Tuesday 24 May 2011

Twitter: Anarchy in the UK?

When I joined Twitter two years ago I didn't foresee where it would end up.  Indeed for the most part I've opted out of the celeb culture that drives it.  I follow around four or five and a few well known journalists but for me it became about the 'real people' using it.

However, you can't escape the celebrities or politicians on there.  They're retweeted regularly or mentioned in tweets that don't begin with their user names and short of unfollowing all but your close friend who lives in a cave it's impossible not notice their presence.  And let's face it when it comes to Tweetathon3 I'll be begging them all to mention it, so they have their uses.

Of course not every celebrity has a Twitter account and so many have have fucked up you have to wonder why any of them bother.  Throwaway tweets have led to resignations, ridicule and a few angry wives.  But they keep joining in their droves, lapping up the thousands of follows and attention.

 But Ryan Giggs was not one of those celebrities.

Being in the public eye these days is not an easy business.  The tabloid press are as hungry as ever for a salacious piece of gossip and there's still money to be had from selling a scandal.   Super injunctions have allowed celebs to stop the press from printing stories that are deemed 'not in the public interest'.  The problem for the celebs and the courts is that the public is interested.  As much as I decry a society where a headline about Giggs takes precedence over a more worthy story there's no denying that people love a bit of gossip and that's where Twitter comes in.

When the news broke about the Super Injunction Twitter account I chuckled.  Most of the stories had been tweeted about for months.  Hardly any of it was really news why would anyone care about it?  But they did.  Big time.

Suddenly there's this new fangled website thingy where people can set up an account anonymously and post whatever they like.  In doing so they can, if they choose, flout the law.  Apparently, although how much credence there is to this is anyones guess, Giggs now intends to sue around 75,000 Twitter accounts for mentioning him in a bad light.  I have little sympathy for Giggs.  You can't be in the public eye for as long as he has been and not know the risks of doing what he did.  Surely, at the back of his mind there was a little voice going, 'If the press get hold of this it's going to look bad.'  But hey maybe he just thought he could throw millions at the story and bury it.  Which of course he did until Twitter spoilt it for him.

So what is Twitter in all this?  A crusading White Knight of justice never fearing the truth or an anarchistic punk rocker tearing down the system and spitting in the face of the law.  It's neither.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that the owner of the Twitter Super Injunction account did it because they thought it was funny.  It's probably someone who trades in retweets and favourites, knowing that they equate to the most valued currency of all, follows.  Twitter brings out the narcissist in all of us, it's a mirror where we get to stare in reflective glory at our tweets.  That kind of environment is always going to encourage boundaries getting pushed and those of us that have been around for a while have seen that in our timelines.  Showing off basically.  The 'look what I did' thing.  Sometimes that's going to lead to good things: Tw1tterband, suicides being prevented, friendships being forged etc etc.  Sometimes it's going to lead to bad things: bullying, fallouts, the closure of accounts etc etc.

Sometimes it just leads to this grey area where as much as you can't condone you also find it hard to not say, 'Fuck it, I wish I'd thought of that.'

Anarchy?  No not really.  Is Twitter a place where people can say whatever they like?  Yes.  Is that dangerous?  Of course.  Is it fucking vital?  More so than ever, just ask an Egyptian.  Social Media can be the hero and the villain because it's full of both of them.  As well as the rest of us just trying to get a retweet.
*winky face*

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