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Twittering my life away

December 22, 2013



Today marks the 3rd anniversary of me being on Twitter.  In that time it’s become a big part of both my professional and private life. I’ve sent nearly 10,000 tweets and as the title of this blog suggests it’s accounted for a fair amount of time.

I wouldn’t describe myself, in general, as an early adopter for technology and there are many innovations, for example the kindle, which I take a very dim view of.   However once afloat on Twitter I have found it a totally natural and very addictive medium.

There are many brilliant things about Twitter.  It is a wonderful source of information and, in a busy life, it’s a great way of keeping up to speed with the key stories and issues impacting on both mental health and health and social care more widely. 

At the same time it allows me to follow my interests, summarised on my profile as “follower of things historical and welsh” but actually easily led astray into a much greater number of issues. 

Professionally Twitter has been a great asset.  As well as helping me keep up to speed it is a great means of promoting the issues which as the Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness I look to campaign on.  Social Media in general has had a major impact in helping the mental health community find its voice.  This was, at no time, better illustrated than in response to the tasteless “mental patient” costumes sold by Asda and Tesco but quickly taken off the shelves and apologised for in response to a powerful social media storm from people with real experience of mental health problems.  As I wrote at the time, a few years back those costumes would, in my view, have remained on sale despite the well-meaning complaints of a few mental health charities.

But above all I love twitter for the people.  It’s helped me connect directly with an enormous range of people, linked to my cause or not, who day in day out both inspire and inform me.   It’s helped reconnect me with people and friends from previous parts of life and it’s helped me make new friends.  It’s cheered me up on gloomy evenings when other things have n’t been going too well.  It’s helped me share moments of triumph (and I don’t just mean the Wales v England game this year).  I love the fact that people come, for the most part to Twitter, as people not as functionaries and it’s as great to hear about people’s private passions as it to learn about their public achievements.

Twitter, like all things, has its less attractive side.  Acts of rudeness, intolerance and discrimination look as ugly on Twitter as they do anywhere else and perhaps are that bit more pervasive because they can be done cheaply and anonymously.  There are times you stand back from a Twitter exchange and feel genuinely hurt.  I feel sorry for some celebrities and others who feel that they have to withdraw from Twitter because the volume of offensive tweets which they receive.  Twitter again highlights the virtues of politeness and respect whatever the difference of view one holds with another person.  Manners maketh man in the social media age as in any other.

A final virtue though of Twitter is its focus on the present.  Hurtful tweets are soon forgot and your time Line swiftly moves on.  Friends and colleagues dip in and out.  Some you see in the morning, others only in the middle of the night.  Some tweet in the middle of important meetings, others only when they have time to kill waiting for a delayed train.  Pictures share the joy of a moment captured at Everest Base Camp or at the end of the street.

So all in all Twitter is a force for good which plays to our greatest strengths as social creatures.  Therefore, despite the occasional injunctions I receive to stop, I will carry on twittering away.

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