Alice-Azania Jarvis: Farewell, Twitter's grande dame

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The Independent Online

Yesterday I – along with some 56,264 others – spent much of the day refreshing my web browser, following the tributes that not so much poured in as popped up, neatly encapsulated in the thin white strip of my twitter feed, poignant in their precise, 140-character form. After an uneasy few hours of online speculation, the news had been confirmed. At 104, Ivy Bean had passed away.

Dubbed "Twitter's oldest user", Mrs Bean and her missives from the Hillside Manor Residential Home near Bradford were the stuff of cyber-celebrity. On the face of it, one struggles to see why. In many ways an unremarkable woman, Mrs Bean's place amongst the Twitterati wasn't won on the same basis as most. There were no titbits from Westminster, no privileged heads-up on breaking news stories, no insights into the lives of the rich, the famous or the moneyed.

Instead, IvyBean104 would dutifully record her lunch (ham salad on some days, fish and chips on others), her activities (juice on the terrace, new curtains in the lounge) and her opinions (she liked Manchester United and parkin – which, she patiently explained, is similar to ginger cake – and was a fan of Peter Andre).

Sometimes, she would upload a photo for us to peer at: a meeting with Gordon Brown or a snap of her great-granddaughter. Frequently, she asked us about ourselves: How were we getting along? Did we receive any Valentine's presents? And who on earth was Soulja Boy?

However humdrum, something in Mrs Bean's daily reflections struck a chord. Such a chord, in fact, that were her tens of thousands of followers denied an update for too long, she would be bombarded with concerned enquiries. "Sorry I haven't been on for a while," she would be forced to reply. "I am OK!" Still, worry we did, because all of us had, somewhere along the line, fallen for Ivy.

Why, you might ask? Yesterday's digital tributes provide some insight. "Your presence on Twitter was inspiring," tweeted Bryzee86. "You made Twitter a better place," wrote Jenna_rater. Both are right in their way: we loved Ivy for her optimism, proof as it was that decades of life can't erode the simple enjoyment that pancakes and jam, or lager on the terrace, or whatever treat she happened to be enjoying, can provide. We loved her because she had harnessed technology to avoid that dreaded hallmark of advancing years, loneliness. She was living, tweeting proof that age needn't equal fuddy-duddy-ism. And she provided a welcome break from the norm on Twitter – not to say the web more broadly. Perennially good-natured, she was a voice of sensitivity in an arena often dominated by snark and satire.

More than that, though, Mrs Bean was, as Myfaultimfemale pointed out, "the grandmother of everyone on Twitter". At a time when extended families are often too geographically (or emotionally) distant from one another to allow much intimacy, Mrs Bean provided a kind of virtual surrogate. She was kind, she was considerate, she had seen more of the world than any of us. And she had taken to Twitter to share it.

Come on Julian, liven it up a bit

He certainly looks the part. Julian Assange, clad in dark suit, white-blonde hair swept artfully to one side, appeared part Andy Warhol, part Jason Bourne during his Newsnight interview. If only he sounded it!

"Do you fear for your life?" asked Kirsty Wark of the enigmatic Wikileaks founder. "We have established security procedures for different countries," came Assange's dry-as-toast response, delivered in an only-slightly-Antipodean monotone. "There are security concerns from time to time, some of them very serious."

And what of those Bourne comparisons? Are they accurate? "There are elements of that that have occurred," observed our hero, uninspiringly.

Accurate or not, it can only be a matter of time before Assange-as-Bourne takes over. A Wikileaks film can surely not be far off. For audience's sale, let's hope they enliven the dialogue.

What hope is there if Angelina's got it wrong?

News that Angelina Jolie has been chastised for not being fashionable enough – by Women's Wear Daily, no less – is as grating as it is mystifying.

"Jolie always looks casually fabulous," writes its columnist Bridget Foley. "The fabulosity is all Angelina, not something a designer sent tied up with a bow."

Initially this reads rather like a compliment: oh, to be fabulous without spending a fortune! Alas, not so. Jolie should be doing more, says Foley, to meet the modern standards, whether set by an army of studiously edgy pop stars (Lady Gaga et al) or the eternally chic Michelle Obama.

All of which raises the dismal prospect of a whole new line of sartorial attack. It's no longer a matter simply of getting it right – or at least avoiding getting it wrong – but now one has to make it interesting, too. Not with Jolie-esque red lipstick, or sequins or gothic tattoos, but with immobilising shoes and visible underwear. Let's hope the same criteria are applied to the starlets' red- carpet dates (are you listening, George-this-old-tux-again-Clooney?).