Twitter this, twitter that; it’s all we ever hear about at the moment. It seems the whole world is ‘tweeting’, from Stephen Fry to Barack Obama. So, never one to miss out on an opportunity to enhance my social life, I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about.
Signing up took moments and soon I was given a list of fellow Twitters who I might like to ‘follow’, including Al Gore, The Guardian newspaper’s technology team, 10 Downing Street and…Britney Spears. Feeling a little bewildered and wondering if I really want to know snippets of Britney’s personal life, I quickly moved on. Next, I was encouraged to give details of my email account so Twitter could find who of my friends are already twittering. Surprisingly few and I couldn’t decide if I was relieved or disappointed. But, only minutes in, I’m already ‘following’ seven…and Twitter is sucking me in. Knowing that Stephen Fry is a big fan of Twitter, I can’t help but wonder how many other celebrities I can hunt down and so I immediately go to the Find People page. Mere seconds later and I’ve found Lily Allen, Barack Obama, Sir Richard Branson and Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles. Uh oh, I’m starting to see the appeal…
So, I’m faced with a question: ‘What are you doing?’ Apparently I must answer this question in 140 characters or less, and I can do so as often as I like. Other people can then sign up to ‘follow’ me and receive my updates. Isn’t this exactly like Facebook’s status updates? But curiosity suppressed my cynicism and soon I was gripped by the Home page, which details the actions and thoughts of those I’d selected to follow. Lily Allen is about to have scrambled eggs on toast drowned in Tabasco…Stephen Fry is off for a walk…Chris Moyles is playing Fifa 09. Perez Hilton, celebrity gossip queen, apparently has his mojo ‘going on’. Eek.
Feeling the thrill of knowing what celebrities are up to merely minutes ago, I changed my background and profile photo. Suddenly: a Twitter follower request! Clearly, one of my friends had recognised my username…or not. How naïve was I! A total stranger from the newly-discovered depths of the Twitter universe had seen my profile photo and that, combined with my first answer to that all-important question ‘What are you doing?’ had caused them decide I was someone they’d like to follow. I was struck with a sudden sense of paranoia – this was a random stranger, wanting to view my thoughts and know my every move! I quickly clicked Decline. Shudder. In fact, within an hour, I’d received six follower requests including two from the same persistent person not taking the hint. One request even came with the message: ‘Blessings! Psychic empathic and spiritual net worker always looking to make new friends’. Decline.
Is this what it’s all about? Like MySpace and Facebook, the more friends (or in this case, followers) you have, regardless of whether you actually know them in person, appears to indicate how popular you are and supposedly influences the sense of satisfaction you feel with your life. Is Twitter just one huge world-wide contest, where everyone competes with everyone to try and prove whose life is the more interesting? Indeed, to my horror, I stumbled across a site called TweetValue.com which apparently calculates a tweeter’s value based on the number of followers they have, how frequently they tweet and how many @replies they get. I’m currently worth $2. Ouch. Possibly because I’m still such an amateur tweet that I don’t have a clue what @replies are.
I’m possibly missing the point. Twitter insists that tweeting brings people closer to their friends by sharing bite-sized updates about their lives that they didn’t necessarily already know. Celebrities adore Twitter because they can communicate directly with their fans. And those who actually know the difference between a tweet and an @reply can take advantage of Twitter’s popularity to share news and information, and advertise products and services. But, regardless of my cynicism, a small part of me can’t quite click the ‘delete my account’ option and I’m intrigued as to whether I can track down my childhood idols Andi Peters and Philip Schofield.