Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Twitter is for twits

I don't remember when I started Barchester Towers, but it feels like a long time ago and I've milked several posts from it, so when I finished I felt the need to take on something quick and easy. Enter Grace Dent's How to Leave Twitter - because what could be quicker and easier than Twitter?

This book was strongly recommended to me by Alice. Oh, yeah, she wrote a blog post in which she strongly recommended it to all of you, too, but she also mentioned it to me ("Dude. Read How to Leave Twitter. Do it.") at least twice in real life. Alice is my Twitter Pal, a.k.a. one of the few people who actually talks to me on Twitter, so it seemed appropriate to give in. Thus:

Anyone who has succumbed to the lures of Twitter really ought to read this book. It's hilarious. As far as Dent is concerned, Twitter is for aimless chatter and spying on other people's lives, and that's precisely why it's awesome. She has no time for your sanctimonious concerns about privacy and shortening attention spans, much less -- spare us -- your social media strategies.

I'm a really boring tweeter -- I think to myself a lot, so Twitter ends up being an extension of this, with lots of "got to put on clothes" and "when will I learn not to take this bus" -- so I'm not in the position to criticize anyone, but thank goodness Grace Dent is. She goes through not only the various stages of Twitter usage, from newbs to full-blown addicts, but also the various breeds of insufferable tweeters and their insufferable tweets. You will recognize these people, and also the withdrawl Dent writes about in her steps for quitting.
You have not left Twitter if you pop back on to Twitter to tweet about your success.

Guilty as charged; whenever I decide to take time off from the internet I almost instantly think of ten witty comments about the situation, which totally ruins it. I said that anyone on Twitter should read this, but really anyone who finds it difficult to take the high road about social media ought to enjoy it. I am neck deep in social media and I have no one but myself to blame. I lived on message boards and AIM in high school, so I guess it's not surprising that I have a higher tolerance to "living online" than other people, but it seems like more and more of my friends are becoming once a week Facebookers, holding themselves aloft from Zuckerberg's increasingly troubling cesspool of personal data. I know, I know, I know, but meanwhile I can't help myself; I'm Facebooking, I'm Twittering, and yes, as someone accused me the other day, I am indeed Google-plus-ing.

Dent (no fan of Facebook, to be fair) blasts through this uneasiness, proudly declaring her love of the Twitter format and whatever creepiness it might involve. Have I mentioned it's a funny book? It's a really funny book, and it totally makes me jealous of her obviously very fun Twitter life.
It's rather menacing, isn't it? 'Hello, I'm FOLLOWING you,' you're whispering electronically. 'Don't be alarmed. I've decided to silently observe your life for my own personal gratification.'
 I especially liked her description of "Desktop Multi-application Spiralling Circle of Hell Syndrome" which basically is what happens to me whenever I try to do more than two hours of work in a row.

One more addition: so I said anyone who is on any social media should read this, but actually anyone interested in the issue of women's voices in the media, or in the democratizing potential of the internet should probably have a look, at least at the chapter about women on Twitter. It's funny and fascinating. Dent writes that when she joined Twitter she discovered
millions of women being sharp, wise, practical, amusing. At the age of 35 I felt like someone had opened a gate into a fantastic secret garden full of gobby Amazonians.
She gives a funny critique of women's magazines that feels ancient but is sadly still very on-the-nose, and runs down the (British) TV schedule to point out the lack of the kind of honest female voices that are present in abundance on Twitter. Gender on the internet is always an interesting subject, and Dent's testimony (which includes some really eye-opening examples of how print editors have edited her writing to be "more feminine") is especially so.

I am only human; and while I have a Twitter account I can't help but have low expectations of a book about Twitter. This one, though, is great, and as I hope I've conveyed successfully, it's not "just" a book about Twitter. It's also super-funny and a great commute read.


  1. *claps happily* And the title!

    "If you’re a journalist, pitch a 2,000-word ‘think piece’ musing that Twitter represents everything wrong with society today. Include your killer line, ‘TWITTER IS FOR TWITS’."

    I might re-read this book. It was both hilarious and awesome. Also, screw once-a-week facebookers! Get new friends, woman! Friends who over-post on every social media platform.

    Also: "or in the democratizing potential of the internet"

    Look at you bein' all smart.

  2. I loved this book. And that's an understatement. I also kind of want to be Grace Dent, although having followed her on twitter since I read this, I kind of feel like (whisper it) she's not that interesting. At least as a tweeter...

    Also, I've definitely become a once a week facebook updater, but what I lack in facebook updates, I more than make up for with tweets. So many tweets that my (not that many) followers probably want to kill me...

    But yes. This book is awesome :)

  3. Ha! I sort of wondered what her Twitter might be like... as I got further into the book I thought it couldn't possibly be as good as you'd think ;)