'TimesFashion on Tw*tter – be our 10,000th follower.' I saw this today on the Times website and it got my blood churning a bit. A link led to earth-shattering revelations such as ‘flares a no go in the rain’ and ‘it's the perfect weather to wear a big cardi as a coat - teamed mine with leggings, tunic and pumps.’
Setting aside the ego and vanity issues associated with thinking that strangers might give a monkeys about the minutiae of your life (and it is minutiae as ‘tweets’ are limited to 140 characters per post) there is something disconcertingly ugly about the language involved in Tw*tter.
Media commentators have long spoken of celebrity being the new religion, but ‘Be our 10,000th follower’ sounds like an invitation to join a new world order. It would seem that a decade watching regular Joes and Joans on Big Brother et al have left people believing that if we all act like celebrities then we too can have followers. And why not turn it into a popularity competition too?
I’m aware that there is hypocrisy in someone who writes a blog anonymously and pointlessly in the hope that someone will have the occasional gander, attacking a social networking site. However, I still keep coming to the conclusion that Tw*tter is one of the worst ideas that mankind has ever spewed up. Most bloggers at least try and have something to say and put a bit more effort in than just describing the colour of their pants. Tw*tterers are almost encouraged to say the first thing that leaps into their heads, like Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show.
It was therefore nice to see the whole shallow phenomenon neatly summed up by June Brown, the grand dame of English soap operas, better known to the world as Dot Cotton. June is up for a BAFTA award this week for a thoughtful and moving Alan Bennett Talking Heads-like monologue on Eastenders last year. If she wins she’ll be the first soap actor ever to take home a BAFTA. At 82 she’s no doubt seen a lot of guff in her time, but the freshness of her distain for the Tw*tterers as revealed in this week’s Guardian made me smile:
"What on earth do they call it - Twitter?" She repeats it witheringly. ‘Twit-ter. That's what it is. Telling everybody what they're doing! And talking about themselves in the third person. 'June is about to go to the lavatory.' 'June has just changed the sheets on her bed, don't ask her why.' I mean, really." Her fellow BAFTA nominee Stephen Fry Twitters all the time, I tell her. "Does he? Oh, I'm ashamed of him. He's such a lovely man. Such a clever, lovely man with a nice relationship. What does he need to do that for? He should read a book.” Hear hear Dorothy, hear hear.