A lost phone has forced me to re-evaluate my whole life as Elon Musk cold-shoulders my efforts to restore Twitter – Susan Dalgety

Even Susan Dalgety's paid-for blue tick can’t save her from being cut off from her Twitter feed

The moment I realised I had lost my phone, my world stood still. I felt sick. The slightly bashed, third-hand iPhone 8s contained everything I needed to survive, not just on our 15-day trip from Marseille to Milan, but in my life. The sliver of black glass and plastic contained 30 precious metals and rare earth elements. It was also the repository for my work, my finances, my friends and family.

Without it, I don’t exist. Except of course I do, just not as comfortably or efficiently. On the slow train to Genoa, I found I had to watch the passing coastline through scratched, dusty glass instead of doom-scrolling Twitter. There is only so much of the Mediterranean coast a news junkie like me can stand. I wanted to know if Keir Starmer had come to his senses over the two-child benefit cap (as I write, it seems he has not).

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Over lunch in a tiny restaurant in Genoa Old Town, I rediscovered the art of conversation. I was forced to talk to my husband in more than grunts and heavy sighs because I wasn’t checking Twitter between mouthfuls of gnocchi. Apparently ‘phubbing’ – snubbing other people for your phone – is bad for your marriage. Who knew?

And lying in my bed at night, suffocating in the midsummer heat (ancient tenement flats may be a thing of historic beauty, but they don’t come equipped with air-conditioning), I have been forced to re-evaluate my life. What if I don’t get my Twitter account back? Is there a support group for people like me?

As soon as we reached our Genoa base, I speed-walked a mile to the shop where our Airbnb host, Claudio, had promised me there were refurbished iPhones for sale. Seven hours after I had discovered my iPhone 8s was missing, I was the proud, if broke, new owner of a shiny black 2020 iPhone SE.

And that is when my troubles really began. I won’t bore you with the details, but thanks to – stupidly – re-setting my network settings and my terrible memory for passwords, I am locked out of my Twitter account, even on my MacBook’s browser.

I can’t access my online banking service either, because it seems every blooming app I use needs to be verified by my old phone number, which is of course on a sim card somewhere in Nice. The fact that I can only guess the rate at which my overdraft is rising brings back happy memories of a time when the first indication that I was teetering towards insolvency was when a dreaded letter from the bank arrived. These days, I check my ever-decreasing balance on an hourly basis. It still doesn’t stop me from spending.

But back to Twitter, my real loss. I know the blue bird has its detractors, especially since Elon Musk took over, but the platform is very important to me. I use it as a rolling news feed – and before you ask, yes I do need to know exactly what is going on in the world, exactly as it happens. It was seven hours after Chief Constable Iain Livingstone’s revelations on the BBC’s Today programme that the probe into the SNP's finances included “potential embezzlement” that I learned of this development. Seven hours. On Twitter, it would have been seven seconds.

I have also built up a strong friendship group on Twitter, made up of mostly like-minded women of a certain age who have a refreshingly honest approach to life. Some people call us Terfs. I prefer to think of us as Scotland’s Feminista. I miss their constant chatter, their wisdom and their humour.

And my work is suffering. Twitter, with all its faults, is how I promote my writing, how I learn new things, how I collaborate. Working from home – or from the sofa in a Genoa Airbnb – is a privilege, but one I can only enjoy if I am connected to the world via Twitter. It is where my team resides, it is my research library and the water-cooler round which I hover to hear the latest gossip… some of which even turns out to be true.

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I am five days into my Twitter cold turkey. All attempts to get my account restored have failed miserably. The first case was closed after only 24 hours. Twitter’s email read: “Thanks for reaching out about case XXX. This case has been closed and we aren’t able to reopen it at this time.” I almost cried.

A second attempt to get help is underway, but I don’t hold out much hope without access to my old phone number. I have set up a new Twitter account – so I can at least follow the Scotsman feed – but, with two followers (thanks bots) compared to the 14,500 I have on my real feed, it is of little practical use.

I even paid for a subscription when my original blue-tick verification was replaced by the paid-for scheme. Not that I needed the validation (honest), but because I wanted to secure my account and I didn’t begrudge paying for a service that was so important to me. I pay for my newspaper subscriptions, so why not Twitter? Yet in my hour of need, I have discovered that even my hard-earned cash doesn’t cut any ice in the Wild West of Twitter support.

It seems I am a non-person to Elon Musk and his pet bird. My only hope now is that when I return home, after seeing Bruce Springsteen play the last date of his European tour in Milan, a miracle will happen. The lovely people at EE have told me there is a sim card waiting for me with my old phone number on it. Once reunited, perhaps then I will be able to get my old life back. In the meantime, I have a book to read.



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