On Saturday night at the Times Cheltenham Literary Festival, Grace Dent joined Caitlin Moran onstage to discuss why that little blue bird is so great
The two friends brought a bottle of wine on stage with them, and what was scheduled to be a discussion of the social networking generation soon lapsed into a girly chat involving the almost solely female audience about celebrities, men and TV.
“Women got to Twitter quite early, about two weeks before the men latched on,” Dent, who is a TV critic for the Guardian and the self-titled Queen of Twitter, said, adding that women are “instinctively better Tweeters. They’re usually better at chatting and networking in more subtle ways.”
Moran tempted the fates by announcing she would love it if Gary Barlow joined Twitter. He might have been in the audience, for on Sunday night Moran's wish was granted – as soon as The X Factor finished, Barlow set up a Twitter account and already has nearly half a million followers. “I would like him to Twitpic what he’s wearing every day,” Moran said wistfully. “No-one wears a fine-knit cable jumper like Gary Barlow.”
But who else do the Tweet Queens, who have over 200,000 followers between them, love and hate on Twitter? “My favourite person is Simon le Bon,” said Dent. “We DM each other, whilst I simultaneously DM Caitlin going ‘I’M DM-ING SIMON LE BON’.”
“I’m loving Dane Bowers,” Moran responded. “He only tweets when he is on a train, and he is hot. If you want to know if your train is going to be hot, follow Dane.” She added that John Prescott is "one of the coolest people on Twitter".
Dent acknowledged the problems with big celebrities joining Twitter and “not getting the etiquette”, referring to the (usually American) celebrity trend of re-tweeting nice messages fans had sent. Dent cited Joan Collins as the main culprit. “But I don’t want to slag her off, Joan Collins. My Secret is one of my favourite books ever. It’s got all her beauty tips in it, like ‘take a walk on the beach every morning’.
“I hate people who troll,” she also admitted (Urban Dictionary defines trolling as ‘being a prick on the internet, because you can’). “But I troll celebrities all the time. Katie Price tweets: ‘my book has sold 350,000 copies and is at number 3'. I tweet back: ‘did you enjoy writing it?’”
Moran recalled a week she spent with Katie Price, which was the “most miserable week of my life. I asked her what her hobbies were and she said she likes sticking pink Swarovski crystals on things. I said ‘like what?’ and she looked really blank, and after a while said she’d done the TV remote.
“She’s just really bitchy about everyone around her. We were at a party to celebrate the lingerie industry, and Caprice walked past, and Katie turned round and said ‘she is so false’.”
One audience member, speaking on behalf of the entire audience, asked Dent and Moran why they weren’t on TV, adding that she would “pay to see this on TV.”
“They won’t let us on TV,” Dent replied bluntly. “Women bantering is not a sellable concept. Have I Got News For You and all those kind of quiz shows, it’s all just cocks on the table and two minute bits, whereas women just like chatting. And then you get these men going on quests and it’s all about the banter. I feel as if we try really hard. I’m just like 'why is there six men on this show again?'”
Dent said she even gets censored in her magazine columns and articles; her words are “usually changed to sound dumber in women’s magazines. The meaty lines are never left in.”
Both women hailed Twitter for being an uncensored platform for everyone. “You can feel good on Twitter,” Dent said. “In my avatar I look like I’m about to go to my own perfume launch, when in reality I’m lying in bed covered in cats.”
Moran’s general motto when comes to tweeting is “if you wouldn’t do it at a party, don’t do it on Twitter.” Shortly before this, she admitted that the last time she was drunk with her sister she put crisps in between each toe and ordered her sister to put the pictures on Twitter. So in reality there probably isn't a lot either Moran or Dent wouldn’t do in either situation. And let’s hope they continue.