How to Leave Twitter by Grace Dent is very good, very funny and left me feeling unsettled. Admittedly I read it on Friday night when I was more tired than I remember being outside of looking after a newborn and wasn’t looking forward to getting up at 4.30am to drive to Harwich. I love going to Holland. I love seeing my husband’s family, I love the ferry from Harwich. The only thing I don’t like is the drive to Harwich because it is annoying, whichever way you go, but has also developed into a bone of marital contention. I think it is better to go out on the M4 and around the M25, my husband thinks is better to cross across London on the North Circular. I’m not sure why he holds so firmly to the superiority of the worst road in the world. I prefer my route because although it is longer there is less chance of sitting in traffic jams, it is impossible to go wrong and I would rather look at motorway than look at almost everything you can see from the middle of the road works on the North Circular.
The reason I am banging on so boringly about this is that Grace Dent pin points very neatly the difference between real love and cyber attention.
‘Be honest, real love with actual humans can be an arduous task. It’s a few months of giddiness and dilated pupils, followed by a 20- to 50-year stretch of orbiting a lounge sighing, “So is the council tax being paid to the wrong sort code?” and, “But where are the ants coming from?”’
She continues to accurately skewer the fact that you can be slumped around in your pyjamas IRL whilst living a cyber high life.
I was pondering all this at about 7am on Saturday morning as we went wrong on the North Circular.
‘They’ve changed the road lay out,’ said my husband when he’d stopped swearing and started reversing.
Of course they’ve changed the road layout, I wanted to scream. They’re always changing the road lay out. It’s what they do on the north circular. That’s why we should be on the M25 RIGHT NOW.
I said nothing. I swallowed a sulky sigh and sank further down into my seat. I checked twitter. Oh the rosy glow of @norwichbooks adding me a list of bookselling legends. @luketaylor25 was up early. And @gastrochap. Those are people I know a bit in real life. There are a whole host of American book bloggers that I didn’t know existed a few weeks ago and am now totally in love with. I’m doing it, I thought, I’m ignoring my flesh and blood husband, the father of my child, the man who said he’d drive so that I could have a sleep in favour of a twitter rush.
Well, I’ll try an experiment, I decided. I won’t fork out for data roaming and I’ll do without all forms of social media for the whole holiday. I’ll front up to the fact that I have been ignoring my family (arguably) and have hardly written a world of my novel (indisputably) since starting all this tweeting, blogging malarkey.
All of which was going well. I ignored the tempting texts from vodaphone – only £2 per day, imagine. And then I got my netbook out to write my novel and found that there is wifi. Arghhhhh.
And I have been unable to resist what someone, I can’t remember who, someone famous who, because of twitter, I now feel I am sort of friends with, referred to recently as ‘the crack pipe that is twitter.’
Should you read @gracedent ‘s book? Yes, if you don’t use twitter and want to understand what it is all about. Yes, if you want to nod along uncomfortably. I almost wish I hadn’t in that I feel she has rather abruptly opened my eyes t my own silliness and vanity. And I only have 272 followers (apparently twitter lunacy sets in at 3000.)
Still for me this whole thing is about understanding what the world has on offer. I remember being 28, needing to get a job and being largely unable to use a computer. I don’t want to be in that situation again.
So, I’m in Holland messing about on the internet whilst my wonderful husband has been putting our son to bed. I’ve been listening to him reading about horrible, hairy spiders and thinking that an irrational preference for the North Circular is not that big a deal between loving friends. And tomorrow I’ll be writing my novel. I’ve set myself a challenge to write 10, 000 words in the next ten days. Blog posts and tweets don’t count.