Book review: How to leave Twitter by Grace Dent

How to leave TwitterBy Grace DentFaber, 208pp, £7.99

ARE you a Twitter addict? Do you panic if it's ten minutes since you checked your feed? Have you relentlessly tweeted a celebrity in a bid for their attention? Do you judge your popularity by the number of RT and @ messages you inspire? Do you check how many followers you've accumulated the minute you wake up - and before checking to see whether your children survived the night? Have you installed Twitter apps on your computer and phone, the better to monitor cyberspace? Have you ever stayed up way past your bedtime, enmeshed in a tweet-fest with someone four time zones away?

Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?

If the answer is no, move on, there's nothing here for you. If you do, then Grace Dent's How to Leave Twitter will make you laugh and cringe in equal measure. Dent is a television reviewer, columnist, and the author of 11 best-selling young adult novels. She joined Twitter on 4 June, 2008. No-one noticed, so she left, returning at the start of 2009, when a close friend also joined. Today, Dent has over 50,000 followers - myself among them. Sometimes I just tune in to eavesdrop while she and Caitlin Moran lovingly insult one another in deliciously scandalous language.

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In a sense, this was a great idea for a magazine article that's been fluffed up to book length, but How to Leave Twitter is wickedly funny, and showcases Dent's acute observational skills - sometimes painfully so.

There can be few Twitter uses who won't blush with shame as Dent mocks their most cringeworthy habits, ranging from bragging about the company they keep, to overestimating the need to alert Twitter when they're going to be away.

Despite the title, this is a spirited defence of Twitter. It's a great place for breaking news, she says, and a great place to source help with everything from IT difficulties to holiday plans.

It has also revolutionised her work as a telly critic - and by extension, journalism generally - enabling her to discover what people are really watching, and to unearth foreign and cult television projects.

Dent really comes into her own when she celebrates the presence of women - of all ages and professions - on Twitter. While glossy women's magazines regularly let her down (like many, she doesn't give a toss about Jennifer Aniston or Fashion Week), Twitter rarely does, providing a steady stream of intelligent, funny, sparky commentary about everything from the latest political scandal to the truth about childcare.

There's something here to embarrass everyone with a Twitter account. Dent has certainly inspired me to think twice before tweeting, and abort some of my less than pithy 140 character utterances. But mainly, and most importantly, she made me laugh.