Thursday 29 November 2012

Twitter shitters

Imagine the screaming hysterical horror that greeted the news in August that One Direction (who?)'s Zayn Malik (who?) had deleted his Twitter account, citing the slew of negative comments that he received. I'm not particularly surprised he found this, having seen the stream of invective, death-threats and shrieking insanity unleashed at Taylor Swift (no idea) last week when it was revealed that she is currently hanging out the back of Zayn's bandmate, Harry.

Celebrities are leaping off Twitter in ever-growing numbers at the moment. Trolling is increasingly blamed, to the point that even the jaded old colonels and concentration camp guards from the Boer War who make up the readership of The Daily Express are aware of what "trolling" is. But they're actually not. Calling wild, unfocused abuse "trolling" is like calling all cheese "cheddar". For older hands, trolling is a much more textured, varied and cultured activity.

It's just a sign of the times: as a previously niche activity becomes saturated with new participants, becoming da rigeur in the process, it changes in nature for everyone. It's a pity, too. For years, people discussing their favourite films, TV and music online were the butt of every joke going. Now the creatives have entered the forum, they are frequently chased away by negative comments and insults. What a wasted opportunity! The chance of a dialogue between the makers and the consumers spoilt for everyone.

But who is to blame? They are. You heard. It's them. For years, the internet was a great leveller, a field of anonymity and created persona, where people could choose to be who they wanted. The insatiable ego of the celebrity has meant that they are unable to enter into this barnyard without being the showiest, struttiest, most crowing rooster in the place. Look at me! Look at me! I was in Saved By The Bell! There is no reason that celebrities can't use Twitter, or any other online forum for that matter. But the onus is on them to play by the rules by which everybody else abides, not mince in and expect to be considered special simply on account of their name. Many of them do, of course. You can easily identify these people from the fact that they are still on Twitter. Good on them.

The internet is a true democracy. An egalitarian utopia of the kind that philosophers could previously only dream of. But equality demands that everyone enters without any preconceived notions of superiority. And thus, celebrities on Twitter are pricks. Luckily, all their Twitter accounts have almost invariably since been reactivated, so if you are that way inclined you can tell them.

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