Sally-Anne Stewart: My name’s Sally, and I’m a Twitterholic

I never thought I’d see the day when I joined Twitter. But, two months later, I’m addicted.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 6th October 2011, 5:07 pm

Unlike Facebook, few of the people I follow, or am followed by, are friends. I mostly follow people who look interesting, be they famous or Joe Bloggs. I like to look at their feeds for news about things that I’m interested in, such as music and films. And cakes. And cats.

As for who’s following me, I’m pretty clueless. Apart from a few exchanges, we generally don’t talk very much. I just send my tweets out into cyberspace and hope someone out there finds them interesting or amusing (I must miss the mark sometimes though, as I’ve lost the odd follower).

So, why so addictive? Well, for a start, there’s the numbers aspect. As soon as you’re into double figures things really start to get exciting (despite Twitter assuring you during the sign-up process that it’s not a race). And when you get to 100, well, you’re a somebody, aren’t you? Well, at least according to 100 mostly random strangers who are mostly only following you because they hope you’ll help them get more followers. Trust me, none of them really care. (As you can see, it doesn’t take long for Twitter cynicism to creep in.)

But it’s always good when someone responds to one of your tweets and starts a conversation – it could be about anything from the Luton Dunstable Busway to the Great British Bake Off. Be warned though - this will revolutionise the way you watch TV, and I don’t mean in a Sky+/Tivo box kind of way. What will happen is you’ll end up missing half of the programme because you’ve spent so much time looking at your phone, posting witty retorts and thinking up snappy hashtags. If you’re watching something with subtitles then you’re really up the creek.

And forget those cosy nights in watching your favourite programme with your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/dog – they’re going to get pretty annoyed with the constant pinging sound of new Twitter alerts on your phone as you engage in a conversation with God knows how many other people during the Apprentice final. There’s a face that my husband does after about three pings, and it’s got to the stage where I don’t even have to look at him to know he’s doing it.

Lastly, there’s the retweet – the ultimate Twitter affirmation. Oh, the sweet thrill. Somebody, somewhere thinks you’re witty enough to pass on your gem of a tweet to their own loyal followers. And they wouldn’t do that if they thought you were a complete cretin, would they? Unless they’re doing it because they think you are a complete cretin, and they want everyone to know. Oh dear. (Perhaps don’t sign up to Twitter if you’re a bit paranoid.)

As a journalist it’s a great communication tool and resource – invaluable for breaking stories and making contact with people interested in certain issues. And so far it’s been great for procuring treats – our office tweets have seen cakes, biscuits and savoury snacks brought direct to our door by strangers we’ve made contact with online.

The personal validation and gratification you can get from 140 characters makes it easy to understand how people end up living out the best part of their lives out online in virtual communities like Second Life. I suppose my Twitter world is a bit like a secret life, where I interact with people I don’t really know, but who are party to my inane ramblings and know some of my innermost thoughts.

For all the strangeness, though, it’s great fun, and if anyone reading this is in two minds about joining, my advice is just to jump in head first.

So go on, give it a go. I might even give you a retweet.