It's fairly common for parents to be on Facebook nowadays. In fact, it's one of the main reasons given as an advantage of Google Plus's 'Circles' feature - that you can digitally cordon off your mum, granny, slightly sensitive friends and other appropriate characters from the potential filth your lairy flatmate might post on your wall. On parental to-do lists which accompany sending their little darlings off to university Freshers' Week, "sign up to Facebook and request friendship" is probably right underneath "look falsely positive about the state of the student halls".
Whilst my mum is a Facebook friend, along with my dad and 92 year-old grandfather, and they're rarely censored from anything, Twitter is a different beast. Nobody is in charge of your Twitter feed apart from you. A few tipsy tweets on the nightbus aside, your narration of your life, reading habits and latest pug video are your own considered thoughts.
My mum's on Twitter, and, as the oft-quoted bio mantra goes, her tweeted views are all her own. And this is a brilliant thing.
Mum started tweeting because I did, as a lifeline when spending months in rural Buckinghamshire during my university holidays. As my old school friends had made the sage decision to remain in their vibrant university towns, my summers revolved around tweeting things my parents said, accompanied with #livingwithparents. Not unsurprisingly, my mum wanted to voice these opinions in 140-character outbursts herself. It also meant she didn't have to suffer my sniggering over @CaitlinMoran's pithy comments while watching the telly, but instead snigger herself after reading them first hand.
For a while, all was good. Entertaining country updates about chickens stuck in trees and mass baking sessions kept me safe in the knowledge that literally nothing had changed at home in my absence. But then I began to realise that there is a whole new world of Twitiquette involved when the woman who spawned you is watching your life through 140-character outbursts.
Mum started replying to my tweets. And then those of the people I had tweeted. People, like my colleagues, or my friends, or chaps I was seeing that she wasn't yet aware of.
I'd find myself having conversations with her like, "Mum, my colleague wants to know why you didn't reply to his cheese pun tweet." Only to come back to my workmate on Monday and say, "my mum liked the Camembert joke but she didn't know what to say back to it."
It works both ways. By contrast, my mum will say, "who's that funny person on Twitter? The funny one? The one you were talking about maltloaf with? She seems nice," and then I have to admit that this is one of my "Twitter Friends", who I've never actually met IRL (in real life). Then I get looked at, with slight pity, as if I had admitted I've developed an invisible friend.
There's a whole new form of respect circling the Mum Who Tweets. When having dinner with friends a few weeks back one commented, "I wanted to start following your mum on Twitter but I didn't know if that was okay?" Like she was the Queen or something.
Despite this, I find my mum's Twitter presence very endearing. One hundred and forty characters isn't much, but somehow it's enough to capture the character of somebody you know very well. I've always been amused that some eloquent, intelligent and professional parents are often incapable of writing using correct punctuation and spelling in a text message (@TEXTSFROMMUM is a fine demonstration of this), and somehow it applies for tweets as well.
Seeing my mum's opinions on Made In Chelsea, or the Great British Bake Off, or feminism or hair removal or, well, anything, is like having half of the entire philosophy I was brought up with distilled into tiny little bottles of bizarre wisdom. To other people she may seem like a middle-aged contented woman living in the countryside, but I can imagine her saying every single one of her tweets, and it's lovely.
Plus, contrary to her protestations, I know she loves Twitter too. After all, the patio my parents made this summer wasn't christened the #GinOClockSpot for nothing. You can follow her at @LittleEarn - and I'm still miffed that she's got a better Twitter handle than me.
Follow Alice E. Vincent on Twitter: www.twitter.com/alice_emily