Sometimes it feels to me that the Internet is like a stray animal who has come to live in my house. Sometimes it is the most charming, useful, companion and I cannot imagine how I ever managed without it. At other times I feel that it is sucking my will to live and destroying everything that I hold dear. What is a girl to do?
My current favourite time waster: this is akin to decorating your school folder with pictures when you were about 15. It is a lovely place to collect photographs of everything you like and put them into groups of your choice. You can make comments about the picture you post but really it doesn’t matter. This renders the Pinterest world delightfully uncontroversial. It is all about the look of the thing, be it a crazy cake pop decorating idea or a detail of a Vermeer. You simply gaze with pleasure on the feast of imagery, and enjoy it for what it is. People follow you and you follow others but you don’t even need to be that engaged. It is really the most laid back social network I have come across. It is not a competition to get followers, unlike its big brother, Twitter…
That’s the good news about Pinterest. The bad news is that it is seductive, and you can spend hours on it, collecting and pasting your images. But is that such a bad thing? Sometimes it is a good thing just to be visual and use a different part of your brain.
Ah, Twitter. What a clever idea and at the same time what a total dystopian nightmare!
Good things about Twitter
Twitter is like having a group of colleagues whom you chat with at the office. You don’t know them well, but you know enough about them to get along. There is lots of gossip in this office and people come and go a lot. Jokes and sympathy abound. If you are miserable you can let rip and people will comfort you. You can use it to set yourself goals. “I am going to write now” you can announce loftily. “I will be back when I have finished this chapter.” A public statement of intent is a great motivator and Twitter can be useful for this. In fact it has been formalised into the #amwriting hashtag.
You can have jolly sociable fun as well as find useful information. Royal weddings and Olympic opening ceremonies have never been so much fun as when you watch along with your crowd. Twitter is adorable when it decides to be.
The evil that is Twitter
Twitter allows people to be cantankerous, rude, mean spirited and just plain nasty in a way that they would never be in real life. Politics in Twitter is full of sweeping generalisations because there is no sensible space for debate. It is all sound-biting and grand-standing. Rumours of all sorts, utterly unfounded in facts, swirl around like noxious clouds of gas, and people, thinking they are hidden, indulge their spleen in horrible fashion. Sometimes you can look at your Twitter feed and see nothing but misery and hate. On those days I creep away and try to forget what I have seen.
I still do not understand Facebook. I have tried it but failed on several occasions. It is too busy and messy. It always reminds me of an occasion in my childhood when I swam in the heavily-polluted Mediterranean, somewhere off Italy – an experience so disgusting I have never forgotten it. It was like swimming in tepid minestrone.
I find it oddly satisfying moving money around in the small hours. In the old days you could not do that outside of banking hours or have ready access to your balance. I think it is a good thing (as Martha Stewart would say). It makes you feel you have more control of your money.
Utopian. Especially from Waitrose. I think it greatly reduces my impulse buying but it can increase the possibility of time-eating window-shopping, gazing at expensive clothes I can never dream of buying but which I now know exist.
Which brings us neatly into that really dangerous thing: online house porn. Never before have we had the chance to drool so extensively over dream houses. A wonderful mixture of hopeless longing and very enjoyable horror at other people’s poor taste in furnishings. “I would buy this million pound house if I could, but that kitchen would have to go. Appalling.”
We have not bought a newspaper for years in this house. No dirty fingers and no trips to the recycling bins. Yet newspapers are avidly consumed for free, with the added frisson of the comments on the articles. Obviously you have to have a strong stomach for these, and intellectually and morally it is quite reprehensible, but it can be so entertaining sometimes to watch the steam rise and bile spurt after some columnist has written a particularly provocative piece (for provocative read daft). I think the Germans need to coin a word for this: “the shameful pleasure of reading the Daily Mail to get annoyed by it.”