactly sure who was reading my Tweets, but as the days went by I found ways of making it work for me until it became the website I spend the most time on.
A couple of weeks ago my wife said she’d rather I didn’t use my iPad so much. I explained that I was just checking my Twitter feed and asked how it differed to me reading the newspaper. In many ways it’s much better: I follow the exact news, sports, celebrity, professional and friend accounts that I’m interested in and they get updated all the time, so if you check them every couple of hours you have a regular digest of everything that interests you (I’m now really struggling with the desire to write ‘simples’. But I can’t do it. I just can’t).
From what I’ve noticed, more and more people are joining, so in case you’re interested, here are the top however many things I’ve learned about it over the least two years:
1. Following/Unfollowing is a weird one.It’s tempting to think that, like Kanye West, your Twitter status resides in your ratio of followers to those you follow. I think that’s what I thought initially, but then a while later I thought ‘fuck it’ and just followed everyone who followed me. It felt polite. But now I’ve stopped doing that because I can’t be bothered. But it’s all bollocks anyway because of point 2…
2. You can’t possibly cope with following 900 people. That would be like trying to read every magazine in the newsagent every week. So the best thing to do is to check that feed out occasionally but create a ‘List’ that makes things more manageable. You can stick, say, 30-40 people on the list and make them the people you regularly follow.
3. You think you want to follow certain celebrities, but then you see what/how much they Tweet, and you stop following them (see Simon Pegg and Kevin Smith).
4. Jokes that people have never heard before and cool links get you followers. Swearing about Arsenal results loses you followers.
5. But swearing in general seems be catnip to a certain type of reader (see Creature Dan’s feed for evidence of this).
6. Finding out who Twitter thinks you’re similar to and who it thinks you might like to follow can be a chastening experience.
7. Twitter has been responsible for some great things, such as pointing out the #humblebrag.
8. But (and if you aren’t on Twitter this will be utterly meaningless), the jury is out on gratuitously hashtagging as a little punchline to your Tweet.
9. It’s easy to forget that DMs are better than your normal Twitter feed for organising your social life.
10. Justin Bieber fans? WTF?