At last – our columnist gives in and compresses his life into 140 characters.
Last week, I was dragged kicking and screaming by my son into the 20th Century. In a few days’ time, I hope to make it to the 21st.
For too long I have been answering the question, “Why are you not on Twitter?” in different ways, depending on my mood.
“Because I don’t care to tell the world what I had for breakfast, how many steps I took to the front gate and why I can’t spell ‘chrysantumum’,” I have said on occasion. At other times I’ve declared, “Because I don’t care for the world to tell me what it had for breakfast or why Battleship Potemkin is a great movie.” More recently, I became more succinct: “Because I don’t give a rodent’s donkey,” I have responded with a superior air.
Being on Twitter was one of the things I wasn’t going to do – like crossing the Sahara on a bicycle or composing the national anthem of an artificial city on Mars.
And then it happened. Picture the scene. A lazy Sunday afternoon. Great lunch. Wonderful music. Salubrious weather. Sorry, wrong picture. What I meant to say was: there was a short break from work that coincided with the presence of my son at home and within a few minutes the deed was done. I changed from being a person with a first name and a second, to one with a consolidated name prefixed by a symbol. My parents who may have congratulated each other for coming up with a great name for their son are probably in shock. For I am now simply @surmenon, and liable at any moment either to tell the world how to run itself or to reveal the innermost secrets of my breakfast routine.
I have a wonderful array of friends though – Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, Barack Obama, the guy who delivers our vegetables and thinks that all cricket matches are fixed – but this is unrequited friendship. Obama’s last tweet was not addressed personally to me, and Dawkins was not proving a point in order to illicit my agreement. Yet I have no idea how to respond if Obama does send me a personal message saying: “We are invading China this week, weather permitting.”
Just before setting up my account my son referred to me affectionately as a troglodyte and a Luddite. At least, I hope it was done affectionately. Actually, I am neither. I occasionally use a radio, and this column is being written on a wonderful typewriter given to me by my grandfather on my 10th birthday (or his 10th birthday, I forget which).
Tweets are fun, though. Even if they are often hair-tearingly banal. As someone tweeted, “Imagine, before Twitter, these were the thoughts inside our heads.” Exactly.
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world, but later decided to leave it as it is.