Written while distracted by children playing Doctor Who video games.
Hell is other people, so Twitter is hell…if you want it to be.
In the 1970s, telepathy was all the rage. Oh to imagine when human beings, maybe bred in laboratories hidden within chalk cliffs, could use the power of their minds to enter other people’s minds.
What a world it would be if we all knew what other people were thinking.
Now we can, it’s called Twitter, and it makes people very upset.
Stephen Fry’s recent departure from Twitter has created the latest outcry against the mob.
Maybe if Twitter keeps the mob indoors, typing rather than bundling twigs and making burning torches, then it is doing a fine job.
“Where are the mob?”
“in the attic, and they won’t be out until they have proved to everyone that they are morally and ethically superior and informed everyone who is wrong that they are wrong”.
The trouble with Twitter is that it is very easy to take it personally. Your first abuse on social media is very, very personal. The problem with going into a room that contains millions of people, all of whom may talk to you directly at any time, and sometimes many will all at once, is that you can feel victimised, stigmatised, and horribly alone in your attic.
It can feel like persistently receiving junk mail from sadists, dictators and aggressive maverick preachers.
It has become an easy news story.
New show on TV? Quick, search Twitter. Find seven people taking umbrage with the BBC’s latest teatime adaptation of 120 Days of Sodom, and you’ve got page 5 of tomorrow’s daily sorted.
In the past, you’d at least have to wait until Mary Whitehouse or the General Synod had sent a fax.
What used to be people’s miserable thoughts about something they didn’t like, most of which wouldn’t even remain in their mind for long enough to make it to the saloon bar or canteen, are now released to the world endlessly.
Just as it might be useful if we thought a little more and triggered our empathy before typing, so we need to breath in, doodle, and sigh before risking taking most of the content seriously.
So many tweets are typing before the frontal lobes or superego have taken charge of your fingers. Then, once we have accidentally been ugly or thoughtless, our humanity leads most of us into a position of defence rather than contrition.
Rather be wrong loudly and forever, than humbled briefly.
The horror of Twitter is that we have seen what was lurking all the time. There is no real world social situation I can think of when you would spend so long with people you loathed, people you were polemically opposed to, people who were so constantly rude and brutal, but now we don’t have time to go to a real party with people we might really like as we are so busy hanging out with our bête noires and drooling predators.
If everyone is allowed in, then some of them will be dicks.
I have learnt lots from the people I have communicated with on Twitter, much of it useful and interesting.
Or just very funny.
Or top tips on new bands or old bands or art.
Or I have been confronted with opinions about my opinions that have made me rethink my thoughts.
But for this opportunity, there is no way of avoiding possible confrontations with the horrible ids of a few.
As unpleasant as it might seem, it can be useful to be confronted by people we can then avoid in real life.
Some of the more demonic elements of social media would soon shrivel and return to dust if we just took less notice of them (mute and block can save a lot of time, but how easy it is to be drawn in). Maybe we could create Twitter re-enactment societies, where once a week we recreate spats we have spent hours on with other humans in a real situation and see how preposterous it seems when nose to nose and face to face.
Twitter was meant to be a frivolity, a lark, a brief glance out of the window before getting back to something a little more important, now we have become immersed, it can accidentally become our reality, the fiction is found when you step down the loft ladder. (oops, have I really written 105,000 tweets).
Series 2 of Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles is now nearing its end – so far it’s Charlotte Church, Dean Burnett, Reece Shearsmith, AL Kennedy, coming up it’s Natalie Haynes and Eddie Izzard. It can be found HERE