The big day: Tanya calms her nerves before getting married to her university friend, the stand-up comedian Andrew Watts. Photograph: Richard Ansett/NI Syndication
He messaged me on Facebook. I ignored him. He persisted and we got married. Because I proposed to him on Facebook. Or rather I changed my status to engaged without asking him. Thus Facebook colluded in my first serious act of inhumanity to him. He asked me to change it back when he got a notification that I had said we were engaged. (I had told my computer before I told him. This is a new class of intimacy.) I said I couldnt change it back because people were already congratulating me on my fake engagement. No wonder bullies and fantasists feel more at home on social media than other people. The reach that we find threatening they love. In any case, he sighed deeply there is no adequate emoticon for sighing and said yes, we were engaged.
The Smartie Cake is my Caravaggio
I am always having fun on Facebook public fun for public consumption. This is otherwise known as lies. Since having a child, the Smartie Cake is my Caravaggio. I post real emotion on Facebook sometimes, but I always take the posts down when the storm has passed. They look odd vulnerable because they are real and were addressed to the world at large and what if the world at large doesnt give a damn if you have postnatal depression? I posted that I was high when I broke my ankle. I had taken a lot of laughing gas so much so that I hit myself in the face, laughing. I was chided and gently manoeuvred back to reality as Facebook likes it. Facebook is a race for perfection and for showing off to people you arent really friends with, because you dont have time for them because you are on Facebook.
When I was younger, I used gnomic phrases to show the contempt I felt for this form. I am disgusted. I am eating. I am sitting down. It was not very good, but Facebook is not exactly a sonnet. It is best used for photographs of dogs that is a very truism and gags. It is the village well, but with no people, or buckets. So I share that my husband had got a job as a professional Santa Claus, that I once bought pecan crunch from a group calling itself Pilots for Christ, and a photograph of Pope Benedict captioned: I am 29% horse. Everything else is a waste of time.
I rolled in the mud at Glastonbury
I came to social media late because I am afraid of it, because it is reductive. Its greed, too hacks are paid by the word so, as Julie Burchill says: Fuck you is two quid. Or it used to be. I like books, the older the better. Ink is a drug, too. If something has form, for me, it has value, and I cannot see any form online. It feels infinite and uncontrollable. An online friendship does not feel, to me, like friendship. It feels like an ever-receding touch.
But hacks must have an audience and virtual armies to praise them. I have never managed to marshal a virtual army, possibly because some part of me has never really accepted that other people actually read my work, which has included being a writer in residence at a bus station and rolling around in the mud at Glastonbury while dressed as a fairy. If they say they have, I am always faintly and newly surprised. Or I apologise to them and I suspect that is not the way to establish a brand.
So I created a Twitter image, because it is expected and it is a fair impersonation of who I really am. It is for people who dont buy newspapers. I love people who buy newspapers. They do not meddle with the space-time continuum, they do not make me feel that there is too much news and nothing feels as anonymous as writing for print, even if a big picture of your head is printed on the page. If Facebook is for lying about being happy, Twitter is for lying about being right. It is exhausting.
I am just as aggressive in life
On Twitter I used to be an impeccable social democrat and second-wave feminist (the economic wave, the best wave), which today feels like being an advocate for the feudal system or having more plague, or rats or, best of all, more plague rats. I look back at 2012, the year of my first tweet, which was about homelessness (Im against it) and it reads like notes for an article I never got round to writing. If you think journalism is a trivial form, then try Twitter. Its more trivial. Serious novelists contemplate it and consider dissolving the form.
But it does have one thing to admire oblivious innocence. In retrospect everything looks inevitable and so I wrote, on 29 October 2012: Someone has changed my Wikipedia entry from British to British-Jewish. Most of my Twitter feed is about antisemitism these days, but those were more innocent times before I became, almost wholly, a shouting Jew. There are fragments from watching
Question Time I ask myself, does Jacob Rees-Mogg really look like a plant? and speeches at party conferences, which I had forgotten I had seen, only noting at the time that come together should be a banned phrase. I still think that. There is also the beginning of a resentment towards Kirstie Allsopp that has threatened to become all-consuming and exists only on Twitter. Perhaps in real life I would like her. No, I know I would! My Twitter self hasnt changed as much as my Facebook self, because Twitter is not a visual form (if you exclude emoticons, as I do). I am still a social democrat and I am still a second-wave feminist.
My views have not been changed by Twitter, then. I am still sad that the Count von Count puppeteer
Jerry Nelson died in August 2012, but I no longer admire Ken Livingstone, as I did in 2012, but I read the things that led me to no longer admire him in newspapers. There was also a feud with a comic who I wont name it would make him happy prompted by the fact that the flyer for his Edinburgh show offered 10% off a date with an escort. I wondered why Danger Mouse wasnt at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Or the Wombles. I often look at Twitter yearning to write, moron, moron, moron at people. It is a truism that people are more aggressive on Twitter, because they can hide behind personas called cardigan. I think I am just as aggressive in life. Im too old for the form Im trapped in
In 2013, I now know after reckless scrolling backwards, I believed in Ed Miliband and mocked Katie Hopkins. When she talked about English, meaning white, culture I typed at her you have a culture? I was always chiding her and later the President of the United States of America, for their punctuation. I was a curmudgeon, too old for the form I was trapped in. I was angry that people from Bangor University had murdered
Ming the clam while trying to work out how old he was (507, I think. When he died. He would be 512 now. If he hadnt died.) 2014, it seems, brought my usual obsession with the World Cup and what I still consider to be my best online joke, written to celebrate the coalition policy of limiting prisoners access to books: Any ideas on how to smuggle books into prisons? Inside drugs maybe? Thats one to lie beside the photograph of me smiling at Jimmy Savile. My punditry, meanwhile, is appalling, and easily found. I think Labour could win under 100 seats at the next general election, I wrote in December 2015. (They won 262.) But I obviously changed my mind because I put a tenner on the Tories to win the most seats and won 65. If I hadnt boasted about it on Twitter, Id have forgotten it. Its the hill we will die on
2015, you should know, was the year that I was obsessed with Bernie Sanders. In 2016, which was a sad year, I was trolled over mayonnaise and was anguished at the death of Leonard Cohen. I also rejoined the Labour party. I cannot tell you why. It may have been my gift for English irony. In 2017 I reminded my followers that the Queens only other job has been as a mechanic and informed them that my son, who was then three, had invented a superhero called Mr Brexit, which we can possibly monetise. I also pondered whether David Daviss favourite bra size is a DD since Mines a DD is his personal campaign slogan. None of this is news and none of this has value. I also predicted that England would win the World Cup in 2018. They did not.
It hasnt been a marvellous online career. I now wish, having relived it, I hadnt had it. I thought I was poised and faintly mysterious, but in truth I was a shouting Jew with conventional centre-left politics (now called far right) who poses with Jabba the Hutt and Jimmy Savile while smiling. I dont think I can do better with it (Fuck you is two quid) but I might do better away from it with ah, Luddism! reality. Do you remember it? Howard Jacobson thinks that social media is the hill we will die on I tweeted that and I need to leave. Except I am not really going, as it is not really a place. Even so, one cannot always be shouting moron at people in an empty room and if I hadnt heard of Twitter, I would never have heard of Kirstie Allsopp either.