Finally something happened that made me like Twitter – and all it took was for a rock star to tweet a photo of me.
It was hard not to warm to it right then and there.
See, I’ve always had a lot of trouble making friends with Twitter. Maybe I’m just old. I resisted using it as long as I could – when the collapse of print media began two years ago and I agonized over how to stay relevant, my friend Graham F Scott – a very sage magazine editor – told me it was crucial that I start tweeting. “NO! You can’t make me!” I protested. “Suck it up princess – do it or become obsolete.”
For a long time, I just didn’t see the appeal. Until recently I called the act of posting to the website – almost entirely filled with the inane chatter of people with little worth reading – “twitting”.
When the so-called “Twitter revolution” in Iran took place I had to eat my words. Of course then I realised the incredible potential and unprecedented impact that microblogging could have. Then the G20 debacle in Toronto (my hometown) happened, and the live feeds from reporters describing the kettlings, beatings and mass arrests touched me deeply on a very personal level.
But still, I struggled to enjoy using it myself. Every time I looked at my feed I felt inundated with noise, unable to sort the wheat from the chaff, helplessly flooded with messages and ideas and links and thoughts, a huge many worth reading. It was overwhelming, and only made my ongoing quest to manage my ever-expanding “to read” list even more difficult.
I’ve had a hard time using it myself – if you look at my own twitter feed, you’ll see I’ve only tweeted a pathetic 38 times. I don’t like to post something unless it’s worth posting, so the details of my day-to-day life and the no-doubt fascinating contents of my lunch remain untweeted.
And I struggle to understand how I can know so many writers who lack websites for their portfolio, but maintain an active public profile simply through twitter. I am baffled. My friend Martin furiously tweeted for two months until he landed a job at videogamer.com. “It is my sincere hope that this will get me a job – ‘come and work for us,’ somebody will say, ‘your tweets reveal that you write beautifully’.” He was being more than a bit sarcastic. I laughed heartily.
Maybe I’m just old – I’ve had a hard time making friends with this technology. And when it (no doubt) becomes irrelevant and replaced by Foursquare or some other new social networking malarky (“Webwank” or whatever the hell it will be called), I’ll no doubt have a hard time making friends with that too. The struggle will begin all over again.
But, for now, I have finally made friends with Twitter. Thank you, Wayne Coyne.
The lead singer of the Flaming Lips, unambiguously one of my favourite live acts, crossed paths with myself and the rest of the Guerilla Science crew as we were taking our giant brain back to the car in a wheelbarrow. We looked quite the treat. Enchanted and amused, he stopped to talk to us about our brain – turns out he had made one himself last Hallowe’en for his kids (“In America we do this thing called Hallowe’en and it’s a really big deal every year,” he explained, to my British colleagues he had presumed ignorant of foreign festivities.)
“Hang on – let me get a photo – I’m going to tweet this.” And so with his iPhone he did – in the middle of a muddy field in Wales.
If somebody had told me seven years ago, as I rocked out to Wayne and the Flaming Lips at Glastonbury 2003 (with Justin Timberlake dressed as a giant squirrel), that one day the rock star would use a phone to post of a photo of me with a giant brain in a muddy field onto a social networking site that had transformed the nature of civil disobedience and political discourse, I think my head would have exploded.