Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Two Faces of Twitter


This week has been one of contrast on twitter.  The good, the bad and the uncomfortable.

Lets start with the bad and the uncomfortable.

If you'd told me 18 months ago when I started the blog that I'd write a piece about Keith Chegwin I'd probably have packed up doing it there and then.  And yet here we are.

He's been in the news and a big deal on twitter this week after using jokes that 'belonged' to other people.  He got called out on it by some established comedians, who spotted the gags and named and shamed him.  That's fair enough, he shouldn't have done it but what these comedians seemed to forget is that it could have been pointed out privately.  Instead they did it on twitter, in the public feed and that fed into the current paranoia sweeping twitter for joke stealing.  You're not telling me that Ed Byrne couldn't have rung his agent and asked for Chegwin's number and politely pointed out that it wasn't cool to use someone else's material and given him the opportunity to deal with it with some dignity.  But with twitter it's all too easy to criticise publicly, I've been guilty of it myself (I'll hold my hands up to that), but now I'd seriously think twice about it having seen the reaction from twitter.

It was really difficult in the week to avoid Keith Chegwin in my feed.  Everyone seemed to be attacking him and frankly it started to feel like a witch hunt and I grew more and more uncomfortable.  I started to think about Keith Chegwin sat on his iPhone watching tweet after tweet accusing him of all kinds of stuff and struggling to understand the sudden hatred from people that probably never followed him in the first place.  I started to feel really sorry for him.

Plagiarism is not clever.  I'd be pretty fucked off if anything I wrote here wound up on another site (not that that would ever happen), I understand the anger, but the guy screwed up and twitter went from making a point about that to bullying the guy.  That was equally wrong.

It's so easy for things to snowball on twitter and get out of hand.  Some of the tweets were, naturally, very funny but I think the whole thing just struck a bit of a nerve with people.  Sadly, the stealing of tweets has started to become something of a norm.  Someone you follow says something funny and you copy it for your own use without crediting the creator.  Now that's a shit thing to do and I would never condone it (or do it) and thankfully twitter has been strong in dealing with it.  But I believe that twitter found a scapegoat this week in Chegwin and I didn't enjoy watching that.  Maybe that's an overreaction.  Maybe not.  I just found it very uncomfortable.  He's a Muppet for doing what he did.  But he didn't deserve to be treated like a child killer for it.

The good...

And then @Hilary_W went and did a tweetahon (or twitterthon) for 36 hours and I got reminded of mine from last year (and the 60 hours to come in October) and how amazing twitter can be.

I'm all for using twitter as a platform for campaigning and raising awareness.  I love that people can come together to do brilliant things, like support Hillary and raise a shit load of money for Marie Curie.  Go and donate here if you can.

When twitter is like that or fighting the good fight against the bigotry and lies of The Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Star I want to hug it.  When people are just sat watching TV 'together' and tearing a poor plot point apart on EastEnders (even though I don't watch it) I love it.  I follow some truly funny people and I'm planning to do a lengthy followfriday for one tweeter a week to highlight those that really make my twitter experience a special one.

The snowball effect can be a good one, but when the snowball heads in the wrong direction from the start, it can make twitter look like bad side of the internet.  Which is such a shame.

I don't follow Keith Chegwin and probably never will.  But this week I felt sorry for the man who stole Maggie Philbin from me when I was nine.

Thanks to @Neurosceptic for the encouragement on writing this tonight.  His excellent post on the topic can be found here, once you've scrolled past him dancing to the Question Time theme tune.

Feel free to leave comments.