I'm trailing in the worldwide reaction race

Sarah Sands admits to falling for the speed and grace of Twitter
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The Independent Online

I write this from the Rhodope mountains in southern Bulgaria, where I have been studying butterflies. All is still, apart from the drone of bees, the buzz of crickets, a gentle breeze – and a drowning chorus of Tweets jostling for attention. Since surrendering to Twitter last week, I am never, ever alone. You can hike but you cannot hide from the crowd of characters, directing users to the collapse of British journalism, announcing the latest on the Greek bailout, or detailing the contents of their children's packed lunches.

Now that the medium has come of age, the radical thing is to be snooty about the incontinence and banality of Twitter. On the contrary, because it has come of age, it's irresistible. The digital revolutionaries boast that, these days, news finds us. Last week it was practically chasing me down forest paths.

The phone-hacking story was Twitter Christmas. No matter that most of those who Tweet merely redirect their readers to items published elsewhere. In this self-glamorising world, they become characters in State of Play and All the President's Men, snatching the allure of our new Charlie's Angel, Wendi Deng. I was slightly surprised that newspapers appeared at all last week, for every British journalist seemed to be on Twitter, facing stiff competition from the showbusiness end of the trade – Armando Iannucci, Stephen Fry or Giles Coren.

Which is not to say there isn't lots of solipsistic nonsense about. Columns or blogs are no less boring for being advertised by their authors on Twitter; too many metropolitan figures who should know better post schmaltzy observations about their children and gratuitous accounts of their nights out; alpha males such as Andrew Neil, Tweeting about their imminent departure to New York, the view from their hotel room and their thoughts touching the tarmac at Heathrow sound only like the man on his mobile phone: "I'm on the train!" There's also a cultish smugness in the way the Twitter community welcomes late adopters to its world and inducts them in the game.

And yet, amid the aggressive self-marketing and the messianic need for "followers", there are nuggets of journalistic joy, including, last week, some moving maternal reaction from Polly Samson after hearing from her imprisoned son.

In the end it becomes addictive because it embodies the founding principle of journalism. We are all asking, as Rupert Murdoch does, What's doing? And revelation is king. As a journalist from the prehistoric, pre-internet era, I remember the luxury of being repeatedly first. It wasn't so hard. Now, you have seconds to stake your claim.

For a time it was enough to observe. Then, inevitably, I wanted to take part. When Wendi lunged at the pie-thrower, I looked at my daughter and back at the internet feed. For a moment the world was wondering what was going on. No one had remarked on it, yet. "Go!" Tiger child shrieked at me. I hesitated.

My daughter grabbed my BlackBerry. "Say it now," she pleaded. "Look, I will write it for you." And she did. "Wendy [sic] is the heroin [sic] of the day." But already it was too late. After the nano suspension of time, Wendi jokes came surging through.

The best (and worst taste) from Giles Coren, who likened Mrs Murdoch's intervention to Jackie O, scooping up the brains of her assassinated husband in the presidential car. I was the girl in the rubber ring paddling in the shallows, watching champion surfers at Newquay.

No wonder journalists dominate Twitter. It is a newsroom of clever and slightly annoying people. Like journalism, it's for show-offs. How did I live without it?

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the London Evening Standard