#getalife - so busy tweeting that we forget to actually live

Life's too short to waste by following every movement and utterance of other people, regardless of how famous they are.

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Why are we here? This ultimate existential question has been much on my mind of late, since I just celebrated something of a historic personal milestone. Not my birthday, nor even my wedding anniversary, but the acquisition of my 1,000th follower on Twitter.

Quite why this meaningless statistic should have assumed such an importance in my life is difficult to say. Until last July, when I finally joined the Twitter generation, I wasn't aware that I even needed followers at all. But then a friend persuaded me to sign up, and since then my daily musings shoehorned into succinct 140-character messages have been inexorably increasing. And so has the number of people choosing to follow them.

When compared to Lady Gaga with her gaggle of 18 million followers, or even President Barack Obama (a meagre 11 million), I realise my 1,000 may seem pitiful: and yet I've become ludicrously proud of my tiny band of supporters. Their number includes friends, family and work colleagues, plus a number of individuals whose lives are entirely unknown to me. But no matter: the attention is all very flattering.

When it was launched back in 2006, few could have predicted just how popular the Twitter phenomenon would become. It now boasts well in excess of 300 million active followers across the world, half of whom actively tweet on a daily basis. Their number includes 82 per cent of the US Senate, virtually every leading international sportsman, and a stupefying assortment of media stars and celebrity wannabes.

The range and variety of information available is as dizzying as it is eclectic: breaking news, personal appeals, the private thoughts of some of the rich and famous, plus a staggering range of personal chit-chat ranging from the profound to the puerile.

Even among the couple of hundred or so individuals whom I choose to follow, I've learnt in the last few hours that a member of the UK government has just undergone a root-canal treatment, a popular chat-show host wants a recipe for cooking chicken livers, while one of our most respected sports reporters has had to change his tie between bulletins after spilling tomato sauce on it.

Not that he'd reported his sartorial disaster - it had been picked up and gleefully noted by his own followers, who had bombarded him until he had to admit the mishap.

And perhaps herein is the most beguiling aspect: Twitter provides us the chance to spuriously attach ourselves to those beyond our sphere of influence. We may never be close buddies of either Mr Obama or Lady Gaga, but by following them we can persuade ourselves that we are.

I have been in virtual contact recently with one of the UK's most glamorous female newsreaders, tweeting her tips on what West End shows she might like to see. She's even replied to one or two ("Thanks Mike - I'll check it out"). And suddenly we're on first name terms. Yet I know only too well that if I were to encounter her in the street and offered a friendly embrace she would, quite rightly, call the police.

While tweeting may be a useful way of whiling away a few minutes each day between more serious activities - like getting on with our lives, for instance - for some, alas, it provides the only means of communication and social interaction in a hostile and unforgiving world.

As if to remind me, only last week I stumbled upon an oblique reference in a message about someone called Amy, who had evidently decided to tweet no more. Intrigued by such evident self-control, I eventually found my way to her home page.

All soon became clear. Amy, a pretty teenager with a fondness for dancing, had been battling the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, a struggle she had been chronicling daily on Twitter.

Her final message, posted just before Christmas and days before she succumbed to the illness, was as heartbreaking as it was necessarily brief: "Sorry folks, but this is just all too hard - I'm checking out. Goodbye and good luck." Her final words made for sobering reading.

"The purpose of life is to live it." So said Eleanor Roosevelt. And with this in mind, I've decided in future to live it a little more and prattle a little less. For of one thing I'm sure. Whatever we were put on this earth for, it wasn't to spend our time in front of the TV, looking to spot when sports reporters change their ties.

Michael Simkins is a writer and actor in London. He is (still) on Twitter @michael_simkins