Professor Louis Appleby sees Twitter as part diary, part dialogue (WIT #35)

Professor Louis Appleby is a mental health clinician and adviser to the government on health of offenders & on suicide prevention


Why I started tweeting is not why I am still doing it

Why I started tweeting is not why I am still doing it.

I started out of fear – fear of being left behind, a powerful force in men of a certain age.

I was going on to my kids  about the absurdity of ending up in court for something you say on twitter – since when was being foolish a criminal offence?

They pointed out that I was talking as if someone on twitter was just typing alone into their PC when in fact this was a whole, real world.  And incidentally, one I wasn’t part of.  That did it.

Striking Gold

But the moment when twitter became a daily companion happened two months later – the Olympic opening ceremony.  I was away and texting about it to my kids (them again) who were watching it at home.

After a few minutes I started wondering if I had become a teenager’s worst nightmare, the parent who won’t stop talking, so I switched to twitter.

Until then I had stuck to work topics – offender health and suicide prevention – and told myself all the usual things: twitter would make me more accessible to colleagues, more accountable to the public.

Now I began to stretch my subject matter a little – Danny Boyle’s depiction of the NHS and multicultural Britain gave me the excuse.

From there it was a small step to personal reflections culminating in the tumultuous evening when Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis won gold and the entire country went wild.

Part diary, part dialogue

Nowadays I see twitter as part diary, part dialogue.

It is still mainly about work but the connection  between what I tweet and what I do for a living can be tenuous.

I don’t have a plan, I just tweet about what interests me – a newly published study, an off-beat bit of science, the latest episode of Casualty.

I’m fascinated by the history of medicine, ever since I wrote a medical travel book, and can’t resist anniversaries.  I am defensive about mental health services and feel compelled to respond when someone takes a casual swipe at what they do.

I do sometimes worry I am turning out 140 characters of condensed gibberish so it is a relief when people reply.  I do my best to answer questions, though I can’t summon the energy for arguments.

I have occasionally joined a trending topic, as with #PopLeveson – converting song titles into the oblique questioning style of the Leveson Inquiry.




The morning ritual

So I start each morning by checking twitter for breaking news.

By then @LisaSaysThis has already posted an optimistic message of leadership and @CCLeicsPolice has set out his day ahead for the benefit of the paying public. [This last account belongs to Chief Constable Simon Cole, the national lead on policing and mental health issues who has also written a post on why he tweets for this series.]

I don’t follow many celebrities but I am a fan of @RevRichardColes, whose whimsical world is straight out of PG Wodehouse, and @Cmdr_Hadfield on the International Space Station who tweets photos of the Earth and once in a while talks to @WilliamShatner.

Through twitter I am on friendly terms with people I will never meet and see others I have known for years in a new light – like @PaulJRethink with his interest in all things classical.

I have (I think) come to understand far better the perspective of probation and the police.

More than anything, twitter has reminded me how many amusing, well-informed people there are out there.

It attracts publicity for trolling and abuse but far more often it is principled, funny and tolerant.

A cure for impatience

And it has almost cured my type A personality, my lifelong impatience.

Because these days I always have something to do in a check-in queue or on a late train back to Manchester.


This is the 35th  post in the criminal justice/legal Why I tweet series. Read the others here.


If you’d like to develop your tweeting skills, check out my online Twitter coaching service which includes an individualised profile of your Twitter style.


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