Category Archives: Twitter

The only thing we know for certain is that we don’t know anything at all

jahar-hashtagIf there are any Wikipedia editors out there, I have a significant update for the John Wilkes Booth entry. I think he might have been innocent. Bear with me, I know I sound crazy. But I may have ‘proof’.

After the Twitter account of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (or Jahar) was publicised last weekend, I noticed some disturbing tweets. On March 11, 2012, at precisely 8:21am, he simply tweeted: “time travel”. Then, almost a year later, on February 13, 2013, he dramatically tweeted: “I killed Abe Lincoln during my two hour nap” (where “nap” can be taken to mean “adventure through the wormhole”). This blatant admission of guilt has since been retweeted over 260 times by various people across the world, including Twitter user @TheSecular, who added “hmmm” to their manual retweet, with all the narrow-eyed suspicion of someone who’d just stumbled across evidence of a time-travelling presidential assassination.

It’s worth noting that Jahar hashtagged his tweet with #intensedream, which should give him a legal loophole to jump through should it ever go to trial. Still, it’s comforting to know that the super-sleuths of Twitter are on the case following the tragic scenes in Boston the other week, forensically analysing every tweet he’s ever written.

Another online sleuth, going by the name of @Mr_GreedGH, quoted two of Jahar’s tweets for the benefit of his 2,000+ followers, adding that they strongly hinted at the terror attack that was to come. One tweet, originally posted in late March, said: “Being bilingual is da bomb” (my emphasis), while another, posted in early February, said: “I’m in the New York state of mind”. With such breathtaking investigative flair, I certainly hope the likes of Kris Kross and Billy Joel have ironclad alibis as to their whereabouts on April 15th. Nothing gets past these online Columbos.

Out of pure nosiness, I spent most of last Saturday reading through Jahar’s timeline. When I started reading, his account had just over 82,000 followers (up from around the 300 mark). By the time I arrived at his very first tweet (a laundry-based update from October 2011) he had over 90,000. If you visit his timeline now and refresh your page every few minutes, his follower count steadily continues to rise – just over a week since his arrest in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Since the bombings, Jahar’s Twitter timeline has become a forum for argument, rumour, abuse, seductive conspiracy theories and even messages of support, solidarity and declarations of awkward romantic feelings from fangirls. Aside from the aforementioned Twitter sleuths poring over Jahar’s timeline for the ‘smoking gun’ tweet that doesn’t seem to exist (e.g. “I did bombingz lol”), it’s developed into a straight fight between the #freejahar movement – who believe he’s been framed by the US government – and those who want to see him fry for the terrorist atrocity he stands accused of committing.

Twitter is basically the digital equivalent of standing outside a courthouse hurling impassioned abuse at a suspect being whisked away beneath a gunmetal-grey, prison-issue blanket. But instead of attempting to land a satisfying blow on the side of the police van as it whizzes past – sending a metallic-sounding thump and barrage of vitriol reverberating around the suspect’s dark soul – all you have to do nowadays is click a ‘follow’ button, post a cathartic, 140-character tweet to the suspect’s timeline (in response to something he probably wrote months ago), then head to the kitchen for a sandwich.

Given that Jahar is unlikely to be keeping track of his Twitter mentions from his prison cell, people’s responses to his tweets are less about genuine attempts to communicate with him and more about playing to the gallery and informing their Twitter peers  – for the avoidance of doubt – that they despise terrorism.

For instance, in response to a photo Jahar tweeted of a sunset last December, one Twitter user bluntly responded: “You’re not artsy dude you’re a killer.” Had Twitter been around in the 1980s, it’s the kind of tweet one might have sent John Wayne Gacy in response to a Twitter timeline full of nightmare-inducing clown art. Of course, Gacy had already been tried, convicted and sent to Death Row to await execution by the time he discovered his creative side. In contrast, Jahar’s sunset photo was probably posted to Twitter with the same instinctive urge to share as someone presenting their Instagrammed chicken and pesto panini to the world. I doubt it was some kind of artistic statement – four months prior to the Boston bombings – which aimed to show that even aspiring terrorists can appreciate natural beauty. 

boston-fake-story

Interestingly, one day after the attacks, Jahar tweeted a response to @ImRealTed (a parody account of the Ted film character) in which he called out a heart-rending human story from the Boston Marathon as “fake”. The story, which had spread like wildfire around social media sites – unchecked, typically – told the story of a man who intended to propose to his girlfriend after she’d completed the marathon. But after hearing the two explosions, he rushed to the finish line to discover that she’d tragically been killed. The accompanying photo showed an anguished man tenderly cradling the head of a lifeless woman lying on a blood-spattered pavement. “This deserves endless retweets,” said @ImRealTed, as the story was shared with the account’s quarter of a million followers.

They got the retweets they asked for – over 1600 of them – but the story was fake, as Jahar rightly pointed out. The man in the photo was a perfect stranger to the injured woman on the ground (18-year-old high school student Sydney Corcoran, who hadn’t even been running in the marathon and notably didn’t die from her shrapnel injuries). The story was as fake as the one about the Sandy Hook pupil running the marathon for victims of last December’s school shooting. But that didn’t stop several Twitter users, apoplectic with rage over Jahar’s supposedly insensitive tweet, from responding. “Wow you fucking bomb people and then call out fake stories on victims stfu,” said 17-year-old Christina, who later added that “no one cares about the story being fake when a terrorist says it”.

Her uncompromising ‘guilty until proven guilty’ approach is almost as baffling as her apparent willingness to accept bullshit stories at face value (unless officially debunked – by a trusted, non-terrorist source, obviously).

jahar-collage

Jahar now has a twitter feed with enough retweets and favourites to rival Rob Delaney, with a growing base of support from people who genuinely believe he’s innocent – not to mention a growing army of smitten women. “I think I’m in love with a fake terrorist,” tweeted one ‘supporter’, with a split-screen photo of her smiling face next to Jahar’s. “It’s always the hot ones that turn out to be the messed up ones,” tweeted another. “Can we talk about how perfect his teeth are?” said one Tumblr post, beneath a photo of Jahar wearing a wing collar dress shirt and a beaming smile (with his arm around a girl whose face has since been scribbled from history). One girl even posted a handmade ‘Jahar’ photo-collage to Twitter. It’s like glimpsing what the world would be like if Match.com introduced a ‘Phwoar on Terror’ category for anyone wishing to meet extremist singletons.

Aside from the draw of his boyish good looks, Jahar’s Twitter account is actually quite ordinary. He chatted with friends, posted photos of his cat, tweeted song lyrics, enjoyed sharing random facts and watching Breaking Bad, slowed down for squirrels crossing the road and advised his friends on allergy products (“You need to get Claritin Clear,” Jahar advised @therealAbdul_…just over 24hrs after he’d allegedly killed three people and maimed hundreds more at the finish line of the Boston Marathon).

There’s no mention of “jihad” or “infidels” in his timeline, but you will find “Nemo” and “Dory”. (Unsurprisingly, this being the internet and everything, Jahar’s Finding Nemo­ tweet triggered an inexplicable and pointlessly macho etymological discussion about the term “Glasgow smile” and whether it was the correct term for the violent torture method that one Twitter user said he’d use on another. Several of the ‘conversations’ that Jahar’s tweets have spawned have the stagnant air of YouTube’s comments section about them.)

He even tweeted a few things that I wholeheartedly agree with, like calling MTV “garbage”. He also retweeted a link to a Media Matters article – with the words “just depressing” – about how the Kardashians get 40 times more news coverage than ocean acidification. It’s a strange feeling to find a modicum of common ground with a suspected terrorist.

But it’s this apparent ordinariness which has left people baffled as to how he could be involved in the grave events in Boston. A video of Jahar lightheartedly performing the robot during a wrestling training session (posted to YouTube by a friend, with the title ‘This was the Jahar I knew’) only adds to the confusion and sense of disbelief among his supporters. I guess it’s how we’d all feel if we suddenly found ourselves at the mercy of a mysterious bomber, only to later discover that Peter Crouch had transformed himself into the Ted Kaczynski of the English Premiership.

Perhaps the most notable and disturbing thing about the #FreeJahar movement online is how quickly it’s adopted a siege mentality. And due to the involvement of more than a few Beliebers and Directioners (who flock towards any cause that enables them to act as a hivemind) it already has the unsettling feel of a teenage cult. Many of his supporters are already spending their time defending the campaign against ‘haters‘, which is an infuriating label to hurl at anyone who objects to the plastic pop of One Direction and Justin Bieber, but completely inappropriate when used to deflect criticism from anyone genuinely unsure as to the innocence of an alleged terrorist.

In a frighteningly similar way to how Beliebers and Directioners believe they have a deep and very real emotional connection to their idols, which they assume is reciprocated, some of Jahar’s supporters have been tweeting as if he’s fully aware of their efforts. “I’m sure Jahar wants us to be strong, but if he hurts, I hurt. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the way it is for me,” tweeted the supporter behind the four-day-old ‘Supporting Jahar‘ account.

The emotions of his more impressionable supporters are also starting to be routinely targeted by what sounds like bite-sized fan fiction. Only yesterday, a rumour appeared from nowhere that “Dzhokhar cries when he wakes up and to stop the crying he goes back to sleep.” This nugget of information was attributed, in the vaguest sense imaginable, to “a nurse from the prison Jahar is in” (that being the Federal Medical Center, Devens). It surely won’t be long until someone tweets: “After our campaign secures his freedom, Jahar has said that he’s going to do the robot dance especially for us!” (source: A legal type dude working on his case and shit)

And in typical obsessive fan style, some supporters are even tweeting the usual “Let’s trend!” rallying cry – only to complain, when no such trend appears, that their efforts must have been actively blocked. Even though many supporters assert that they’re not conspiracy theorists – while at the same time posting and retweeting endless conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon on various social media sites – their belief that even Twitter must be working against them says much about their naivety.

zubiYesterday, a Twitter account purporting to belong to Jahar’s mother appeared, which encouraged followers to make cash donations to help with Jahar’s legal defence. A photo of a woman claiming to be Zubeidat Tsarnaeva holding up a sign with routing numbers for a Russian bank account was the third tweet to be posted to the account (there’s also an accompanying YouTube video). Bizarrely the tweet prior to that was a message to Jahar himself, which asked him to follow her and then communicate only via direct message (“do not do a public Twitter,” she stressed). Even more bizarre is the fact that the @Tsarnaeva account appeared to have been created in July 2010, yet not a single character had been typed nor a tweet posted until yesterday afternoon.

Worryingly, the person behind the account claimed that they had received over $2,000 in just a few hours (after the appeal had been promoted by the ‘leader’ of the #FreeJahar campaign @TroyCrossley). Crossley later admitted that the account didn’t belong to Jahar’s mother, but assured everyone that the creator of the account was a supporter of the campaign nonetheless and the banking information was entirely accurate. So at least those 14-year-old online activists, with their supportive t-shirts and consciousness raising messages scribbled across their fresh faces, can now wire their mum and dad’s cash to Chechnya without feeling that something’s amiss.

(Well, they can’t anymore because the @Tsarnaeva account has since been deleted.)

The point of this long, rambling blog post is to stress that none of us really know anything, which is ironic given that we live in an ‘information age’. The people who believe that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty of carrying out the deadly terrorist attack in Boston are relying on information provided by a frequently unreliable mass media, not to mention law enforcement agencies who’ve been feeding the public a constantly mutating, and at times wholly contradictory, narrative.

The #FreeJahar movement, on the other hand, will continue to rely on Alex Jones’ Infowars and any number of armchair conspiracy theorists to pick at the threads of the official story, sharing among the hivemind any and all discrepancies that provides ‘proof’ of a False Flag terror attack, and thus, Jahar’s innocence. Meanwhile, the super-sleuths of Twitter will read and re-read Jahar’s achingly normal tweets through the murky hue of their terrorist filters. And supporters and detractors alike will continue to lock horns across the Internet, pretending they have all the answers.

The internet is awash with deceit, misleading and downright inaccurate information, endless repetition, argument and counter-argument, and more charlatans than you can shake a stick at. Although, from a slightly wider angle you can see that there are several other shady characters in the vicinity with stick-like implements…and if you look at the impossible directions of the shadows on the ground, it could be argued that I wasn’t stood there shaking a stick at a charlatan at all. The online aftermath of a terror attack is a confusing and depressing sensory overload. The only thing we know for certain is that we don’t really know anything at all.

(In the time it’s taken me to write this blog post, Jahar’s inactive Twitter account has gained over 20,500 followers.)

3 Comments

Filed under Current Affairs, terrorism, Twitter, Twitter

Irrelevant basement dwellers versus the world

“This is for all the haters who thought that I was here for just one or two years. But I feel like I’m gonna be here for a very long time,” said a resolute Justin Bieber last week, as he accepted the award for Favourite Male Pop/Rock Artist at the 40th annual American Music Awards.

If he does indeed stick around for years to come, I like to think that he’ll eventually resemble Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. Overweight, cloaked in shadow and shorn of his once famous locks, he’ll surround himself with belongings and keepsakes assembled from the various body parts of his adoring fans (willingly donated, obviously).

“Beliebe,” he will whisper, adenoidally, into the ear of a tearful and overwhelmed 40-year-old fan, as she slices off the appendage and clumsily threads it onto the bloodied chain of his gold necklace. Barely conscious, she will then stumble to a nearby chaise longue made of skulls, where Bieber’s ‘people’ will cover her with a patchwork quilt of skin, retrieve the blade from her weakening grip and replace it with a complimentary bottle of ‘Girlfriend’.

“Next!” they will shout, as another middle-aged superfan is ushered into the darkness.

To his army of dedicated fans, my musings about his possible (but unlikely) future probably marks me out as a ‘hater’. But I don’t hate Justin Bieber – well, not burning hate – he’s just a boring global phenomenon; a slip of a boy who makes autotuned pop songs for teenage girls to scream over. Sure, he comes across as a bit of a cocky twat as well, but that’s by the by. His loyal and ferociously unhinged fanbase idolise him.

“Justin Bieber spelled backwards is Rebeib Nitsuj, which means ‘Flawless King’ in a language I just made up,” tweeted one fan recently (probably after scrawling it on her parents’ bedroom door in lipstick and screaming “Rebeib Nitsuj!” while standing over their bed brandishing a carving knife).

Bieber’s slightly petulant acceptance speech at the AMA’s suggested that he saw the award as a victory over the ‘haters’ (or ‘haterz’) against whom he and his fans battle constantly. But what exactly is a ‘hater’?

According to a completely made up acronym provided by @iAmTheWiseOne on Twitter recently, it means: [H]aving [A]nger [T]owards [E]veryone [R]eaching [S]uccess. But I’m not entirely comfortable with that. It suggests that the famous and successful are deserving of our unwavering praise and adoration, like dictators appearing on the balcony of the presidential palace in order that throngs of admirers can vacantly applaud the cultural famine they’re enduring. Dissent will not be tolerated. Like the mother who was forcibly sedated during a heated meeting between the Russian deputy prime minister and relatives of those who perished on the stricken Kursk in 2000, you shall be silenced and removed. You will speak kindly and favourably of our heroes. You will kneel before our Flawless King.

No? Then you’re a hater.

The ‘hated’ tend to view this situation as the talented and fabulous being remorselessly persecuted by the marginalised and envious, who are simply jealous of their success and the trappings of their fame. As such, ‘haters’ are often deemed “irrelevant” and dismissed as shadowy lurkers with unspectacular careers, desperate to make a name for themselves by criticising their supremely talented targets. They’re just “people sitting in a basement with nothing better to do,” as Justin Bieber once said.

When Andy Dawson (@profanityswan) recently wrote a scathing review of Chris Moyles’ latest parody album in The Mirror, the former Radio One DJ took to Twitter to bullishly respond. “Andy Dawson in The Mirror. Hey Andy, I really bug you don’t I. You HATE my success so much. Really hate it. Thanks. Makes me want more,” said Moyles, in 140 characters of embittered smugness. “Shut down the haters sir,” chimed in fellow DJ ‘Grooverider’.

Because, of course, it couldn’t possibly be that his album was every bit the detestable pile of horseshit that Andy Dawson said it was. And according to Moyles, it wasn’t about the album at all. It was about Andy Dawson despising his SUCCESS. He hates it. Hates it so much, in fact, that the only way he could deal with it was to harshly review his work of unrivaled musical genius. To Moyles, he’s just another ‘hater’. His views are irrelevant. Likewise the opinions of any critics who have the audacity not to fawn over the vast amount of mind-numbing toss that the entertainment industry regularly churns out these days.

But it’s not only Justin Bieber and Chris Moyles that have ‘haters’. A quick search on Twitter yesterday suggests that it’s the must-have thing of the moment, even if you’re not remotely famous. Because having ‘haters’ means that your existence has been validated. You’ve raised your head above the parapet and triggered a reaction. A negative one, yes, but a reaction nonetheless. But even if you’re not relevant or self-important enough to have ‘haters’ specifically hating you, then you can always loosely claim to have them if you’re a certain zodiac sign.

“Haters hating on #Pisces cuz we are a lil bit of every sign all rolled into one and we pull it off like a true G,” tweeted @ZodiacPosts the other day. “I’m awesome!” replied one ecstatic Piscean, thrilled that the ‘haters’ apparently dislike the way in which he pulls off his meaningless existence “like a true G”.

And we shouldn’t forget Geminis, who “never care about what the haters have to say…they have more of a *talk to the hand* kind of attitude ;)”. Yes, of course they do.

But hasn’t the world always been calibrated to account for both love and hate? Marmite’s famous advertising campaign notably didn’t feature a load of whining teens slathered in gloopy yeast extract burbling on about how, if you don’t love their favourite spread, then you’re just a hater. The advertisers knew they had a product that was divisive, and that wasn’t universally loved. In fact, if you visit Marmite’s official website it gives you the option of hating it, right there. And instead of that mouse click being an empty gesture, it actually takes you to the ‘Hate Marmite’ Facebook page (URL: MarmiteHateParty). It’s a common sense, no bullshit approach to acknowledging that differing points of view exist, and will always do so.

I accept that YouTube dwellers who leave mindless “Your soh gayyy!” comments on Justin Bieber videos probably do tick the ‘hater’ box, because there’s nothing remotely clever or interesting about their contribution to the world. But the term ‘hater’ is now liberally used to smear dissenting views against, well, anything.

Let’s face it, if we all gushed about the same things we would find ourselves living in a zombie wasteland of intolerable blandness. Is that what we want?

So let us continue to be critical, and let us ignore the ridiculousness of the ‘hater’ label. After all, it will likely disappear in the next few years…like many of the celebrities whose success we apparently loathe today.

Anyway, I’ll be in the basement if anyone needs me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Celebrity Culture, Twitter

Digital Soul

“If you blur your eyes, this looks a bit like Chris de Burgh being bummed in a sex swing by a giant rabbit,” enunciates Brian Sewell, as he suddenly loses his mind during a Dali retrospective on The Culture Show.

As much as that hilariously vulgar display would cheer me up no end after a long day at work, unfortunately I made that opening paragraph up. Well, sort of. Those words were actually taken from a tweet I once wrote about a photo I’d seen on a fancy dress costume website. It popped into my mind after reading an article about digital legacies, which made me think about all the useless toss I’ve posted online over the years. What will become of it all when I’m gone? Will it form the basis of people’s memories of me?

Only a few years ago, it was considered quite unorthodox for bereaved people to create special memorial websites to celebrate the lives of people they had sadly lost. But the internet was clearly the perfect platform for such things. Friends and relatives could pore over hundreds of old photographs and snippets of video, stick everything into a timeline, have it all gently dissolve into each other over a soundtrack of the deceased’s favourite music (a bit like a remembrance version of ITV’s Nightscreen), and upload it for all to see. A million times better than a fleeting obituary – it was a permanent online presence.

These days, of course, formal memorial websites and tribute pages are commonplace online. But those thoughtful, emotive creations of the bereaved now exist alongside the digital legacies we’re creating for ourselves every single day.

We constantly update our Twitter timelines with thoughts, observations, rants, jokes, banter, and details of our darkest moments and happiest hours. And what we’re unable to squeeze into 140-characters (without reverting entirely to text speak, which creates the impression we’re valiantly tweeting through a stroke) we write on our blogs.

Facebook has recorded our farming skills, our ability to pointlessly recite song lyrics, and our insatiable appetite for quizzes (“your inner dictator is: Nicolae Ceaușescu!”). While our Flickr and Twitpic accounts are vast digital picture books containing all the images we deem to be beautiful, interesting, hilarious, controversial and thought-provoking.

The internet is like an unfathomably huge toilet, with thousands of polystyrene foam packing peanuts dancing in the surf of every flush. That unflushable debris is our digital legacy – or what Hans-Peter Brondmo, head of social software and services at Nokia in San Francisco, calls our “digital soul”. And according to Sumit Paul-Choudhury, writing in New Scientist magazine recently, cheap storage and easy copying means our digital souls have the potential to be immortal.

According to Paul-Choudhury: “The memories we are leaving behind now, in all their riotous glory – drunken tweets, ranting tweets, bad-hair-day pictures and much more – may become a unique trove to be studied by historians for centuries to come. In fact, today’s web may offer the most truthful and comprehensive snapshot of the human race that will ever exist.”

Really? That’s a disturbing thought.

If I was to unexpectedly skid off this mortal coil tomorrow, in a spectacular car-shaped fireball, the thought of my various contributions to the internet knocking around for evermore makes me feel a little uneasy. That’s why there’s a war on for our [digital] souls. In the blue corner: the ‘preservationists’ (who believe we owe it to our descendants to preserve our digital legacies). In the red corner: the ‘deletionists’ (who think it’s vital the internet learns how to forget).

I don’t know which side I’m falling on. Deletionists, maybe?

My Facebook profile alone is full of unflattering photos and self-deprecating crap, most of which I’m guilty of uploading myself. For some reason, I once posted a photofit image of myself as a profile photo which I’d created with a free online generator (and misguidedly thought was a good likeness). So when I think about my digital legacy, I envision my descendants adding the sole remaining image of me to a holographic family tree, which resembles Corey Feldman wearing a witness protection disguise.

[Although, rather that image than the one where I look like a disgruntled Swedish pornstar who’s just been handed some Cillit Bang and told to wipe down the set of Shit Guzzlers 4.]

But it’s not just the dim, distant future that we need to think about. I sometimes wonder which web-based photo of me a local newspaper or news station would use if I suddenly met with a particularly messy, but ultimately newsworthy, death.

I took a photo during a clifftop walk in Boscastle a few years ago, which I subsequently uploaded to Facebook. Wouldn’t it be hilarious, I thought, if I let my head hang over the edge of the cliff, pull a terrified expression (as though falling), then snap a photo of myself from above.

Of course, aside from the basic fact that my photo idea just wasn’t very funny, the key element of the composition – namely, the sheer drop beneath my head – wasn’t at all obvious. Consequently, it looked like I’d taken a photo of myself only moments before a block of frozen toilet waste from a passing aircraft impacted my skull. Or like I was documenting my slow, agonising death by steamroller.

It’s almost the perfect photo to run next to any story about my untimely death. But I’d rather my digital soul didn’t present any future picture editors with the opportunity.

The words we hammer out on our keyboards and hurl online can also create a powerful digital legacy. The Chris de Burgh tweet that opened this blog post clearly marks me out as a renaissance man (as does this), while various other tweets seem to confirm both my lack of optimism and general hatred of people (Exhibits A, B, C, D and E). Even my ‘jokey’ threats to bludgeon my noisy neighbours to death still sit on Facebook’s servers in its labyrinthine data centre. And as for the rubbish written on this blog, well, where do I begin? Would my descendants be proud?

[Occasionally, though, I’ve provided my Twitter followers with a tantalising glimpse into my unconscious mind.]

But of course, our digital legacies aren’t always in our own hands. Googling your own name usually throws up a plethora of Twitter-related websites, which aggregate every mention of the word “bum” or something, and before you know it you’re the number one “bum” Tweeter in your area; an unexpected accolade over which you seemingly have no control. The internet is vast. Maybe too vast to keep fully abreast of.

So maybe it’s time to pick a side. If you want to preserve something wonderful for your descendants, then you’d best get organising and assembling your digital legacy into something presentable. It’s the digital equivalent of wearing clean underwear in case you’re hit by a bus.

But if you’d simply rather hit delete, make sure you think it through first. A lot of our online memories – our photos, blog posts and tweets – are intertwined with social interactions that we might recall with great fondness. And once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Actually, maybe I won’t hit delete. Not just yet, anyway.

9 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous, Personal, Twitter

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Twitter

“Time to fade out”

If you’re about to read this and don’t use Twitter, it’s not going to mean an awful lot to you. That’s not to say you can’t read on – you’re most welcome to – I’m just saying. However, if you’re one those people that doesn’t use Twitter because “it’s just a load of people telling each other what they’ve eaten for breakfast”, then I strongly urge you to do the following: (1) power down your laptop immediately, (2) shut yourself away in a darkened room, and (3) punch yourself in the face repeatedly. (And if you’re finding that difficult to achieve because self-preservation has kicked in, please go outside and ask a helpful passerby to do it for you.) OK? Good.

As I write this blog post, I’ve been on Twitter for 1 year, 2 months, 1 week, 20 hours, 24 minutes, 19 seconds. And I love it.

It’s a place where people can direct me to content that has the power to educate, inspire, infuriate or simply make me smile. It’s somewhere I’m guaranteed laughter and conversation, without someone politely feigning peanut-related anaphylactic shock in order to side-step my awkward conversation at a party. And it’s an experience that’s left me with the odd story to bore the grandchildren with, like a crusty old war veteran (“Kids, did I ever tell you about the time thousands of us got together on Twitter and skewed a Daily Mail poll?”).

It’s where my days now begin and end.

But none of the stuff above just magically happens. It takes people to make Twitter what it is. And I’ve been lucky enough to come across some very lovely people over the last year and a bit. People I feel I can call ‘friends’, even though I’m unlikely to ever meet them in ‘real life’.

I try not to think about the time when Twitter comes to an end and those friends aren’t there any more. But this week, sadly, one of those friends left Twitter quite abruptly, leaving nothing behind except for her timeline and a brief farewell message. I’m talking about @IndieLou, who I started following last year after we were both re-tweeted by a Twitter account that aggregated tweets with the word “klunge” in.

I considered @IndieLou one of my original Twitter chums. She was witty, acerbic, outrageously rude at times, and was the unrivalled hashtag queen. As such, she became extremely popular on Twitter, amassing nearly 800 followers. However, on Friday afternoon she deleted her bio, restored her avatar to the default Twitter bird, posted a farewell tweet…and vanished. Even her blog has gone.

After a week of normal Twitter activity, @IndieLou’s final tweet of the day on Thursday was about going home and needing a wee! So with that in mind, her vanishing act the following day came completely out of the blue. It was as unexpected as the appearance of Jaye Davidson’s willy in The Crying Game, just as my teenage loins were gearing up for a sex scene. And it left me feeling every bit as confused.

But even though Lou’s seemingly decided not engage with Twitter any more, she’s stopped short of deleting her account completely. After all, keeping your account open leaves the option of quietly popping back every now and then to see who’s missing you. It’s like my fantasy of being the ghostly guest at my own funeral. Anyone who doesn’t cry, remember me as hilarious or hail me as a tragic genius, will wake one night to find their chairs stacked precariously on the dining room table and one of their children trapped inside the television. Ha-ha-ha!!!!

Anyway, I sent Lou several direct messages to check if she was OK and to ask why she’d suddenly decided to leave Twitter, but they’ve unfortunately gone unanswered. I guess we’ll never know why she left.

So I guess it’s goodbye @IndieLou. I’ll leave you with the last hashtag tweet she posted (which I actually re-tweeted at the time). And please, no more sudden departures from Twitter…unless I’m consulted fully beforehand.

Typically, @IndieLou returned to Twitter on the same day I posted this. Nothing to do with my blog, but it’s good to have her back nonetheless.

Right, you’ve had your happy ending – now move on to a blog you’d rather be reading.

7 Comments

Filed under Twitter

Twitter’s just made me feel like a teenager again (and not in a good way)

Between 1989 and 1991 – my formative teenage years at school – I was dumped three times by three separate girls. In 1989, I found solace in New Order’s ‘Technique’ album (I haven’t listened to it since), while 1990-91 saw Joy Division’s ‘Closer’, R.E.M.’s ‘Green’ and ‘Out of Time’ albums, and pretty much everything The Cure had ever written (though, I spent a lot of time with ‘Disintegration’), all acting like a great, goopy musical adhesive to hold together the shattered pieces of my tragic adolescent life.

Not only did I seem to revel in the melodrama and the misery of my break-ups, but I also scrawled every self-pitying word in a diary (which had a lock on it). I didn’t know it at the time but I was a walking teenage cliché, with a face almost theatrically white from the thick coating of Oxy10 I kept almost permanently applied. Still, at the time, being dumped felt like the end of the world. It also caused hairline fractures in my already fragile self-confidence and brought about persistent periods of self-doubt.

Fast-forward 18 years and I’ve been dumped again. Well, sort of. Someone that I really liked on Twitter has stopped following me. And to be honest, I feel like I’ve been dumped all over again.

I started following this person a few months ago and was pleasantly surprised when they followed me back. However, ever since that time I’ve sort of been waiting for them to leave me, which is exactly the kind of behaviour I engaged in during my teens (i.e. too miserable to actually enjoy the moment because, from day one, the end is nigh).

Every time my follower numbers have dipped over the last couple of months I’ve anxiously scanned my follower list to check that this person’s avatar was still present. And, yes, I secretly breathed a sigh of relief every time I confirmed that they were still with me.

But when I checked my follower list the other night, they – she – had gone. Now, I should stress that my affinity for this particular person isn’t anything romantic. I just find them funny, feisty, occasionally quite acerbic (which I like) and wonderfully intelligent. A great person to follow and be followed by. So I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d done to turn this person off. 

Am I boring? Is that it? Did she find me boring? Oh, God, please don’t tell me that she found me boring! I’d rather be appallingly offensive than boring. Maybe she didn’t find me funny? Oh, GOD, was I not even mildly amusing? Not even perfunctory smirk amusing? And do I really have the time to trawl through over one thousand of my tweets in order to confirm or deny these horrendous possibilities? Well, yes, maybe.

Of course, I’ll never know the reason why she unfollowed me. And that’s sort of the problem. It means I’m left with a guessing game, while pangs of self-doubt return. What’s worse is that she unfollowed me after a few months, which means that she actually grew tired of me. I don’t think I’d feel as bad if she’d rashly unfollowed me after only giving me the benefit of a couple of tweets.

I absolutely adore Twitter, but you’ve really got to leave your feelings at the door if you’re a sensitive soul like me. Thinking too hard about why people choose to follow you, and then later abandon you, can drive you mad.

Before I signed up to Twitter I would never have envisaged actually becoming fond of complete strangers (in fact, not even strangers – the words of complete strangers). But I really do enjoy seeing the same people appear in my timeline every day with interesting links, observations, jokes and general musings. I am still following this person (in the Twitter sense of the word; I don’t mean I’m stalking them, keying desperate messages into the bonnet of their car and sending them road-kill in jiffy bags), but I guess I’ll just have to accept that I find her more interesting to follow than she does me. Jesus, that stings.

Right, I’m off to pull my fringe down over my face, apply some Oxy10 (for the purposes of authentically recreating my grotesque teenage self) and then fish out a suitable album to play while I wallow in misery in my bedroom. Being dumped never gets any easier.

2 Comments

Filed under Personal, Twitter

My #followfriday ‘channel hopping’ video

 
After my last foray into the world of #followfriday videos on Twitter, I decided to do another one. I subsequently spent several days putting together a ‘channel hopping’ video, where the names of my Follow Friday recommendations were littered throughout random and obscure snippets of TV programmes and films, as if you – the viewer – were aimlessly journeying through hundreds of foreign satellite channels.

As fun as this video was to make, I hold it entirely responsible for frying my laptop. Only three hours after I uploaded the final version to You Tube, the lights went out on my laptop, it was cold the touch, and I haven’t yet been able to revive it. There isn’t so much as a flicker of life. It’s all very sad (and massively inconvenient). 

I originally posted the ‘channel hopping’ video on Twitter on August 7th, which was very kindly retweeted by @danjones101, @Disklabs@editorialgirl, @willowfieldgirl and @Louisewayman (a big thank you to all). And without a laptop to create anything new the following week, I was left with no choice but to post a link to the video once again for the August 14th Follow Friday (as a one-off repeat). After all the work I put into it, I didn’t think a second outing would hurt.

The second time I posted a link to the video on Twitter I was thrilled to get retweeted by @tylermassey, who did so with the verdict: “Fucking BRILLIANT.” Coming from the man who inspired me to do these videos in the first place, it was high praise indeed.

Of course, nothing I do can ever truly compare to what I think is one of the coolest Follow Friday videos ever, which @tylermassey uploaded to You Tube on July 3rd (watch it here…and check out his channel for his other vids). Still, I like to think that my videos are worthy additions to the growing archive of visual #followfridays. So, enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Follow Friday, Twitter