Twitter is awash, once again, with folk saying how bad social media, particularly Twitter itself, is for you. Scroll through your feed for a while and you'll soon find stuff to make you angry and/or sad. To live a happy life, delete the app, ditch the phone. Or so they say.
Well, ever the argumentative type, I disagree.
For me, Twitter has become a replacement for the gossip at the school gate. I post about the sort of things I'd discuss casually with friends - where I went at weekend (some stately home or out for a gig) what I'm having for dinner (whether it's made with allotment veg, or something from a tin made to look fancy), how the garden's doing, a good book I've read, tv programmes I've watched - and look forward to similar posts from the people I follow. It's the same casual chat you could have anywhere. But it reflects real life, which isn't happy and sunny all the time, so it's also a place I go when I need cheering up, and a 'you ok, hun? Take care' lightens my day, and I hope that if they need it, I offer that same support to others.
What about real friends, though? Aren't they so much more important? Well, no doubt they are, but take for example my current situation. I'm rushing round from hospital to care home coping with my ill parents. I don't have time to go visit friends for coffee and support. Twitter is there at the press of a button. Equally, in the time-consuming but mind-numbing state I'm in right now, to be able either first thing or at the end of the day, or even if the person you're visiting has fallen asleep, to be able to pop onto social media, to share a little in other people's lives, to check that somewhere life is going on as normal, helps tremendously.
I'm sure there are bad aspects - body-shaming, bullying, envy, political arguments that rapidly drop to name-calling level - but I've hardly ever encountered them. If you happen to be a well known public figure things are undoubtedly different (some people seem to enjoy nothing more than hurling insults at anyone marginally famous), but the majority of us are normal, obscure people who won't attract such abuse, and I don't like to think of newbies being put off Twitter by thinking it's all about trolls and angry rants. Just as in that group of mums waiting at the school gate, there'll be ones who want to be the centre of attention, some who always seem to be up in arms about something (trivial or serious), others who seem to get most pleasure from bitching about people. At least on Twitter, I can block the annoying ones. I rarely involve myself in politics or social issues beyond the odd comment here and there. I don't mind if my 'friends' hold differing opinions to mine, unless they try to ram them down my throat (if they do, they'll quickly end up blocked ).
On the whole, I've found chatting on Twitter to be a positive thing. As a book blogger, I've got in touch with authors, publicists and publishers, and got the low down on upcoming releases. As a 'private' person, I've discovered new bands, new places to visit, swapped recipes, held a virtual hand when someone needed it. It's like being back in the playground - be careful who you hang out with!