Another day, another dingbat spouting some utter drivel about something they clearly don’t understand. Today’s idiot-du-jour is British journalist Tanya Gold, who has written an article for Stylist Magazine about how she views Twitter; SPOILER ALERT: she views it all wrong. There, I’ve saved you the trouble of reading her article.
Now in many ways, why I continue to be surprised by people expressing grossly moronic opinions is beyond me; as the old saying goes: “opinions are like arseholes: everybody has one”. Twitter is one of those topics that people like to bicker about even if they have never used it. In this particular case, Tanya doesn’t even have the excuse of ignorance as she has a Twitter account. If you visit her page you’ll notice the first red flag: she has an egg for an avatar, which is inexcusable unless you’re either a spam-bot or Humpty Dumpty; I’m pretty sure she’s neither.
The second red flag with regard to Tanya, is that in said article she rolls out that tired old stereotype that Twitter is mainly full of tedious bilge to do with a humdrum existence, with people tweeting about their lunch or alternatively their bowel movements post-lunch. What this often implies is that Twitter is akin to a set of static statements, with users having a type of digital Tourette’s: “I HAD A SANDWICH!”, “CHEESE AND PICKLE ON RYE!”, “POO TIME!!”. As regular users of Twitter know, it is in fact all about the conversation.
While I will happily admit I took a while to join Twitter, I eventually relented out of basic curiosity, which was a little over a year ago now. 16,000 tweets later and I’ve pretty much abandoned the whole Facebook malarkey, only sporadically using the messaging side of it. I like to see Twitter as a global messenger programme that, for the most part, cuts out the bothersome middle men that would usually impede you having direct contact with a famous person; I think they call them security.
As I say, I’ve not been on Twitter that long, but to say famous people won’t deign to reply to their non-famous followers (as Tanya does) is just plain wrong. Of course some are stand-offish, but I would say on average most people appreciate the interaction with their fans. During my time in the Twitterverse I’ve had replies from both ends of the celebrity spectrum: from the lesser known but ridiculously smart and witty British journalists Caitlin Moran (worth The Times subscription fee alone) and Grace Dent, to sci-fi legend/all round delight Jeri Ryan (as a geek, this is a big deal to me in case you’re sneering at the sci-fi part, while saying “Jeri who?”) and also singer-songwriter Michelle Branch.
I also have a friend who had a reply from pop queen Kylie Minogue. I say reply, it was more a telling off for chair-dancing to “Aphrodite” while at work. On a related note, said chair-dancing friend was someone who I hadn’t seen for several years since we both left school, but the beauty of Twitter enabled us to reconnect and ultimately go see Kylie together in concert *air punch* and now we chat on a regular basis; brillcakes.
In defence of celebrities who have a reputation for rarely replying, imagine having thousands of people tweeting at you simultaneously; for some, make that millions. As the comic Dara O’Briain once observed after asking a question of his followers (he has over 400,000), his replies column was like something from The Matrix due to the speed and sheer volume of tweets that appeared as a result, so it is understandable when a celebrity doesn’t reply to everyone; if they did it would be a full-time occupation.
I once got my own pseudo-experience of this kind of celebrity-level tweeting volume, when, while using the Twitter client TweetDeck, I accidentally clicked on the hashtag “#ff”. For those of you reading this who don’t use Twitter, hashtags are included in tweets so that users can easily search for tweets about a certain topic and if enough people use the hashtag it becomes a “Trending Topic”. The hashtag “#ff” is an abbreviation of “Follow Friday” which Twitter users attach to tweets on a Friday (naturally) to recommend other people to their followers, who they think are worth a follow.
“Follow Friday” is a widely embraced ritual by much of Twitter, so as you can imagine, the upshot of me clicking the hashtag (which on TweetDeck automatically opens a new column to list the search results in conjunction with continuous live-updating) was I almost broke my computer, which all but ground to a screaming halt while trying to keep up with the results feed. Oops.
Aside from the thrilling potential to break your computer, another brilliant thing about Twitter is that it allows you to speak to and befriend people from all over the world simultaneously. While I have gotten to know a number of people who live here in the UK, I have also struck up friendships with people in Canada and Australia, often through a mutual appreciation of music or just being plain old silly and sharing a similar highbrow sense of humour. Fart jokes anyone?
Twitter isn’t for everyone, however, and when I say this I mean it won’t appeal to everyone, not, as Tanya implies, that it’s some sort of elitist regime with Stephen Fry as the king (side note: why is it always Stephen Fry? NEWSFLASH! There are other people on Twitter, guys!). Twitter doesn’t reject people for elitist reasons such as those that use poor grammar or merely can’t spell, I mean have you SEEN Cher’s Twitter output? Gawd love her; half the time it’s like she tweets with her buttocks and even then it’s like one of them is semi-unconscious.
Sure, there are pedants on Twitter, but then that goes without saying as this is the Internet. I myself am often irked by people butchering the English language, but general typos I overlook as we’re all human and I’ve done many a typo in my time too; I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some in this wafflesome post.
Another thing Tanya mentions is the abuse. Again, this goes with the territory. Most people are seething bags of anger and resentment, people are on the Internet, ergo the Internet is basically a virtual asylum full of batshit-crazy people with anger-management issues. Of course being a celebrity or even vaguely in the public eye, as many journalists are, means you become a target for people to have a go at you, which I am neither excusing nor endorsing. Criticism and healthy disagreement are all good, but when you are reduced to an “eat shit and die” type diatribe, I think it’s best to go and have a lie down and let the grown-ups play.
Tanya also seems to imply that Twitter users (and by extension, people in general) shouldn’t have been in uproar about Jan Moir’s homophobia-riddled article, written about and published very soon after Stephen Gately’s death, nor Kenneth Tong’s offensive glorification and encouraging of anorexia. She even goes as far as saying “I can’t help supporting the transgressor”, which in these cases, if I’m being generous, are a pair of massive idiots.
I think the way she compares schoolchildren killing themselves due to bullying with the subjects of Twitter abuse, like Jan Moir and Kenneth Tong, conveniently overlooks the immense harm caused by homophobia (made all the worse by being printed in a national newspaper with a huge circulation) and eating disorders that can also lead to suicide, which she is (I hope unintentionally) defending.
Can Twitter users be excessively vitriolic? Of course, but it’s not only found on Twitter. The Internet allows people to have a faceless rage without fear of recompense. Another benefit to Twitter, over say an Internet forum where you would just as likely be open to abuse, is that if someone really does offend you or is relentlessly malicious to you, a swift click of the “block” button and you never have to hear from them again.
In conclusion, all I can say is when the hell is Lucy Mangan back from maternity leave, because the B-Team are just not cutting it?