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First time for everything: Joining Twitter


Did I want to tell friends and a multitude of strangers what's on my mind every hour? To acquaint the world, electronically, with my every passing thought? Did I want to spend days thinking up brief, 140-character, smart remarks and posting them online? I didn't. But the Young Turks in Features talked me into it. Sign up here, they said, write a self-description, stick in a photo and send your first tweet – so I did.

I wrote something about a man I met at a speed-awareness course, who'd done 90mph on the M4 to get there on time. I waited for a reaction. There wasn't one, but suddenly, I had nine followers. Nine! Popularity! Emboldened, I tried another tweet, about a Johnny Depp movie I'd just seen. Suddenly I had 20 followers. They included Adnan from Dubai who has no followers of his own (and whose profile reads, "a smile is the universal welcome"); and the Priory Tavern pub in Kilburn. It's damned odd being followed by a pub. It makes you feel ... paranoid.

After three days I experienced a multi-reaction that's probably familiar to first-timers: 1) Why is nobody replying? I mean, they reply to emails. 2) How come, if I read a tweet that's replying to another, I can never track the conversation back to where it started? 3) If 50 per cent of tweets are recommendations of articles, YouTube moments or other tweets, when do tweeters get any work done?

But I got suckered in. Now, on the way to work, I smile to think I've three or four smartarse tweets to send. And I've found that, if you ask a question ("What's a technocrat?") you'll get a reply eventually – if only from Frozen Tundra, Alaska. So I'll stick with Twitter, despite feeling I'm eavesdropping on a million private chats, and worrying that my 32 "followers" are like 32 motorists pausing on a motorway to examine the crash victim...

Tweet John: twitter.com/johnhenrywalsh