Alex Massie

In Defence of Twittering

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Unlike Clive, I thought Rachel Sylvester's article on Twitter one of the most confused pieces I've read all year. On the one hand she wanted to say smething about Twitter, on the other she bemoaned the fact that nobody trusts politicians. Unfortunately she tried to link these two things in a single column and pretend there was some kind of relationship between them. Which is a shame since this is palpable nonsense. Ms Slvester certainly failed to establish any such link.

This paragraph was surely a mistake:

Twitter is reality TV without the pictures. There is a combination of neurosis and narcissism involved. The psychologist Oliver James has said: “Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It's a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.”

Isn't "reality TV without the pictures" radio? Who knows? Anyway it has nothing to do with Twitter. As for Oliver James, well he too seems to have a very tenuous awareness of what Twitter is or can be. And, for that matter, a pretty tenuous grip on real life.

Because what you use Twitter for might be very different from what I use it for. Some people use it as a kind of add-on to their Facebook page, others to share information with friends more quickly than is possible by text message or email. Alternatively you might use it to publicise your blog or highlight interesting news items. Or, yes, you can provide a running commentary on your day. No-one is forced to take part or follow anyone else. If you don't "get it" that's fine, but you needn't presume that everyone who does use it must be a fool. For my part, I find it useful to follow a few people in Washington and London who help give one a sense of how matters are being viewed in the DC and Westminster villages. Twitter won't provide the entire story, but it can occasionally fill in some gaps. I also use it to highlight blog posts. (My Twitter feed is here.) It's also  good for gossip. And for keeping up with friends or asking for help or information from the Twitterverse (yup, really).

Perhaps Twitter is just a passing fad. But so what? Most people using it do so because they find it useful* or because, you know, it's fun...

*For instance, I just found out, via Twitter, that most British newspapers' Terms & Conditions say you're not allowed to link to their websites. Fail!

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSociety