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I’ve always equated Twitter to a conversation in the pub. You can’t control who talks to you. You may suddenly whip round and talk to someone you’ve just been introduced to. If someone bores you you’ll head to the bar as a quick excuse for a getaway. You’ll go and play on a trivia machine with a couple of acquaintances rather than join in a dull conversation about motorway junctions or mortgages. If someone isn’t doing it for you, you turn away. If that girl you’ve had your eye on is giving one-word replies you give up and don’t talk to her again.
On Twitter you’ll find people with only one particular interest. We’ve all met people on there who only want to talk about politics, or only want to talk about Doctor Who. You can try to talk to them about cooking or technology or anything and you’ll get little or no response. And like the Pub there’s always someone who wants to trump everything you say. You’ve travelled around France? They’ve worked in hospitals across Zaire. You’ve started to learn the bass guitar, they’ve been drunk with Oasis. In Zaire.
So you can follow or unfollow anyone you feel like. Twitter is a place of freedom. (Unless you’re a celebrity facing the unspoken blackmail of the ‘retweet my charity’ people.)
Some people react to this better than others. They’ll directly confront you with “Why have you unfollowed me? Was it something I said?”. Some will get this niggle and loudly broadcast “@joebloggs has unfollowed me. What a git he is“.
This make you feel guilty and awkward. But you shouldn’t. You wouldn’t stop someone on the way to the bar with “why aren’t you staying here to talk to me?”
Some will even say “I love reading you, but now you’ve unfollowed me I’m unfollowing you.”
Why does it have to be reciprocal? Do you have to have a 1:1 follower ratio? No-one is 1:1. For the record, I don’t follow back just anyone; they have to have an interesting timeline before a new follower is followed back. I don’t agree with “Team Followback”. I follow people who don’t follow me and I don’t throw a hissy fit about it.
If you feel strongly enough that someone is giving you a hard time you can block them. This really I hold as a last-ditch option, I rarely block people. Anyone can listen to my words unless they turn a bit mental. Everyone’s entitled to a hassle-free Twitter experience. I still recall one very classy actress who was chased off of Twitter by a voracious anti-fan who was deluging her with nasty unfounded claims about her sex life.
If I unfollow you, you shouldn’t take it as a sleight. Maybe we’re interested in different things. Maybe you’re too crude for me. I’m no prude but I don’t want to hear about your infant’s bowel movements every morning as I’m eating my breakfast. (I can’t even understand why you think anyone would be interested in that!) Maybe I don’t want to read about you “wetting yourself” as I’m drinking my apple juice. Maybe I talk to you but you give short replies. Maybe you never talk to me unless I talk to you first. I notice these things.
If you can’t take being unfollowed, don’t sign up to a service telling you of your Unfollowers. Especially, don’t message someone who unfollowed you less than ten minutes ago.
If I unfollow you, it doesn’t mean I hate you, we’re just not connecting. I shouldn’t have to answer for my choice, just as I wouldn’t confront you if you unfollowed me.
Today a new hashtag on Twitter: #twitrelief
If you look at the hashtag for this new Charity fundraiser from Comic Relief you’ll be surprised that there’s such animosity being raised. There are four basic views:
- This is for charity, I love these celebrities and you must too.
- This is a tacky idea and I’m expressing my opinion on it
- What is Twitrelief? I can’t be bothered to find out for myself, you do it for me, ok?
- I’m going to do a very poor joke about Celebrities giving me sexual relief. *Snorts with laughter at own joke*
The idea behind it is this: You bid on eBay for the celebrity you like and if you win they will follow you back on Twitter for 90 days. Some of the celebrities have sweetened the deal by adding extras, but this does not seem to be happening across the board.
So what’s really happening now is a war of words between those who support the idea unwaveringly and those who hate everything it stands for.
In the Pro camp the most repeated sentiment is: it’s for charity, just Shut The F*** Up. If you disagree then just keep your mouth shut.
This for me is problematical. I don’t believe that anything is fine in the name of Charity. To me this is a bad idea which although made with “the best intentions” doesn’t actually do as much as if the Celebrity just said “Hello, please Donate to Comic Relief”. It’s placing the ‘Celebrities’ (and some of them you would raise an eyebrow at) on a plinth creating, as some have said, a cultural apartheid.
You don’t have to stretch your imagination to see these famous people putting a barrier between Slebs and Plebs. There’s very much a “worship us, we’re better than you” ethos here, where they have realised capital can be made by making people pledge to them. We are superior to you because we have careers where we can be on television for up to 8 years. Give money and we just might talk to you! If you’re of a biblical wont, you may see this as making an offering to the gods. Thou shalt not worship craven idols.
But this is a limited 90-day offer. There’s no way of knowing if the celebrity will even read your tweets. You can be sure in the first week of winning that they’ll retweet a token amount just to prove that they are actively reading you. And then again in the last week too, just to show willing. The rest of the time they may not read you at all. They may even use filters so they don’t have to read what you say.
People follow celebrities just for a touch of glamour. Ordinary lives don’t involve going to parties with telly people, exchanging texts with other celebrities. The humdrum normality doesn’t involve, for us, late-night poker sessions and copious amounts of cocaine before trolling off to the Ivy to spend large amounts of money we ‘earned’ doing voiceovers on 30-second TV ads. We don’t all hang about backstage with the latest media-hyped band.
It’s just a dream we have. Maybe we could live that life too? Of course we can’t. We work in insurance or at Asda or perhaps we sell shoes in a high street shop.
Richard Curtis, the man behind Comic Relief doesn’t use twitter at all. But rest assured he’s going to create an account where he will follow his bidder (and presumably only his bidder). For 90 days. And then he’ll swan off never to return. This is what devoted attention your money will get you.
As I said, the Pro Camp are rallying behind a “it’s for Charity” approach. Well that’s a bit of a problem too. Say for instance 1000 people want Nick Frost (you know, the tubby guy from Spaced and Hot Fuzz) to follow them. They keep bidding, £1, £5, £20, £150, etc etc until someone wins for £1100. Brilliant, you think, £1100 to Comic Relief, what a wonderful thing!
Except is isn’t. By the time Comic Relief actually occurs the losing bidders have lost their enthusiasm. “I’ve done my bit, I can’t be bothered to give again.” While this may not be true in all cases, there will be some. Also, this £1100 bid doesn’t come from an ordinary person. The ordinary person cannot afford £1100 with their mortgages, household bills, monthly car payments, council tax, etc etc etc. The only people who will win the follow are those to whom £1100 is spare and can be bandied about willy-nilly.
If you totted up the losing bids the amount could vastly overshadow the £1100. If only the 1000th person wins, 999 bids which add up to a far larger amount have been lost. Someone suggested a raffle, which is a much fairer idea. And it’s so easy to do. All Comic Relief needs to do is set up a website, link it to Paypal and the money could be rolling in. It’s so easy to do and could be done an hour from now. Ask any website designer.
You can’t get a discussion of this on Twitter of course because the “it’s for charity!” people are shouting down any dissent. People are being called “c**ts” and “f**kwits” for daring to be so “mean-spirited” as to find fault with the feckless idea.
My advice to you is to not prop up the celebrities, don’t give them another reason to have an inflated ego. They’re not better than you. In many cases celebrities are very dull tweeters or don’t tweet enough because they are out having exciting lives. You want to do something for charity? Donate instead.