Monday, 18 October 2010

Twitter - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly


Tweetathon, if nothing else, showed that a bunch of strangers could come together on twitter and do something amazing.  I was proud to do it, proud of Twitter and proud that eighteen months ago I took a leap of faith and signed up.  It changed my life before the first tweetathon, opened up a world of opportunity and the chance to make connections with some of the funniest and warmest people I've ever met.  I choose who I follow carefully, if I haven't followed yet post tweetathon, persist, I follow the people that engage, you don't have to be a comedy genius.

Within a day though the other side of twitter showed it's face.  (This bit is the bad and the ugly rolled up into one big badugly mess.)

I'm not going to use the names involved, those of you that follow me will no doubt follow at least one of the parties but the resulting mess made me feel pretty uncomfortable at how easy it is for a celebrity, however unwittingly, to instigate what can only be described as a hate campaign.

One small joke, a pun really, got seen by a celeb.  They took offence and rather than take a deep breath and then deal with it privately, with say, 'hello, I'm a bit uncomfortable about that joke, would you mind removing it,' they went very public.  I've seen other celebs call out people before and supported it, but I was wrong to do that.  Watching someone on Twitter get hundred of messages of the nature that my friend did, even though the joke was removed swiftly, was not nice to watch.  Watching that friend clearly become distressed at the messages they were receiving was deeply affecting.

Celebs on Twitter wield a sort of power over their followers and last week we used that to great effect to gain donations to tweetathon.  It can work brilliantly like that, like a tree sprouting in the spring as a message gets passed from one to another.  Glorious stuff, wonderful to be at the centre of.  It was just such a shame that we saw the same medium being used in such a negative way and that at the centre of that was a celeb who seemed to not care at all about the damage he was doing.  What I found particularly galling was that he failed so miserably to realise that his tweets were encouraging the sort of bullying that he was accusing others of.

I could sit here and tell you that Twitter proved it was better than that, that it's capable of doing great things and as much as I believe that, it can and will be used to generate the kind of unthinking hate that we saw at the end of last week.  It's a shame, but that, sadly, is the nature of something that reflects so much of society. Twitter is a microcosm of life but I look at what happened and think it could so easily have been avoided.

Does it make me reconsider Twitter?  No.  I watched mutual followers support my friend.  Send tweets saying how much they admired her and I know that she was touched by those she saw and I hope that now the dust has settled she's able to continue telling silly puns and brightening up people's day's.

It's the very least  that she deserves.