I think it was Ash Atalla, producer of The Office, who said that there was no quicker way to a nervous breakdown than to have a comedy show on television in the age of Twitter. The first show of the new series of Fool Britannia went out last night and the one thing I didn't do was follow the live commentary online. That way only madness lies.
It's the same when reading comments under newspaper articles online. The bile that people disgorge is so alarming that you end up wandering the streets staring at strangers wondering whether, beneath their seemingly normal appearance, lurks the anger that is prevalent online?
The best thing to do, as Jonathan Ross once advised me, is to not read anything. To my mind however, that results in you listening only to sycophants and starting to live in some unreal bubble where everything is wonderful.
Not that the online ranting is necessarily scientific. I find that, should I start to get too annoyed, I simply think of the person that I admire the most, Google them, and read a little of the hideous abuse they get. It seems that, if nothing else, trolls are equal opportunity arseholes.
So my solution is to go into electronic purdah. It's rather blissful actually, sort of like an electronic colonic. It feels weird for a couple of days but then you start to kick the habit and begin to remember what you did before you messaged thousands of strangers about your daily ablutions.
So last night, I was at home in the Cotswolds with about 20 friends for a night of beer, my award-winning chili verde, with me sitting at the back of the room nervously as friends laughed politely while secretly wondering why I still didn't have a proper job? Meanwhile my kids were starting to look nervous. Until this year they had been at the same school since they were tiny and everyone there had got used to me doing weird things like turning up to school in a tank or diving off high boards in leotards on telly.
Now, however, they are at a new school and at the ages where they want to fit in and keep under the radar. I cannot really imagine the damage I am doing to their cred as they become "hey, isn't your dad the guy who dresses as a kebab?". Ah well, I have promised to cover all their future therapy bills.
And for now, we are going to deal with it through the use of the all-encompassing parental get-out clause – "I'm sure it's character-building." For the foreseeable future I shall not be dipping into the daily doings of the eclectic collection of people I follow on Twitter. I will not know where Al Murray is performing that evening. I shall not be up to date with David Schneider's topical bon mots.
I shall miss Caitlin Moran's wit, Sarah Palin's increasingly random musings, my friend Rob's progress on the Trans-Siberian Express and Toby Young's one-man war on socialism. I'm going to take up a new hobby to distract me. I'm torn between a crossbow and Ultimate Fighting. Stacey thinks I should get into gardening but I've just looked at the comments on Gardeners' Question Time … that is an angry bunch.
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