I have been a regular user of Twitter for nearly two years, posting over 28,000 times and have amassed over 5,000 followers. I have followed and unfollowed approximately 600+ users and enjoyed reading and engaging with people I suspect I would not normally have met in my day-to-day. People with political, religious and social views that challenge my own, which I relish. If a person posts an update I find ignorant, lazy or insulting then I tend to take time to consider their overall output and if they continue to dilute my experience on Twitter then I quietly unfollow them, as is my choice.
One user with whom I enjoyed substantial conversation with is a 42yo school teacher from my home county of Essex. We clicked after following each other for a while and struck up a digital relationship which was very enjoyable with excellent banter. My role in the relationship was the bawdy faux-bully and hers the ditzy Essex blonde. It was at some times prurient but without being libidinous due to a clear, albeit unspoken, understanding that neither party harbored alterior motives. Mrs Charlotte Berry (aka @talktoteens) is now the subject of heightened press attention as her posts were removed from context, fed through a journalist’s quite remarkably weak writing style, and vomited onto the front page of a local newspaper that has a history of supporting Mrs Berry and her fine work for her local community. A duplicitous stance that has caused anger and frustration for many people. Twitter users have come together as a force for good and rightly lambasted the people involved in the construction of this piece. I have lost a digital friend, and I miss her.
Mr Ricky Gervais has a reputation amongst his peers for willful ignorance. He has taken it upon himself to sponsor the inclusion of the word ‘mong’ into the accepted vernacular of every day life. An almost universal resistance to this resulted in accusations that Mr Gervais was showing little or no empathy for people with Downs Syndrome and brain disease in general. A position which would be difficult to argue against given the pictures of Mr Gervais ‘belming’. I struggle with his comedy as I believe he is certainly a man capable of writing and performing funny material but I have never been able to laugh with him. A cynical part of me subscribes to the opinion that a lot of this attention is being garnered ahead of a new sitcom and will surely serve to improve viewing figures. Twitter users have shown a split, with some whole-heartedly supporting Mr Gervais to the point of harrassing ‘haters’ whilst others have been equally vitriolic in the other direction. I think Mr Gervais has achieved his goal, and I do not approve of his actions.
Politics is always a thorny subject that my father always advised me to avoid discussing in broad social circles; people who are politically motivated are very likely to react negatively to a flippant, and more than likely ill-researched, comment made by someone who they view as from an opposing camp. Fine. I have no problem with this and because I firmly believe that there are capitalist, socialist and liberalist positions that are entirely, unquestionably correct I tend to avoid political discussion. What saddens me is when I read of blanket-hatred for anybody daring to support a policy which may not adhere to the user’s viewpoint. Now, the politically-motivated users I follow are largely socialist so I see anti-Tory tweets comparing capitalists to quite vile references. How this serves as political debate confuses me and unfortunately reduces my respect for the user who posted it or, in most cases, lazily re-tweets a hate message so as to somehow gain respect. Twitter is a very negative place when this occurs and I do not enjoy being near it and so choose to bugger off and think of rainbows.
What is to be concluded from this triumverate of furore? Well, life is a spectacularly bewildering experience made even more difficult to deal with given we are all subject to such unique upbringings and social conditioning that it is no wonder we all only ever really find a handful of true, like-minded friends in our lifetimes. People who experience a different path to ours in life can be almost impossibly difficult to understand as we do not share similar reference points and none of us like to be challenged. Not really.
My opinion of Twitter is that it shines a light on our differences; as in life we react in different ways and sometimes find ourselves angered, offended or outraged. The mistake oft made is to label these common life experiences as somehow peculiar to Twitter. What does string most Twitter users together is a thread through those that use it as their stage and those that are more than happy to mostly spectate. And so, as in life, those that wish to broadcast their outrage or support are heard, whether we like it or not, however unlike in life we have a means to digitally switch these people off.
So, if you are a young(ish) school teacher relaxing in your spare time, a professional writer and performer wagging the dog or an entrenched politico spewing explicit hatred for a person because they dare to vote differently, well, Twitter is yours to do with as you wish. Ultimately the power and freedom of choice lies with me and whether I continue to let you fart in my lounge. It is not the act of being offended that matters, it is how we choose to react.
PS. I usually talk about boobs and myself. Constantly.
PPS. Charlotte, if you’re reading this, YOU’RE a bender! Xx