Did you hear the one about Maggie Thatcher and the Chilean Miners?

Did you know that yesterday was Margaret Thatcher’s 85th birthday? And did you also know that at the precise moment the Iron Lady was necking a birthday smoothie (blended kitten and powdered human skull), there was a rescue operation underway in Chile to rescue 33 trapped miners?

In fact, the rescue of the Chilean miners was a such a big news story that if Maggie had turned up in northern Chile and jumped naked into the ‘Phoenix’ capsule, like a shrivelled, ginger suppository being plunged into the earth’s rectum, it still wouldn’t have been covered in the news. The world wanted to know about the miners. No one wanted to hear about Thatcher.

Honestly, how ironic, eh? Thatcher being upstaged by miners…on her birthday…with her track record…with miners! If only someone had realised how ironic that was, and tweeted it. What’s that you say? About a gazillion people did tweet that observation? OK, well maybe I ought to quit with this sarcasm then.

Geez, that Maggie Thatcher’s birthday tweet did the rounds on Twitter yesterday, didn’t it? I don’t have a problem with the early tweets that were simply RT’d, but it was the number of tweets that appeared throughout the day – subtle variations on the originals – that pissed me off. I’m happy to believe that many people legitimately had the same thought about the irony of miners overshadowing Thatcher’s birthday, and so decided to post a tweet to that effect. But I’m also inclined to believe that many people probably just lifted the basic idea from other people’s original tweets and nefariously posted the observation as their own, without crediting a source.

Because I’m a lonely soul with nothing better to do, I did a quick search on Twitter to find some of the tweets that mentioned Thatcher and the miners, and this is what I found. I have to say, I find it hard to believe that all of these tweets were original. In fact, some of them are direct copies of other tweets, whilst others have slight changes in wording. None of them, however, include any kind of credit.

(I got so bored reading the same Thatcher tweets over and over again that the only thing that cheered me up was noticing a retweet by someone with the surname “Bumgarden”.)

Given that my tweets aren’t really the kind of comedy nuggets that people would want to rip off and claim as their own, I’ve never had any problems. However, I have noticed an increasing tendency on Twitter recently for people to tweet other people’s jokes as their own, whether cut and pasted directly into someone else’s timeline or slightly rewritten so as to appear ‘original’. (And I’m not talking about Cheggers, here. I’m talking about ordinary people.)

Maybe it’s always been this way and I’m only just noticing? But I know one thing for sure: I don’t like it.

Every week, I see literally hundreds of tweets that I wish I’d thought of myself. If I like one enough I’ll RT it, with full credit to the annoyingly brilliant person who’s head it fell out of. I’d be ashamed to try and pass someone else’s tweets off as my own. Crediting people is what Twitter is all about. And kudos to the people* who enjoy multiple retweets and the enduring praise of their followers when they post funny, original stuff! They deserve it.

So let’s make sure we preserve the spirit of Twitter and give credit where credit’s due. But if you’re one of the people dealing in other people’s tweets, I suggest you leave quietly by the back door. And don’t come back.

*When I say “people” I really mean @TheDollSays.


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