herald

Monday 24 September 2018

May we live in interesting times, especially online!

Revealing: Wise thoughts to share with your friends online. Photo: Getty Images
Revealing: Wise thoughts to share with your friends online. Photo: Getty Images

'WHAT'S on your mind?' I suddenly realise I've been staring at the blinking cursor in the Facebook box for 10 minutes.

Nothing. Nothing is on my mind. It's an excruciating time of year, an in-between time, too late for Halloween, too early to start spending on Christmas; too cold to be autumn, not quite cold enough to be properly winter – we can't yet see our breath in the air in the house, so can't quite bring ourselves to turn on the heating.

I rub my knuckles, warming them as I sit at the keyboard staring at the cursor again – "What's on your mind?" – realising this time that my mouth is open and I'm drooling a little.

"Perhaps I'm depressed," I tell my wife as she passes.

"You're not depressed," she says, "you're just bored."

She's right. I hate this time of year. It's one big tedious hump to slog over, and the calendar months should actually go September, October, November . . . November . . . November, December.

I click off Facebook, which is starting to remind me of a scrapbook of irritating people's annoying postcards, and I log on to Twitter instead, which is more like some vast crowded room of cocaine-addled mental patients, each having an enthusiastic conversation with a wall but all at the same time.

"Compose new Tweet".

I try to think of some event, a milestone with which to mark the passing days which all at once seem to blur into one great indistinguishable soup of broken-record sameness, but everyone in our house is likewise kind of treading water this week.

Cheating

The eldest is only back in college and so, even if we see him between rushing off first thing without his breakfast for the train each day and poking his head in the door on the few occasions he arrives home before we go to bed, there's little to report.

I do notice that he seems to be growing a bit of a beard, on one of these rare, late-night check-ins. "If that's for Movember," I tell him, "it's cheating. You can't just grow a beard and shave it into a moustache on the last day, you have to suffer the silly bit that makes you look like a 1970s porn star all month, that's the whole point."

He looks at me like I'm an exhibit, then the head disappears and the door slams shut.

"I suspect it's nothing to do with Movember," observes my wife wryly.

"Bang goes that tweet then," I say.

I fare little better with the rest. "Someone please tell me something about their lives," I announce at dinner, which is minus the eldest, as usual. His two younger brothers and the little girl munch at me in silence. "Why?" says the middle teen finally.

"It's sofa-stickumpin fufbook," mumbles the younger teen around a fork that seems to be lodged in his fringe.

"It is NOT so I can stick something up on Facebook, actually," I tell him. "I was thinking more of Twitter."

"Oh, well then," deadpans the older one, and hunches back over his dinner with a sigh.

"I have something," chirps the little girl. "Ask ME!"

"Let me guess – is this about you getting your ears pierced last week?"

This WAS in fact a milestone, but since my wife and I had each already been pestered about it every day for an age beforehand, it was all a little less (jazz hands) "Wow! Wonderful!" and more (wearily) "Well, thank heavens. Finally" for us.

"Nope," she says, very pleased with herself.

"Intriguing," I tell the table before returning to her with a mock flourish. "Do tell."

Madness

"Well," she says, barely able to contain herself, then taking one big breath with which to relay the entire tale, "I was in the sitting room with my friend Heather and we were playing Just Dance 3 on the Wii and Mummy came in and she just started TALKING. Just TALKING! While we were playing Just Dance 3!

"She just started . . . talking," she grins, shrugging and shaking her head at the evident madness of it all.

"Well," I say. "It may be a challenge to capture all the comic nuance of that little gem in 140 characters or less."

Truth be told, she's cheered me up no end, as I realise nothing necessarily important has to happen every day, or even every week. Life goes on. It gives you a giggle or it doesn't.

My wife comes in later to where I'm on the computer, Facebook this time.

"So," she says, "did you come up with some revealing little nugget of experiential wisdom to share with your 'friends'?"

"You're kidding, right?" I say. "I've just spent half-an-hour trolling through other people's posts and clicking 'like' on videos of stupid people running into doors and dogs going down pool slides."

"It's what it's all for," she says.

"Four hundred million years of evolution," I say.

"Shift out of the way," she says. "It's my turn."

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