Let's embrace Twitter. What's the worst that can happen?
IT was a stormy night in Burslem on Tuesday. I'm not saying it was windy but when the Vale goalie cleared the ball it landed in the saloon bar of the Bull's Head.
An historic gathering was taking place. Not the biennial meeting of the Let's Free Ceramica From Its Moorings And Enter It In The America's Cup Campaign. No. This was The Sentinel's very first tweet-up.
Readers, writers, leading citizens, and a single confused budgerigar fancier gathered in the backroom of The Leopard. It was a great success. I got up and said a few words, and when the person who'd drawn that 'thing' on my back owned up, I sat down again. Even the ghost of local witch Molly Leigh was more than happy to share her contact details – @plagueofboils.
It was a real upbeat affair. One which made you think that, yes, maybe non-verbal communication does have a future other than crude hand gestures.
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Let me be clear. I haven't traditionally been one to embrace technological advancements. Only last year, Valentine's Day to be precise, I bought the wife a new mangle. And, to be frank, I still consider 3D TV to be the work of Beelzebub.
But Twitter appears to be a force for good. I've surprised myself at how willingly someone who is, by inclination, a tad anti-social (I regret now that, to show me their Christmas presents, the kids had to trek outside to the shed) has taken to it.
The thing with Twitter is, if you really want to get something out of it, you have to immerse yourself in it. There's no point dipping a toe in every three weeks to see what Gok Wan's been saying about bingo wings.
You need to view it like a conversation. Hook up with a few people locally who share your interests – football, film, cross-dressing – and share a few thoughts.
I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You don't have to reveal too much about yourself. And if someone does track you down, I'm informed Staffordshire Police has a very effective armed officer unit.
Myself, I spend long periods alone. Partly because I work from home a lot, but mainly because it's one of the conditions attached to my electronic tag. Twitter, then, offers me an avenue of conversation other than the cat. Nothing against Colin, but when it comes to conversations about the unfolding crisis in the Middle East, his vocabulary, unless he can smell chicken, is fairly limited. Some, mainly ex-hippies if I'm honest, will always argue 'yes, but these are people you don't really know'. And indeed I recognise we live in a world where very few people have actually met all their 'friends'. But the thing is add-ons like tweet-ups make human interaction viable.
And everyone's someone you don't know before you know them aren't they? (take that for profundity, Brian Cox). In the end you have to accept that things have moved on. You can keep the old traditional ways, of course – I, for instance, still swear by the 1970s Y-Front – but if you engage with the modern age you might just find you enjoy it. At the very least you'll be able to better understand what on earth everyone else is wittering on about.
Indeed, if it was up to me, every OAP in Britain would be given a free tablet (an iPad, not a Rennie) and invited to enter the Twitterverse. What a challenge it'd be to encapsulate the state of Dolly's nets in 140 characters.