It’s hard to tweet when you’re playing the maracas

I’ve got plenty to be grateful for. Big things (food, shelter, freedom). Medium things (a lovely job, brilliant friends, a nice flat). And lots of little things (free Sky, small feet, housemates who don’t like Paul Weller).

So I don’t want to sound ungrateful when I admit that I’ve found myself feeling incredibly jealous of other people lately – specifically, those people who I assume are having more fun than me. Which, at the weekends, is everyone.

Since being single, life is suddenly the dull man at a party, and I’m constantly looking over its shoulder to see if anyone interesting is arriving. But all the cool kids have been distracted by a different, better party, and are doing stuff that you only see on the telly, like keg stands and being sick on people having sex.

Unless you’re Simon Cowell, there’s always someone out there having more fun than you. You could be shopping instead of at the park, down the pub instead of shopping, or on a plane instead of down the pub. When I had a boyfriend, that didn’t matter: the best place to be was with each other, so who cared what everyone else was doing?

But now, how much other people are enjoying themselves has become a constant reminder of my lack of imagination. And if you spend your weekends moping around your flat, sighing mournfully out of the window and trying to lure ants away from their path using sugar, you’re not just being paranoid – everyone else is having more fun than you.

I’d hoped Twitter might help with this. I reasoned that anyone tweeting through his or her Saturday must be pretty bored too – after all, it’s quite hard to tweet when you’re grappling with someone else’s buttocks, or playing the maracas. But unfortunately, Twitter manages to slick even the most mundane events with romantic gloss.

It’s the internet equivalent of the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs. Featuring a group of old, ugly men lumbering along in bad suits, add a bit of slow motion and suddenly we all want to sleep with Steve Buscemi. Now, imagine those ugly men are Twitter (tough, I know). With a 140-character limit, what’s left unsaid adds an element of mystery which makes even the very, very ordinary seem extraordinary.

If someone (probably @Biltawulf) tweets a simple, ‘I am in a lift,’ that lift is nothing like any of the lifts I’ve ever been in. In my head, that lift is twice the size of the lifts at work, and is filled with people who smell of expensive perfume and look like Christina Hendricks. It even has a man in a hat and suit working a lever. It’s an amazing lift.

If someone else (say, @SimonBishop) reveals that they’re outside a pub smoking, and it’s raining and they’re having a pint, there are inevitably details left unsaid. Those details are likely to be things like, ‘And I need a wee.’ Not in my head: here, the details include things like hats worn at dangerous angles, hairy knuckles and cowboy boots.

So it also goes without saying that other people’s bored isn’t anywhere near as boring as my bored. When I’m sat on my own watching repeats I can’t be bothered to switch off and eating the rest of yesterday’s Maltesers, it’s just a bit shit.

But when other people do it, they’re doing it because their yesterday and tomorrow are so exciting they need a day off to recuperate, or because their millionaire boyfriend’s away, or because they’re exactly like Bridget Jones, but not awful.

My only comfort is that maybe somewhere out there, there are people who regard my tweets in the same, glamorised light. Maybe when I say, ‘I am wearing a skirt,’ they’re imagining a really brilliant skirt, and not the ruffled denim one that goes wrinkly if you go to the loo, or sit down for longer than five seconds, or look at it funny.

Here’s hoping.

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Friends with benefits

One lunchtime last week, I was discussing what I’d done the night before with a (non-tweeting) colleague. Knowing it would be more acceptable if I’d spent my evening digging up the Blue Peter garden, I grudgingly admitted that I’d stayed up until 3am talking to people on Twitter. Some I’d met in real life then followed, and vice versa, some I’d only communicated with online in 140 character bursts. But either way, we both agreed that my attitude to Twitter has become a bit unhealthy.

Since becoming single, I rely on it as my main source of entertainment. I’ve started referring to friends as ‘2D’ and ‘3D’, to clarify how I met them (because I hate it when people refer to friends I’ve met in no less random ways, like down the pub, as ‘real’ friends, as if Twitter is a figment of my imagination.) And lately, I’ve been spending more time socialising with people through Twitter – all 39 of them – than with people I’ve known for years.

Which is all very unhealthy, obviously. Except, I can’t really put my finger on why. It’s like TV – everyone knows it’s really, really bad for you to watch loads of telly – on a par with voting for the BNP, or enjoying Razorlight. It’s just that no-one can specifically tell you any of the actual consequences of sitting in your pants watching Come Dine With Me forever and ever, beyond being a bit boring at work.

Is it really so bad to spend your free time interacting with a group of intelligent, funny, fascinating people online? Ones who you’ve devoted a year of your life to honing, following and unfollowing until you’ve found the perfect mix that complements every facet of your personality? And if you actually meet those people in real life, doesn’t it make it more acceptable, not less?

My first meeting with people from Twitter (I won’t use either of the accepted phrases for these meetings, because they’re not remotely acceptable unless you‘re mad or deaf), happened thanks to James Ward (@iamjamesward) and Ed Ross (@wowser), the noble, peculiarly minded founders of Stationery Club. Comprising a group of people who, on the night of the inaugural meeting, were either bored, lonely, thirsty or – in the occasional instance – really, really keen on stationery, we chatted about pens and other stuff and generally hit it off.

And although I missed Stationery Clubs 2 and 3, the nature of Twitter means that I’ve since met up with lots of other members of Stationery Club, who weren‘t there that first night. I dated one, gave another my plus-one when I had a spare ticket to a film screening, and have started chatting to several that I look forward to meeting. And I genuinely can’t see anything wrong with that.

While I love my 3D friends very, very much, the nature of socialising in London means that there’s always a better offer around the corner, always a feeling that maybe you can’t be bothered tonight and – because you live in the same city, after all – there’s always the chance to reschedule. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

But unfortunately, it means that plans fall through more often than not. A couple of weeks ago, I had a few nights out lined up with people I’d known for a while, and only one of them actually happened. But the following week, I had three Twitter meetings arranged – and none of them fell through. This was partly because the domino effect which afflicts London nights out, where one person dropping out leads to everyone cancelling, doesn’t exist with Twitter meetings. Attachments are looser, so if a single person decides not to come, it’s unlikely to put other people off turning up too (unless there’s romance involved, which is another story altogether).

And my three Twitter meetings actually became four, when my one night out with 3D friends fell through (due to a misdirected email, to be fair), and a 5pm ‘I’m bored’ plea on Twitter lead to a ‘Me too!’ message from Olivia (@_Poots_), who I’ve hung out with a few times. We ended up spending a vastly enjoyable, spontaneous night out together, during which we randomly bumped into James Ward and I took an obligatory Twitpic of his shoes:

But despite all this, Twitter is held up as eroding, not encouraging, friendships. I can see the argument: I do make less effort to hang out with my 3D friends now. Not because I don’t love hanging out with them, but because I’m quite lazy and they’re very popular, meaning nights out often have to be planned weeks in advance. And also because, if I haven’t got anything to do of an evening, I know that instead of sobbing into a glass of wine alone, I can sob into a glass of wine while on Twitter. But I also think in some ways, Twitter friendships are actually better for you. Although my long-term friends can offer me a huge amount emotionally, we’ve all heard each other’s stories, and I don’t need an excuse to mope when I’m with them – after all, our job is to accept each other as we are.

By comparison, I’m my best, funniest and (necessarily, due to the character limit), snappiest self on Twitter. Unless you do it with incredible panache (see @themanwhofell), being downbeat loses you followers, so you’re sometimes forced to pretend to be chirpy – which, as any therapist will tell you, can help you Turn That Frown Upside Down for real. Twitter is like meeting your best friend for the first time, every single night. Hours can be spent arguing about whether Cities of Gold was better than 80 Days Around the World, or listening to a short song about a moth. You can look at people’s drawings of despair, photos of dinner, and pictures of what they can see right now. You can listen in on conversations, and arguments, and butt in and be embraced or ignored. It’s sometimes frustrating, and upsetting, but usually wonderful and never, ever boring.

And meeting people who you’ve talked to on Twitter is the same. It’s rare that you will find a room full of such different people, with such different views and values. When strangers meet, there’s usually a unifying theme – a hobby, a band, a desire for sex. But with Twitter, the only thing we have in common is that we all love meeting new people, and are resilient to the scorn thrown at people who meet up with weirdos off the internet. And how terrible can that be?

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