Please help the cause against round numbers


Image of tweet locations in Europe by Eric Fischer. CC-BY licence.

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s only mild, and the ball-and-chain is happy to (correctly, natch) call it “your mild Asperger syndrome”, as if that was better.

It’s not bad OCD. I’m not touching my keys five times or washing my hands till they bleed (although, as hobbiest chef, I do wash my hands very often and can’t abide them feeling sticky or dirty or the like). I’m not as bad as my father, who had a desk with everything at right angles to everything else and would explode if they were moved (my mum moved them often because of that). I’m not as bad as the ball-and-chain, who builds insane towers out of junk mail, magazines and books in his need to put things on top of other things.

But stuff fixes in my mind and I have to follow the pattern that has formed. If I spot a pattern in my life, I have to stick to it. As I say, it’s not tracing woodlines on the floor or checking for accidental murders, but it still gets a bit in the way now and again.

About 6 months ago, I noticed that I’d followed 100 people on Twitter. The number of people you follow is under your control, unlike the number that follow you, and this was no problem. But by coincidence, the number remained at 100 for 3 months. Every time I followed someone new, breaking the pattern, someone old would leave. The number remained resolutely at 100.

Now it has to be 100. I can’t follow 101 people because I follow 100 people. If the number drops to 99 or below, as happened when I challenged some sexists I was following on their sexism and they blocked me for not singing from their Manual of Feminism-as-a-weapon-against-men, I scrambled to find new people to make the numbers up to 100 again.

There are a couple of dozen people on my “will follow when other people leave or block me” mental list. There’s also a semi-formal list of people that I will consider unfollowing when someone I feel I have to follow enters my radar. All of this is made worse by Twitter enjoying randomly unfollowing (frequent) and following (infrequent) people. You think you’ve got 100 people, then you find it’s 99 for no reason. Or 101. The time I waste trying to work out the missing sheep or the interloper, then following someone on the reserve list (or forgetting someone I like who Twitter has unfollowed) then having the missing sheep reappear or the interloper leave and I’m back at 99 or 101… oh god, please help me.

How do I break out of this madness? I’ve been at 100 people I’m following, micromanaging that number, for 6 months now. The next “stage” would be 200, but I can’t find 100 people who would match my present crowd of 100 left-leaning, liberal, not-too-prolific good people in the time required. And I’d just end up micromanaging the 200 too.

There must be a way to deal with this nightmare. But I don’t know what it is. Anybody got any suggestions? Let me know. I’ll be off washing my hands in the meantime.


  1. You could try cognitive behaviour therapy, though for such a low-level OCD it might not be worth the effort. I did if for my depression / agorophobia / procrastination last year and it sort of helped a bit. I think. Like all these things, it works better for some people than others.

  2. I can only sympathise, but I couldn’t do what I do without an obsessive eye for detail so I see my various quirks as not only not being a problem but an integral part of who I am.In fact, an eye for detail can be so useful in some fields it’s the reason as part of the what goes on when soldiers are inducted into the miltary the NCOs get hysterical about small spots of dirt of creases on a uniform. Soldiers actually have OCD intentionally drummed into them.I wonder if that’s why former Gurkha officer Tony Hart was such a good artist!

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