Twitter: like having the world hanging around your neck on a liquorice string

At the behest of colleagues, I reluctantly joined up

Photograph: Lex van Lieshout/EPA

Photograph: Lex van Lieshout/EPA


I’m not a Facebook user, being averse to communicating at speed and patently not wanting to know what my children are doing when I’m asleep. But it’s getting lonely here on Planet Luddite: one of Facebook’s biggest growth areas is women in their 50s.

I’ve been thinking about this thing of getting drunk and venting one’s spleen all over the ether. Not that it’s remotely comparable to the recent actions of the former TD Patrick Nulty, but who among us, at some stage in our ragged lives, hasn’t picked up the phone at 2am, a bottle of Chardonnay under our pelts, and wept into the receiver?

Who hasn’t phoned an ex in the wee small hours to tell them we abhor them/ forgive them/wouldn’t necessarily kick them out of the scratcher again in quite such a hurry? No? Oh, I see.

Thing is, at least the damage done was limited when you were communicating through a lump of Bakelite; now, thanks to social media, every injudicious comma and bleary, red-eyed snap of you in the plastic bunny suit exists in perpetuity.

And – though this might seem like a leap – the bathroom light is broken and has been since Christmas. Actually, “broken” may be too strong a word. It’s temperamental: it ignites when it’s in the mood. I don’t mind. At this stage, there are ornate and interesting-looking rivulets of molten candle wax around the bath and over the cistern, plus there’s little need to clean a bathroom when you can’t see it.

A technophobe on Twitter
Whatever about my household’s unwillingness to change a light bulb, my instinctive fear of technology was recently underscored when, at the behest of colleagues, I joined Twitter. Twitter is like having the entire world hanging around your neck on a liquorice string. Every gallery, play, recital, review, fit of rage and riposte is a finger-flick away. Open up your Twitter feed and, hey presto, there are pictures of Putin in his Boyzone pyjamas or of the detritus of Kurt Cobain’s bedroom. (Okay, Mr Putin, I’m making the pyjama bit up – they were actually One Direction PJs – but, seriously, I’m overwhelmed by all the things I’m failing to participate in or have an opinion about.)

Then, yesterday, in the supermarket, the woman locked inside the self-service scanner, the one who says “Unexpected item in the bagging area. Unexpected item in the bagging area”, went into overdrive when I rearranged the bananas.

“Unexpected item in the bagging area!” she screeched long and loud.

“It’s a bunch of bleedin’ bananas, you dozy cow,” I said, louder than I’d planned.

“It’s all right,” said the assistant, approaching the machine with a tranquilliser gun. “Often people kick it. Some punch it. One man just stood there and wept.”

Am I alone in feeling like I’m drowning in a sea of clamouring, time-consuming technology? Just how much information can one person process? And how many steam mops are that city-deal special-offer outfit going to offer me before I kick the floor bucket?

It wasn’t always like this. Back in the day, we used to boil up snow and ice to make hot, beefy frappuccinos and talk to Australia with two empty soup cans and a piece of string.

When I was a teenager and my parents rented the crooked house with the lonely ghost, and my mother, perhaps misguidedly, painted the cobwebbed old kitchen to look like the set of an amateur pantomime, my father drew perplexed faces on eggs with his felt-tipped pen and the cat once rode a rat bareback down the length of the hall, claws around the bolting rodent’s neck, there came a day when modernity arrived at the peeling door in a small, white van.

The van delivered an automatic washing machine to the old house, a gleaming machine with one fishbowl eye, which stood robot-like and alien in the operatic kitchen among the woodwormed furnishings. “Do you think it’s lonely?” asked my father, pouring some wine and drawing up a chair in front of the solitary technological marvel to wave at his underpants as they twirled around and around.

Ah well. I realise that there is little point in harking back to tom-toms and aproned grocers and telephones that only rang when they had news worth imparting. Hell, who am I to resist a trend? I’ll probably be boring you all senseless on Facebook with alluring snaps of Saturday night in the kangaroo suit in no time.

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