Yes I really do. It is hard to explain to my friends – and goodness knows I’ve tried! Why? Enthusiasm of the convert? I enjoy it so much? It came into my life so serendipitously, I want to ‘spread the joy’? What I love about twitter is it’s immediacy, intimacy, authenticity, unmediated access to events in real time and the diversity and range of ideas and opinions that you can tap into from all around the world.
My journey to twitterdom goes like this. I wanted an iPad to read The Drum; especially the bits and pieces from across the worldwideweb, including YouTube, linked around a common theme, compiled by Leigh Sales under the heading, The Well Redhead. I could justify looking at the ABC website to keep up with news during working hours, and at a stretch some of the opinion pieces, but I couldn’t with a clear conscious follow links to films and literary articles recommended by Leigh. And once home the last thing I wanted to do was sit at a desk or even a table looking at a computer – much too like work thank you.
When my iPad finally arrived in the first Australian consignment in May 2010 (to much excitement in our household – a bonding moment between mother and son) I duly logged on to various websites and enjoyed lying on the couch reading Leigh’s recommendations before branching out to books, uploading photos and downloading music.
Then my ‘road to Damascus’ moment. A work acquaintance saw my lovely little machine and announced I just had to ‘go on twitter’. I’d never heard of it. I hardly understood what she was talking about, but she showed me on her iPhone how to scroll through other people’s accounts and click follow and thereafter find all their tweets in your twitter stream. Technically illiterate, I was assisted by a younger colleague in his twenties to open my twitter account.
Thus commenced my slow embarkation into the scary world ‘out there’ in cyber space. The first challenge is to choose a name. Everyone I had looked at had clever quirky ones. All variations of my name, doranj or jdoran were taken. So were other names resonant with my background like malleegirl. So, in desparation I used an amalgam of my childrens names. I accepted the advice of twitter (another test – are you willing to take instructions from cyberspace?) to put my real name on my profile.
A 130 characters or less description of myself was needed. Denting my self image I discovered I was not witty with words. Not for me the clever one line description of a recognizable ‘me’. After much anxt I ended up with a potted personal history and current passions – feminist, Wagnerian, existentialist, discontented reader. Past political activism was tricky given my present post partisan phase (why I like the blog name Politically Homeless). Twitter advice is to use your profile to attract followers – I was not sure I wanted any.
Next step – who to follow? My initiation into these dark arts coincided with the 2010 Federal election. Consistent with my post partisan phase (a consequence of the Rudd coup) I was, not interested in reading the MSM (mainstream media) describe the worst ever federal election campaign from both sides of politics. But I had my new toy, and new interest in twitter to compensate. I followed the election by following the journalists – those travelling with the leaders – and those criticizing the journalists – notably GrogsGamut who got stuck into the political caravan for not asking questions about policy. And who was subsequently ‘outed’ by The Australian as a Federal public servant. It was great fun. I stopped reading newspapers. Happy in the knowledge the people I followed on twitter would tweet around articles of interest. I was not considered ill-informed at dinner parties – or elsewhere.
I continue to glean my news from twitter. I’ve stopped reading paper newspapers and mostly rely on articles tweeted around, supplemented by ABC radio news. And opinion pieces on the net. I’ve stopped watching television news completely and most current affairs. I hear what’s on the latter from my twitter friends. I am reminded of the truth of Humphrey McQueen’s exhortation, to read newspapers two weeks after publication to see how little content (especially opinion) stands the test of time.
So who do I follow? Local news outlets, HeraldSun, Age, 3AW, 3MMM, to keep in touch with what is happening in Melbourne. The SMH, ABC Drum and Crikey for commentary on federal matters. I decline to follow The Australian, sick of it’s overt campaigning against progressive forces, but Peter van Onselen tweets his articles and someone invariably tweets around George Megalagenis. (And I am waiting with interest to see what happens after their payroll starts operating). National journalists, among them; Latika Burke, Annabel Crabb, Mark Colvan. Local Melbourne journalists; Ryan Shiels, Mel Fyffe to name a couple. They let me follow the cut and thrust of Question Times in both parliaments as they occur, press conferences as they happen. I hear the news direct, unmediated by an editor’s choices about what is important.
I follow a few pollies, but not many and only those who do more than just run a party line. I am one of Kevin Rudd’s million followers. I like to follow people from across the political spectrum; from Jeff Sparrow on the left who tweets around witty 140 character summaries of opinion pieces in the papers, to Mark Textor who shares his cycling and beer tasting adventures along with some acerbic political commentary. All this following people has led me to some terrific political bloggers: MrDenmore, Get_Shortened, Dragonista, Dr_Tad, GrogsGamut, Pollytics, newswithnipples,The Piping Shrike.
I follow lots of overseas news sources, Reuters, CNN, The Guardian, Telegraph, Spectator, Independent, Washington Post, New York Times, Atlantic (reinvigorated by twitter apparently), the New Yorker. And individual journalists, Jonathon Freedland, John Rintoul, Maureen Dowd, Bill Keller and lots of others. One of my favourite’s is campbellclaret (Alastair Cambell for the uninitiated) who gives short, perceptive comments on UK politics, informed by his experience as Blair’s spin meister. And I love the bloggers at the New Yorker, having never been a fan of the magazine, especially Amy Davidson (tnycloseread).
I have never felt so connected to world affairs. The quick 140 character messages give me the basic facts about what is happening, and the articles tweeted around give me the background and opinions. I choose which ones I want to read based on subject matter, who has written it and who has tweeted it around. Christopher Hitchens gets recommended a lot and is mostly good, Alfred Stiglitz on the Occupy Wall Street protest, the eulogy delivered by Steve Jobs’ sister.
Twitter is a fantastic medium for world wide events like the Arab Spring, Osama Bin Laden raid, News of The World scandal, global, Occupy Wall Street. You get photos, comments as things happen and then a great diversity of views about the why and wherefores of events. Often articles I read on twitter eventually turn up in our local papers. Really good pieces get recommended by lots of people. I like written pieces best but videos and audios get tweeted around. Bill Gates jumping a chair, a New Zealand anti-drink driving ad, Loudon Wainwright singing with his two children. And photos of blizzards in New York, riots in London, floods in Bangkok.
In the last couple of days, I have been following the QANTAS dispute. A couple of people tweeted the submissions being made in the Fair Work Australia hearing, as they were being made, long into the night and early morning. Then came news reports followed by interpretations of what it all means by journalists, by bloggers and pollies. It is just fantastic to get all of these different perspectives. At present I am too shy to put in my two bobs worth on most occasions. Which can be frustrating, especially when it is an issue that I have strong views on, and sometimes some experience. I am constantly amazed at how quickly the bloggers (and journalists I suppose, but with them it is expected) can put together very succinct and well rounded arguments, often in response to articles and opinions just published.
I follow things literary. Book reviews. Authors. Articles about literary cause celebre’s like the annual Booker Prize controversy – this year about readability and ‘dumbing down’. On twitter I have shared views about books, received personal recommendations about what I should read (followed and enjoyed) and continue to follow various books that are actually being tweeted around by enthusiasts – Finnegan’s Wake (much easier to digest in small doses) Samual Pepys Diary (completely compelling as he talks about his work, visits an execution and is found flirting with the servant by his wife) and the complete works of Shakespeare! andibob from Bucharest tweets around poetry (Haiku is the preferred form), plays on words, philosophical quotes, photos and quirky artistic pieces from around the world. She and brainpicker expand my universe every day.
Film reviews from lots of different people give me different, and rewarding perspectives on films I have seen, or will do when they reach Oz. Ebertchicago who I had never heard of, David Denby (who I had) the fellow from The Rolling Stone as well as local reviewers like lukebuckmaster, Alice Tynon and mrpaulnelson. I enjoy and have exchanged tweets with the prolific tweeter on films and much more, lyndenbarber. Having been at MIFF I am enjoying the different reviews of the films I saw there as they make their way around the world film festival circuit. And I feel very up to date about up and coming films. I can’t wait to see what David Denby considers the best film ever about Wall Street, I follow actors who tweet prolifically (Jennifer Ehle, Alec Baldwin), others who send around photos (Danny De Vito – of his ‘trollfoot’) and some who comment occasionally (Kevin Spacey). Together they give you unexpected insights into the working lives of actors. Alison Croggon and Bell Shakespeare keep me up to date with broader theatrical happenings.
I follow some foodies. The Royal Mail, where I recently had a great meal, the Provenance in Beechworth, where I hope to have a great meal one day. What’s happening at Pope Joan’s where I often go for breakfast. I love Anthony Bourdain who, as NoReservations, tweets around photos of what he is eating (looks delicious), the mornings after (decadent) and where he is (exotic). I love davidlebovitz, an American in Paris, former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, author of a famous and fantastic blog which is fantastic. He takes food tours around Paris and beyond. Maybe I will take one! He has recently been in Sydney. Interesting to see his take on our local foodie scene. Through him I follow Alice Waters (not a big tweeter). MattCravat (you guessed it, Matt Preston of MasterChef fame)was kind enough to tweet me recommendations for eating in Hong Kong. Along with photos of the delicious meals he enjoys around the world.
I keep in touch with the lives of former colleagues. Joel Deane is writing a book, clarecurranmp is pursuing various campaigns as MP for Dunedin in New Zealand, Charles Livingstone is travelling through Europe while continuing to campaign for pokies reform. clovis_dm keeps me in touch with what is happening in Ballarat. Friends working for unions, or politically active send me updates of campaigns.
I find out things. Doris Lessing was 92 the other day, John Cleese has been touring in Cape Town. Sam Neill has a winery, and a blog, Two Paddocks. Mia Farrow is active around human rights issues and her son works for Hillary Clinton. A person in Germany, StKonrath keeps me up to date with new technological developments (in a way, I, technological illiterate can understand). A journalist, markknowler follows Barak Obama around and tweets what the President actually says – not second hand reports.
You may already have noticed some gaps in this run- down of my life on twitter. Women are a bit hard to find. I seek them out. SummersAnne is a beacon, but I wish there were more both locally and overseas. The prevalence of international material takes me back to pre Whitlam cultural cringe Australia. I wish there was more high quality stuff – across all domains – from Australia. Maybe as time goes by that will come. I hate tweets about sporting events and reality television shows – if there was a way to screen those out of my twitter stream I would. I don’t look at any tweet that goes beyond the 140 characters (there is a way to do so). Brevity is twitter’s charm. I am still a novice tweeter. I am not skilled at tweeting links and feel my own, home-grown observations are not worth sharing. On the few occasions I have ventured out into cyberspace to my horror auto- correct has intervened to muddle my message, or I’m much too late, or just plain uninteresting. I am too cautious, not given to declaiming things – at least in the twitter sphere. One needs a certain level of chutzpah I think to converse successfully in this space.
I am also not quite across all the unwritten rules. There is no handbook, just trial and error. For instance it is considered polite to follow whoever follows you, but I don’t want to follow what seem to be commercial enterprises and strangers with whom I have nothing in common.
So there are some wrinkles still to be ironed out by me. But it is early days in this brave new world. I have been on twitter for just over a year. Most of my friends remain sceptical. But my message is try it and see for yourself.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad