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SOME THOUGHTS ON SOCIAL-MEDIA

Posted on: April 15, 2018

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Mega, absolutely MEGA! stream of consciousness blog post 

AKA I’ll Never Eat Lunch In Twitterland Again

In which I let off steam … at great length, as I constantly keep adding to it.  NB: I feel I should apologise … no scrub that, I’m not apologising.   This is how I feel.  In writing it, I have felt like the characters at the end of Black Mirror – Nosedive, joyfully yelling “fuck you!”  I’m not bothered who reads this blog piece, because writing it in itself has felt very liberating, and that has been ample reward enough.  It’s interesting for me, in that when I began writing it, back in April 2018, I was still trying to be moderate and polite in my words, mincing around any possible readers in a somewhat pathetic manner.  That has changed as the piece has grown, and I’ve constantly added to it.   Once started, I couldn’t stop.   It has been fun to finally write something Online where I didn’t have to give a rat’s arse about anybody else’s precious bloody feelings.

Anyone who tries to tell you it’s fun to have thousands of people on Twitter permanently hanging around you like some silent Greek Chorus Of Doom, waiting to rant, carp,  whinge and complain the minute you step out of line … really is talking out of their jacksie.

——–

Social-Media has been much in the news of late, and usually for all the wrong reasons. Whether it be Donald Trump using Twitter to constantly try and start WW3, or Facebook acting like a creepy bunch of Scientologists coming to claim your soul, it seems to have developed an evil, sinister image. I am absolutely baffled as to how or why a lightweight thing like Social-Media has come to have such a towering importance in our lives. When I hear words on the News like “President Trump has tweeted” I feel like I’ve crossed through the looking-glass into some bizarre parallel universe. I mean, hang on a minute, I thought social-media was all about keeping connected with people you’re interested in, or posting pictures of cute animals or what you had for dinner, or tweeting along to the Eurovision Song Contest.

The only social-media I use is Twitter. I’ve been on it for 8 years now (well I was), and I absolutely hate the damn thing. But more of that in a moment. Curiously, I have never felt any strong inclination to join Facebook, in spite of various people over the years telling me to stop being silly and get on it. At the beginning of 2017 I did finally succumb and created a FB account. I deleted it again a short while later. I felt like a lost soul, wandering around the spooky basement of an old lunatic asylum, and hearing anguished screams in the distance. One day, when I was feeling bored, I started up an Instagram account. I immediately tried to delete it again, and was duly informed by Instagram that I wasn’t allowed to! Alright, I thought, it can sit there for all eternity, completely ignored.

I joined Twitter at the back end of 2010, having been told for months beforehand that, as a writer, I might find it useful. For months I resisted, sitting there like Grumio the slave in Plebs, looking spectacularly unimpressed, and saying “nah, I’m alright, thanks”. When I did finally get into it, I became a voracious tweeter. I would tweet about absolutely anything. I coined a phrase “there is always drama on Twitter”, and perhaps it fulfilled that side of me, that nosey parker side, who always loves a bit of gossip, and has an insatiable need to know what’s going on in the world. And yet, even back in the early days, there were plenty of times when I hated it.

“It’s a great way to connect with other writers”, you are told. Well yes it is, if you want them spamming their latest book down your throat morning, noon and night, or constantly reminding you of how EVERYONE thinks they are absolutely wonderful. When they’re not doing that they’re telling you how hard they’re working, which instantly makes you feel guilty, because you’re NOT working at that moment, you’re distracted by them on Twitter (although it does beg the question, if they’re so damn busy, how have they got time to constantly remind you they are?). After a while I felt like the publisher’s assistant in The Provincial Lady In America, who confessed to her that he really didn’t like writers. Now don’t get me wrong, Twitter CAN be very useful for writers. After all, it’s a free platform and a way to get your work noticed. But if you are a writer, just starting out, and you want to use it, do so by all means, but I strongly advise you to avoid other writers – you’ll only end up getting buried under book spam – and don’t rudely demand they read your story at 10 o’clock at night, as I had done to me once.

I think for sheer brass nerve though the prize must go to the guy who, on first following me, bustled in and demanded that I hand my Twitter account to him for the evening!  What a bloody sauce.  The terrible shame about this was that he wrote about subjects that interest me, and which I’ve sometimes covered on this blog, but after that high-handedness I was completely put off reading anything by him.

I want to say a word here about the Finger-Wagger Writers, these are the ones who dictate “advice” to other writers as if it’s hewn into tablets of stone. I nicknamed these “the EAs” – the Earnest Americans, because that is often what they are. I had one who asserted that blog pieces should be a certain number of words and NO MORE. I wouldn’t mind if she ever did any blogging herself, but as far as I know she hasn’t. And she seems to have been polishing the same magnum opus novel for the past 7 years. Another EA pompously tweeted “would you ever read a book written by someone without a creative writing degree?” Well if you don’t you’ll be missing out on most of the Classics, mate. If you listen to this lot, you’ll never get any writing done at all. Oh and as for the length of blog posts, THEY CAN BE ANY LENGTH YOU WANT THEM TO BE!! That is the beauty of blogging.

If you’re lacking in self-confidence as a writer, Twitter can be an absolute sod. Some writers are lucky, and are followed by hordes of adoring fans, who receive their every tweet with breathless adoration and cries “oh I love you so much, I really do!” Sadly, I am not one of that blessed tribe. Back in 2011, I tweeted a short story to Twitter for the first time. A strange woman reacted in a way that has baffled me ever since. Over the course of the next few hours her tweets became increasingly deranged, culminating in one which simply read “LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL” over and over again for the entire 140 characters (as it was then). That particular story can be found in my B-Road Incident collection, if you want to read it for yourself, and erupt into hysterical tweets of “LOLOLOLOLOLOL” as well. I Blocked her in the end, because I seriously began to believe I had a mad-woman on my hands. To this day, I don’t know what I wrote which provoked her so much. Now, in the interests of balance, not everyone has been like that (thank God!). When I nervously tweeted my very first blog piece in June 2011 (about Borley Rectory) one follower sent me a message simply saying “that was an interesting piece, Sarah”. As a writer who suffers chronically from “stage-fright”, I appreciated his kind words, and still do. Over the years since I have occasionally received messages like this from readers, and I do value them muchly.

So, Twitter/social-media is like the rest of life, it has its ups and its downs, you meet kind people, you also meet absolute bellends. You experience the generous spirit of complete strangers, you also have complete strangers who will try and pick a fight over the most absurdly trivial subjects, and who won’t make a word of sense in the process. BUT, in the last couple of years, it has increasingly felt as though the negative is vastly outweighing the positive, for me anyway. It’s tempting to blame it all on Donald Trump and/or Brexit, and I’m sure they are major contributing factors. Something has gone dreadfully awry of late though. Perhaps it’s that we’re all taking it far too seriously, more than it was meant to be, I don’t know. I also don’t want to be one of those old-timers who tries to make out everyone was much nicer before social-media. No they weren’t. You still had bullies and bitches and narcissists and sociopaths and raving loonies, but it was easier to limit their power over you. Unless you were very unlucky, they weren’t very likely to come up to you in the street and shout “I overheard what you said out here 5 weeks ago last Friday at 3 PM, and I want you to know you’re a complete dickhead, and I’m going to set fire to your car with you in it.

I feel sorry for children these days, being constantly on the end of a phone or a computer. In the old days, if you got bullied at school, you would at least get a respite from it out of school hours, but no, not these days, the bully can get hold of you at any time, even when you’re sitting snugly in your room, minding your own business. And I do think (old fart alert!) people have got ruder as a whole. Very few people Online say “please” and “thank you”, too many people treat you – at best – as an automated service, like you’re an offshoot of Google. I’ve lost track now of the amount of times I’ve had complete strangers bustling in on me on Twitter and ordering me to follow them so I can DM them, as they have something important to say to me. The “something important” is usually a journalist who wants free information, and then buggers off again without so much as a “thanks ever so!” One got the name of my book wrong. I genuinely wondered if she’d got the right author, and asked her if it was my book she was referring to, as there was a book with that particular title on the market, written by someone else. I got a near-hysterical response along the lines of so-I-got-your-book-title-wrong-so what, and went on petulantly “I’m having to do A GREAT DEAL OF RESEARCH!!” Yes, writing is often like that, I’ve found.

Dr David Starkey (bear with me) once said that the British Monarchy could survive scandal and controversy, but it would never be able to survive apathy, that its biggest fear would be if we reacted to them with boredom. And that’s the problem I now have with Twitter/social-media. The utter tedium factor. Donald Trump stressing us out by threatening all and sundry with nuclear warheads is bad enough, but it’s the unrelenting day-to-day tedium of it all which is killing it for me. Possibly my biggest gripe about Twitter is what I call the Late Responder. This is the troll who obsessively combs through Twitter searches looking for anyone commenting on their chosen subject, and then viciously attacking them for it. I’ve had my lion’s share of this sort over the years, and I sometimes like to boast that my current record is 3-and-a-half years, that is, between me sending out a tweet, and someone having a go at me for it. I’ve seen others who have had more impressive scores than that though.

By far and away the worst example of a Late Responder I had was when I tweeted a BBC News story about the increase in stalking in recent years. Several days later (sigh) I had a complete nutjob come at me out of the blue, who proceeded to rant on at me over several tweets in a bizarre, stream-of-consciousness way. I felt like I had strolled in in the middle of a complete stranger having a heated argument with himself in an empty bus shelter. It culminated in him saying to me that he could arrange to have me “abducted and beheaded”. I duly reported this tweet to Twitter, who – what a great surprise – replied that they could do nothing. All I could do was Block him. Recently, whilst having a clear-out on Twitter, I had a look at my Blocked list, and found that not only is this raving nutter still around, but he has now spawned a second account, on which he makes even less sense than he did on the first one. Twitter, be ashamed.

Over the past few months it has felt as though that’s all I damn well get on Twitter these days. My last one was yesterday (14/4/2018). I had tweeted earlier in the week that I was concerned about Thomas Cook still advertising holidays in Turkey, given the current world situation. Now I might very well be wrong. I might very well have been over-reacting, but it was on the day that it was announced flights to that part of the world were going to be restricted. But it seems you’re not allowed to have very human, fleeting moments of anxious pondering on Twitter. A few days later my latest little aggressor decided to call me “pathetic” for voicing this concern, and – the final nail in it for me – he included the ubiquitous crying-with-laughter emoji. This might sound trivial (and it probably is), but after several days of extreme worry and sleeplessness about the imminent onset of nuclear war (I’m of the Threads / Protect & Survive generation, cut me some slack here), I really didn’t need this gobby little twat on top of everything else. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I’ve tried to get round the Late Responder problem in recent months by doing regular tweet purges, of using TweetDelete to erase tweets after a certain time (I can recommend this app), but even that’s not enough now. Life is moving so fast these days, that even tweets a few days old can seem prehistoric and irrelevant. I read the other day that a major concern amongst young people is the permanency of social-media, that tweets/messages hang around forever, ready to cause you maximum grief and embarrassment years later. This is a big problem for the generation that has grown up on the Internet – I’m very glad it wasn’t around when I was that age – but it’s this We Will Never Ever Let You Forget What You’ve Tweeted attitude which is killing it finally for me. To live in a world where you are NEVER allowed to forget even the most trivial of comments you’ve ever uttered is absolute sheer insanity. Like having the Recording Angel permanently on your tail. Orwell’s Thought Police would be orgasmic.

<< RANT ALERT >> & why I switched off the Comments section on this blog too

If you absolutely must be a Late Responder, then at least have the common courtesy to explain what you’re on about. You people, do you really think our lives have been on standby in the weeks/months/years since we sent that tweet?!  What if since then, that tweeter had lost a loved one / lost their job / developed cancer, and then they get you abusing them for an old tweet on top of everything else!!  YOU ARSEHOLES REALLY ARE BLOODY IGNORANT.   SO BLOODY PIG-IGNORANT, YOU SHOULD MAKE OINK-OINK NOISES WHEN YOU ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE*

It is the main reason why I switched off the Comments section on this blog too.  It is astonishing just how rude, self-entitled and arrogant some people are.   They think they have some God-given right to abuse you / waste your time / cadge favours off you at all hours of the day and night.   One hurled abuse at me for my font colour.  It never seemed to occur to the CRETINOUS DUMB-ARSE that it was her creaky old computer that was at fault!  She concluded her vile message with the word “annoying”.  Yes you are, dear.  Very.  Now try learning some manners.

I’ve read someone recently accusing a person who, like me, had switched the Comments off from their blog, of being “cowardly”.  I have no idea if it is or not, and to be honest, I really don’t care, all I know was that I was attempting to preserve what little is left of my sanity, in a world which is doing its level best these days to remove it.

*My apologies to pigs.

<< RANT OVER >>

JUST AS AN ASIDE – WHY DO TROLLS TROLL?

“Why do people become Internet trolls?” is a question that’s probably been around since the World Wide Web first became a thing in the 1990s.   I’ve just been watching a video about it, where the YouTuber, who has had a lot of problems with these idiots, said “I would genuinely like to sit down in a conversation with them and ask them why they do it”.  I think a lot of us would.   Everyone has their theories of course.  Some say it’s just boredom, they simply have nothing else to do.  Sometimes alcohol is involved, particularly if they send you obnoxious messages in the middle of the night (a lot of my Twitter/blogger trolls seemed to be creatures of the night, and that’s even allowing for different time zones in the world).   Sometimes they’re venting their anger, bitterness and frustration at the world onto you, and if it wasn’t you it would be some other poor bugger getting it in the neck instead.   Some say it’s jealousy,  because you’re doing something they feel they should be doing, only much better of course (of course).   My other half summed it up simply as “some people are just miserable, evil bastards, that’s all”.  (I read somewhere that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths, so I suppose we’re bound to rub up against them at some point, just by law of averages alone).

As I point out in my Hapgood’s Handy Hints section below, the Internet also gives them the blissful gift of anonymity.  All too often they can hide behind a false name, fake avatar, plus their computer/phone screen, and then let rip, safe in the knowledge that you will probably never find out who they are, and so you can’t send the boys round to break their puny legs for them (not that I’m advocating that of course).  Before the Internet, these types would have been the ones who would have sent you anonymous poison pen letters, or pathetic threats using letters cut out of the newspapers and glued to a piece of paper.  The Internet has simply given them more scope.  They are not confined to their immediate neighbourhood for possible victims anymore, they have the entire cyber-world at their disposal.

Trolls seem to get upset about just about anything.   They will mercilessly mock someone for their looks, their lifestyle, their work, for having a different opinion to them, anything.  Personally, they seem to object to me having an opinion AT ALL.  I am not allowed to have my own thoughts on any subject [I hope their heads are frantically spinning with this lengthy blog piece, in which I give my opinion all over the place].  Both on Twatter, and in Amazon reviews, I have been roundly told I should never have an opinion.  Quite how I’m supposed to write blogs and books without giving an opinion on anything, ever, is a bit beyond me*.  And frankly, they’ve got a bloody cheek!  If someone Online, or in a book, gives an opinion I really can’t be doing with, then I simply stop reading/watching them.  It’s as simple as that.  I don’t send a vitriolic message to the author/blogger/tweeter/YouTuber telling them they are not entitled to an opinion.  That would be just ridiculous and high-handed.   Neither do I tell them they’re the worst author in the history of the known Universe (quite an achievement really), or that “a 2-year-old could do better”.   I did manage to track down the identity of one of my trolls, who turned out to be a solicitor in a Scottish town.  Would love to know what his clients would think of his online behaviour.  Fortunately, for him that is, I’m not really into the whole public Name & Shame nonsense.

*One Amazon reviewer whinged about my barefaced audacity in putting my own opinions in my own book.  Another reader gallantly came to my defence, and said “whose opinion is she supposed to have?  Jeremy Paxman’s?”  That still makes me chortle now.  That particular type of reviewer can often be the worst, in that they go on Amazon simply to post this one review (usually of the vicious kind).  It will often leave the author scratching their heads as to how they managed to incur this level of wrath, whereby somebody has gone to all this trouble just to rubbish them.  But it happens.  A lot of authors get it at some point, sadly.  I did look at this guy’s Internet presence at the time.  He seemed to have an obsession with the Paul McCartney conspiracy theory (the one where Paul was supposed to have died in 1966, and then replaced with a body-double).  Even so, as I have never written about Sir Macca, I still don’t know what it was I wrote in 2012 which set him off so.

Some reviewers are out-and-out troll reviewers, in that they make a habit of slagging off everyone.  A quick look at their past reviews can be very revealing in this sense.  But you also get the time-waster reviewers.  These are the ones who are either so thick they don’t actually understand what a book review is (“thank you for the prompt delivery, I haven’t read it, it’s a present for my cousin”), or they use your hard work to get a quick jibe out of someone else they know, and leave you completely baffled.  One of my books last year got a 1-star review from some absolute jerk, who simply wrote “It’s not for me, it’s on my wife’s Kindle”.  I had a look at his profile, and found he had done this exact same thing to about 6 other authors all on the same day!!  I was sufficiently cross to report this one to Amazon, but I’m sure you can guess the outcome of that.   (Clue: tumbleweed noise).   One reviewer I had years ago was using my book to make abstract jokes at somebody he knew … at least I think that’s what he was doing, I’m still not sure.  The “review” made so little sense, that I was almost tempted to turn it upside down, or hold it up to a mirror, to see if it was some kind of obscure code.

Incidentally, if you are an author just starting out, and you’re worried about these shitty type of Amazon reviews, I can suggest having a look at your own favourite authors sometime, and seeing some of the ones they get.  Hopefully, it will make you feel less alone.  Although the downside is the unfairness of  it can make you angry again of course!  I did read one negative reviewer (not one of mine), who claimed authors should not publish if they’re sensitive!  What a load of old hooey.  Where was it ever said that authors should have no feelings??  I do strongly recommend that you NEVER reply to them on Amazon though, as it can just end up looking undignified, particularly if you wind up in a slanging match with the critic.  I’ve seen authors do this, and it’s never a pretty sight.  If you feel you have been unfairly maligned, then defending yourself in a blog post (ta da!) can be a useful way of letting off steam.  Either that, or you can invest in a punch-bag.

Of course trolls come in all shapes and sizes, and if you need a bit of laughter therapy when dealing with them, I recommend you Google a Smosh article from 2010, entitled The 18 Types Of Internet Troll.  They’re all in there, the Flamethrower, the CryBaby, the Retroactive Stalker (the type I call the Late Responder), the Priggish Grammar Nazi*, the self-appointed Expert, all there for your enjoyment, ladies and gentlemen.

*The sort who pounce on every damn thing you write and tear it to shreds, like the nastiest kind of schoolteacher, holding up your homework for the rest of the class to laugh at.  The only comfort I can give you is it’s usually nothing personal with this sort, as they seem to do it to just about everybody they read.  I had a reader whose username (I’ll be honourable and not reveal her true name here) was something spectacularly pompous like “Mrs. E. J. Buggins”.  All I can say is “Dear Mrs. E. J. Buggins Esq.  You are a charmless bore!  Now go and feed your cats.  Yours sincerely, Mrs. S. J. Hapgood”.

Ultimately, you do have to laugh at these idiots, but I would never under-estimate the damage they can cause, or how long it can take for the wounds to heal when you come up against them.   I was once chatting to a B&B owner, who seemed strained and upset.  Turned out he had just received a blisteringly vicious 1-star review on TripAdvisor, simply because he hadn’t been quick enough to answer the front door to check a guest in!  It turned out that that afternoon his little girl had been taken ill, and he had been putting her to bed at the time the guest arrived.    I could only give him my sympathy, and say that most of us have come up against cruel reviews at one time or another.    Most people reading the reviews have got the good sense to spot a total shit when they see one.

Last year I got a 1-star review from someone who accused me of “brutally maligning” his religion, and that I spend ALL my time (crikey!) rubbishing his beliefs.  (a) I do not know you at all, “Amazon Customer” (the anonymous username), so ipso-facto I do not know what your beliefs are to start with, (b) no I do not spend ALL my time rubbishing your beliefs, in fact I do not spend ANY of my time rubbishing your beliefs, as – I repeat – I do not know you at all or what your beliefs are, (c) I am a Believer (in God) myself, so I am scarcely likely to attack someone for having spiritual beliefs.  If I poke fun, then it is Organised Religion I am having a josh at, and when I look at the state of the world these days, frankly it deserves it, (d) you accuse me of not knowing what “peace, love and joy” Belief can bring, well yes I do ACTUALLY, and you are not exactly radiating much “peace, love and joy” yourself.  End of reply.

<<<< The EAs (Earnest Americans) often lay down the law on Twatter and say an author should never respond to negative reviewers (authors have to be absolutely perfect at all times, and not technically human y’see), and that the said negative reviewers are “entitled to their opinion”.  YES, AND I’M ENTITLED TO MINE!!!!!  Now shove off, you’re no help at all at times like this. >>>>

———

In many ways I hope social-media does survive [< christ knows why]. I do believe it can serve a useful function in society. It is an extremely useful way to keep in touch with people, and very useful for keeping up with the News. I’ve lost track now of how many times I’ve read of a big news story breaking on Twitter before I’ve seen it elsewhere. It can also be useful if you’re having travel problems. I’ve used it to find out about trains cancelled at Paddington, and roadworks on a motorway for instance. I also believe it could be used to help alleviate loneliness, particularly amongst elderly people, to give them a feel of community, even if it’s one in cyberspace. For instance, the comedian Sarah Millican does a fine job at Christmastime with her JoinIn hashtag, to encourage people who are alone over the festive season to chat on Twitter. Plus, in spite of what some may tell you, Online petitions can be very effective too.

But now I’ve reached the stage where I’ve all but scorch earthed my entire back catalogue of tweets, and pared my Following list right down to the bone, it’s probably time I called it a day. I am tired of its lack of warmth. Tired of the way you can know people on there for years, but you don’t know them really, not at all. And I’m sick and tired of the endless bots. The ones that come and plague you because you’ve used the word “coffee” in a tweet for instance, or the ones that immediately put you on a List because you’ve mentioned a film title. Worst of the lot are the probably-of-Russian-origin sexbots. There must be an endless conveyor belt of women with melon breasts somewhere on the outskirts of St Petersburg, all lining up wanting to be my “sex companion”. Thanks for the kind offer Vlad, but really I’m not interested.

TWATTER VS YOUTUBE

I have heard people say “but you use YouTube, and that’s social-media!”* Well yes, I suppose technically it might be, but there’s a difference. Unless you’re avidly posting Comments all day long, people don’t tend to constantly come and attack you for things you’ve said on YouTube.  Most importantly, you don’t have that whole annoying Followers/Friends nonsense, where you do this little pointless dance of social-media etiquette when someone follows you, sort of “oh you’ve followed me, so I suppose now I have to follow you back, even though we’ve probably got no interest in one another at all, and we will never ever communicate with each other ever again, in fact, you’ve probably got me on Mute already haven’t you?”

Likewise, with YouTube, you are not STUCK with people.  I subscribe to a couple of dozen channels on YouTube, but if I get bored with any of them for a while, I simply unsubscribe, and then I might go back to them later.  With Fartbook/Twatter/InstaGrot you can’t do any of that.  You Friend/Follow them and you’re stuck with them, for bloody life it can seem!   Sometimes Unfollowing/Unfriending them can feel like you’ve caused a mini-crisis.  (I once had one woman screaming at me over several tweets for unfollowing her … she then went and Blocked me.  I wish she’d just done that to start with, would’ve saved us both a lot of trouble).  You can’t say “well actually you’re boring me at the moment, but I might come back in a few months time and see what you’re up to then”.   No, you are manacled together.  It’s completely ridiculous.   Why on earth would you want a bunch of complete strangers – whom you are most likely never going to meet, and have no obligation to whatsoever – hanging round your neck day-in day-out, like a ruddy great millstone??

Twitter these days all too often feels like a howling cesspit of negativity and time-wasting. When I looked at the Top Trends recently I was struck by how many negative words leaped out at me, everything was “I hate this” or “such-and-such has a had a negative reaction”. WHERE’S THE DAMN FUN GONE??? WAS IT EVER EVEN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE??? It’s a horrid addiction, and frankly I found smoking easier to give up.

*someone has clarified this for me, YouTube is a Video Streaming Service. The only social-media aspect to it is the Comments section, and you can solve that problem by simply not posting any comments. Glad we’ve got that one sorted.

UPDATE 16/4/2018 – Today it was announced on the News that Wetherspoons, the UK pub chain, was closing all its social media accounts with immediate effect. Good for them. They cite all the recent bad publicity around social media, and the growing concerns over s-m addiction as their reasons for doing so. They said they also wanted to refute the current myth that all businesses need s-m to function … well quite, I mean it does somewhat beg the question as to how businesses managed to function for centuries before it was invented! The world didn’t begin when Mr T-Shirt Man Zuckerberg invented Facebook, contrary to what some will try and tell you.

I’ve long had a theory now that sites like Twitter can actually put you off a business or a person. There have been too many times lately when I’ve enjoyed a book or a video by someone, and gone to find out if they’re on Twitter … and come away completely repelled by what I’ve seen. (It’s a somewhat chastening thought to think people might have had the same thing with me!). Just one example, there is one political commentator I’ve seen a lot on Twitter, and always thought he was a complete idiot, a vacuous rent-a-gob, who tweets things just to provoke people and get a reaction. There’s a lot of it about. Then I watched one of his YouTube videos, and, although I still don’t agree with him on a lot of things, I can at least see that he’s more intelligent, calm and thoughtful when he’s communicating to camera, than he is when making bite-sized Twitter comments.

Sometimes YouTube can also help put someone in perspective. There was a guy I used to have as a Twitter follower who specialised in angry tweets. He ranted and raved about everything, enjoyed provoking women, or boasting about his business empire, or about the amount of followers he had (which made him a social-media colossus, in his eyes anyway), and sported a terrifying, Neanderthal, wild-eyed visage on his profile page, complete with raised fist. One day I looked up his YouTube channel and found a weedy little man in a grey jumper whingeing about the key to his car and why it didn’t work properly. (Tempted to do a Basil Fawlty at this point, and go “no IT works, YOU don’t”).

We used to have a saying on Twitter years ago: “Facebook makes you dislike people you know, Twitter makes you like complete strangers”. I don’t believe that’s true anymore. (We also used to say “don’t take it seriously, it’s only Twitter” – I haven’t read that one in YEARS). Anyway, the sun is shining – for a change – so au reservoir.

*HAPGOOD’S HANDY HINTS:

(1) If you do post on YouTube Comments, but you don’t want the Late Responder problem of people replying to you for years afterwards, simply click on the option of unsubscribing from YouTube Notifications. This will stop YouTube pestering you with messages – and clogging up your phone – every time someone replies to you. Either that, or you can simply go back and delete your original message. It’s up to you. The power is in your hands.

(2) If you’re new to Twitter, here’s my own guide to Tweeters You Might Want to Avoid Like The Plague, although you might come to the conclusion it’s simpler to have nothing to do with that rotten little blue bird of evil at all:

  • anyone who has a long row of numbers in their username. This is an outright troll. They are never good news, they will try and make your life a misery, and should be Blocked on sight. For heaven’s sake, don’t ever engage with them. They are poison. I’m not saying all people who have rows of numbers in their usernames are trolls, but a goodly proportion of them are.
  • the Inspirational/Motivational Quote mob. These are the tweeters who seem to do nothing but post pious little platitudes all day long. Twitter is awash with them. They are like psychic vampires, they will home in on you, and, unless you’re very ruthless with them, will bore on at you all day long forevermore, with an irritating quote for every occasion, usually from the Dalai Lama or Eleanor bloody Roosevelt, or – utterly bizarrely – Will Rogers. The constant use of Mr Rogers got so bad that I actually began to hate the poor man, and it’s scarcely his fault! At their worst I have found them to be insufferably pious and sanctimonious. Constant finger-waggers. I mean seriously people, who the flamin’ hell do you think you are??
  • The same really goes for the “happy day / happy day / every day’s a happy day” crowd. They are the ones who go on Twitter just to babble “Happy Monday / Happy Tuesday … ” you get my drift. What is wrong with that you may well ask? Well nothing in small doses, but some do it ALL THE TIME. Relentlessly. I had a follower who only ever did the “happy day / morning / afternoon / evening / spring / summer / autumn / winter” routine, usually accompanied by pictures of Snoopy. I didn’t dislike her as a person at all, but after several months of this, day-in day-out, I was starting to get the urge to smash up furniture.
  • People who have aggressive Twitter bio’s. By these I mean the ones who insist on putting their religious or political beliefs, or their dietary requirements in their bio description. American God-botherers are amongst the worst. They like to act as though they’ve got a personal hot-line to Jesus, and yet their timelines are usually full of hatred and bile (“your mother sucks cock in Hell!!” < oh thanks, very Christian that is, hashtag sarcasm). Frankly, I don’t think Jesus would be terribly impressed with them. The same rule applies for those who insist on plastering their Twitter page with little flags. It doesn’t matter what the flag is, these people are never nice easy-going companions to have around. They are always on the lookout for a fight, or for something to get offended by.
  • I must add something here about the ones who offer to pray for you. This might sound sweet, but it’s really bloody irritating!! I had one follower who offered to do that when we had to call out British Gas to clear a blocked pipe. She carried on like the Voice of Doom, “ooh he won’t be out to today [he was], I’ll pray for you”. Thanks. At least it gave British Gas a giggle when I told them.
  • The Get-Over-Yourself brigade. These are the ones who think because they’ve got some Followers on Twitter that they have achieved a Princess Di / Elvis level of celebrity. They put things in their bios like “RTs are not an endorsement”. Pompous bastards. Or aggressive things like “no-nonsense bitch”, “I kick ass”, or “if you don’t like my opinions fuck off” (charming). If they have any gongs – like an MBE or an OBE, a degree qualification, or a member of a society for instance – they will insist on inserting that into their username, just so’s you don’t have any chance of forgetting it in a hurry. They will probably flood your timeline with selfies. What fun. They will have no interest in you whatsoever, other than as a means to boost their pathetic Twitter followers count. Some will claim they are a “life guru”, a “social-media influencer” or a “motivational speaker”. God help us. I must also say a word here about the compulsive name-dropper. I used to see one guy on there who seemed to have known every celebrity within living memory. It got to the stage when every time a famous person died, and was trending on Twitter, I’d think “what’s the betting [said person] knew them and is now utterly devastated”. I can’t help being reminded of what I think was a Dorothy Parker anecdote. On hearing a loud crashing noise in a restaurant she said “that must be [whoever she was referring to] dropping another name”.
  • Anyone who has a miserable face in their avatar. Yes, really. I have found, as a general rule of thumb, that this nearly always means they really are a miserable bastard. It’s as simple as that. Some women adopt a sulky pout to try and make themselves look sexy* and mysterious, and then you find they are a moody bitch who disapproves of everything. The men who do this really are just grumpy bastards who hate everything. I once posted a quirky YouTube vid to Twitter, just as a bit of light relief one day. One such Grumpy Bastard came howling at me like an Old Testament God, yelling “And I tell YOU not to believe everything you see on YouTube!” He almost came complete with an accusing finger pointing out of the sky. *anyone who describes themselves as “sexy” in their bios or their username is always a narcissist desperately looking for attention.
  • TeamFollowBack. They’re still around, but thankfully nowhere near as ubiquitous as they used to be. These are there just to hoover up followers. You won’t get any quality content out of them, all you will see are endless lists of Twitter usernames scrolling past your eyes. The same goes for the FollowFriday crowd, but again, this doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as bad these days as it used to be.
  • The ones who go on Twitter just to post “bored”, “zzz”, “whatever” or “yawn”, as if they’re some bratty, over-indulged kid and you’re the hapless children’s entertainer at their birthday party. Block on sight, they’re depressing. No one needs that sort in their lives.
  • The snake-oil salesmen. Oh what a surprise, there are con-men at large on social-media. Well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs. They can vary greatly. From automated bot accounts who will pick up on a word you’ve innocently tweeted, and then try and flog you dodgy phones, to shiny-faced, grinning men in shirts and ties, who try and fool you they’re an invaluable Expert in something. One claimed to be an expert on doing business on Twitter. A particular nugget of wisdom was along the lines of “one way to get an advantage over your competition is to slag them off on social-media” (he didn’t use the exact words “slag them off” but it was along those lines). I hit the roof. THAT IS ILLEGAL!! Because I often write about the paranormal, I’ve seen some dodgy types along those lines too. There was the “clairvoyant” who claimed he was able to move objects by the power of thought alone. And we’re not talking tiny objects here, we’re talking cars, that sort of thing. If he can really prove he can do that it would change the entire course of history, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.
  • The ones who try and tell you what you’re allowed to tweet (and I appreciate the irony of this, as I’m spending this entire list complaining about the tweets I hate). I had one woman who objected for months on end to anyone tweeting news stories, she clearly had never heard of the Unfollow button. It culminated in her actually ordering me to stop reading the news. I told her I would do what I wanted, at which she screamed at me “oh it’s your party and you’ll cry if you want to …” and on and on. When she wasn’t doing this she was preaching Peace and Love at everyone. Go figure.
  • I also have a problem with the “No Profanity” brigade. As you can probably see from this blog post, I don’t have a problem with swearing. I’m with George Orwell and Stephen Fry on this one. Swearing (unless it’s every other word, and then it just gets boring) is usually a sign of a rich vocabulary, and frankly there are more important things to get worked up about in this World than someone using a bit of fruity language. But no, we get the No Profanity lot on Twitter too. They put it in their bio’s, they lecture everyone about it. (They usually got tossed onto the Blocked On Sight pile as well). Interestingly, I read an article about how to spot narcissists on social-media, and it claimed they swear a lot. I’m afraid I disagree with that one. Some of the most egocentric people I’ve seen Online virtually never swore at all. If you want to spot a narcissist it’s very simple … count the amount of selfies they post on a daily basis.  One of the worst examples I ever saw was a woman who was attending a solemn memorial, and insisted on doing it as a selfie. All I could see was her big face, which frankly I could already see in every other picture she had ever posted.  I sometimes think I’ve seen more of her face than I have of people I’ve known for years.
  • Ones who only post links to their Facebook page. These are the ones who have “fb” included in every tweet. What a bloomin’ cheek! It’s as if Twitter is Facebook’s poor relation, and they are begrudgingly chucking you the crumbs from the Facebook table. Arrogant tosspots. The same applies to the Instagram crowd.
  • Which leads me to … the ones who seem to think Twitter IS Facebook. By that, I mean the ones who think their life is an endlessly fascinating soap opera, and you – their hapless follower – is completely enthralled by it. Either that or you’re strapped in a straitjacket to a chair like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, with their tweets rolling past you on the big screen. They do random tweets where you feel like you’ve come into the middle of someone else’s argument, and you have no idea (or much less care) what they’re on about. In my early days on Twitter I had a follower who went on mega-rants about her housemate. I had no idea what she was on about, and I felt like a rabbit caught in a car’s headlights, sort of “am I supposed to say something about this? But I don’t know what she’s on about!” She once posted a bog-standard selfie with the heading “this is me, right now”. Gee thanks, been waiting all evening for that. They are the ones who try to suck the entire rest of the world into their lives. They go Online every day to post about their interminable problems. “I’m not feeling very well today”, “I feel cold because I forgot my hat”, “my train’s late”, “I don’t know what to have for dinner”, “I need a holiday”, “my son can’t visit me at Christmas”, etc etc. Look honey, I don’t know you, it is unlikely in the extreme that we’ll ever meet, I don’t even know your real name, and I already get depressed enough about the state of the world without taking on your problems as well!! Try keeping a diary or something.
  • Parody accounts. They can be mildly amusing to start with, but they often quickly out-stay their welcome. Usually they have a limited number of jokes which get recycled endlessly. For example, for a while I followed a parody account of HM The Queen. I soon became fed up with the way “awkward” was constantly used as the punchline. Many, probably for that reason, don’t last very long. The account-holder soon gets bored with it. And where Donald Trump’s concerned, no amount of parody accounts can possibly match the real thing. The most tedious ones of the lot are the ones who hide behind old sitcom characters in order to vent their extreme political beliefs in blissful anonymity. The innocent twitterer may follow them fondly believing it’s a funny, nostalgia account. It isn’t. Some are just old bores who refuse to believe that anything good has happened anywhere since 1975. They get wearying very quickly. No, they’re not in character, pretending to be Albert Steptoe, Archie Bunker or Alf Garnett, they just haven’t got the balls to tweet as themselves.
  • You also get the polemicists who hide behind anonymous identities. One case in point is self-proclaimed “libertarian legend” Holbornlolz. A couple of years ago he was branded as “Britain’s vilest troll”, although frankly I’ve encountered worse than him myself*. He goes to great lengths to protect his real identity. When you see his real fizzog you can understand why he chooses to stay anonymous, or why he prefers to wear the ubiquitous V For Vendetta mask on his blog (which hasn’t been updated since 2015, perhaps he’s too busy tweeting). I would have a lot more respect for the likes of him if they had the nerve to say what they’ve got to say under their real names. Anyone can be brave when they’re hiding behind a computer screen and using a fake name. *the worst troll I’ve had – apart from the guy who threatened to behead me – was one who included the word “rapist” in his bio. Charming. Twitter is the very pits sometimes.
  • Fake accounts. Apart from the aforementioned pornbots, who tend to be pretty easy to spot, not all fake accounts are. Some can be quite convincing. There was a gobby little brat, with a beard, called Godfrey Elfwick. Turns out – from what I vaguely remember – he was unmasked as a fictional character made up by two bored, twatty Millennials, simply in order to wind everybody up. Life is too short for this rubbish.
  • Cliques. These aren’t easy to spot at first, I grant you that. Sometimes it’s only when you’ve been accepted into the fold that you realise that, far from simply following someone vaguely interesting on Twitter & they’ve graciously followed you back, you have actually strayed into a Rev Jim Jones-style cult. In my innocence, when I first joined Twitter, I thought it was great to finally find an Internet site that hadn’t been hijacked by a clique. I’ve seen too many Internet chat-rooms taken over this way in the past, by the same old farts who have nothing better to do all day than snicker away with their little Online friends, and glaring in horror at any newbie who dares to utter a word. Oh how wrong I was. In my time I’ve strayed into New Age groups (where you will overdose on Inspirational quotes, pictures of lit candles and Compulsory Positive Thoughts, I promise you), TV/film nostalgia groups (particularly when they wish Happy Birthday to someone who died 40 years ago, which just feels macabre), BLOODY SELF-SATISFIED SMUG SNIDE LONDON JOURNALISTS WHO SNEER AT EVERYONE OUTSIDE OF THEIR OWN LITTLE MILIEU, & WHO STILL WON’T GRASP THAT IT IS BECAUSE OF ATTITUDES LIKE THEIRS THAT WE LOST THE EU REFERENDUM!!!  (phew! I’m getting dangerously triggered, I must calm down, my apologies, ladies & gentlemen), Earnest Writers R Us groups. One of the latter had an American woman in charge, whose adoring followers seemed to spend all day telling her how wonderful she was. I baled out when they started talking about having special t-shirts made for us all. I have no idea how serious that suggestion was, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
  • The needy ones. These are the ones who are too self-absorbed for any sane person to waste a moment of their precious time on. You will usually know them straight off, because the instant you follow them back they will send you an automated DM (Direct Message) directing you to their book / their video / their Facebook page / their website, and urge you to come and give it a Like. If you’re still misguided enough to stay around them after that, they’ll probably badger you with demands. “Just touching base with you, have you read my book yet?” or the wheedling “can I have an RT?” Some of them are even worse than that, and will simply put the abrupt command “RT” at the end of a tweet, as if they’re an Oriental despot demanding you wash their feet. It will make you glad you’re not a celebrity (unless you are of course), as they get this rubbish all the time. “Hey [insert name of famous person] it’s my birthday, can I have an RT?” “My cat’s sick, can I have an RT?” FFS. Probably the SADDEST, MOST PATHETIC tweet I ever received was from a writer, who sent me a DM saying “Sarah, can you RT the tweet I did earlier where I mentioned how funny John Cleese and Terry Wogan found my book”. I don’t even know where to begin with how pathetic it was, although citing John Cleese and Terry Wogan must mark it for some kind of Hall Of Fame Most Pathetic Tweet Ever award. From that moment onwards I never had any inclination to read any more of his books. Well done, mate, you scored a brilliant own goal there. There was also the fledgling writer who sent me a DM saying “If you look at my Facebook page, I’ll look at yours. Like for Like?” No, not likey for likey. And good luck with looking for my Facebook page. I once had someone tweet me after 11 o’clock one night, asking if I had any further information about strange occurrences at Loch Ness. I sent him my Loch Ness Timeline piece, which lists all strange phenomena there for the past 100 years. A few minutes later I got another tweet “yes, very interesting, but you haven’t included a full list of references”. I could only reply “goodnight” to him after that. I won’t miss all that.
  • I was going to add something about the chronic RT-ers, they’re the ones who RT absolutely everything, even someone wishing them a “good morning”, and they end up flooding your timeline with the most self-indulgent rubbish as a result. Things that only possibly be of interest to them. But there is actually a very easy way round that one, just turn off the RTs from them. Go to their profile page, pull down the little wheel near their username, and you should get a “turn off retweets” option. It is very handy. I have actually known some followers to virtually disappear once I’d done that. Because they only ever RTd things, I never saw them again! RESULT!!
  • The ones who do nothing but automated tweets. I read an article recently about someone, who was using Twitter to promote his business, complaining he had very little impact on his followers. The reason wasn’t hard to find. He automated all his tweets. Good God mate, no one takes any notice of them! They are a joke! They can end up horribly out-of-synch, such as the ones wishing you Happy Christmas at the end of March, or urging you go out and vote the day AFTER an election (I’ve seen both). It got so bad with one woman that I was starting to be able to predict when her tweets were going to appear, and what they were going to say. It really was time to get shot of her then. Not only does it make you look arrogant and cold, but it also shows a distinct lack of imagination. One follower used to do automated excerpts from his book. Not only did I see the same clips coming round and round again, but they often were so horrible they made me feel sick. You don’t want that when you’re eating your lunch.
  • Any grown adult who uses a picture of themselves as a small child as their avatar. I’ve never understood that one, it’s just plain weird.
  • A word to anyone who uses the word “haters” a lot. Just because someone disagrees with you about something, it doesn’t automatically make them a “hater”. OK? Pathetic.
  • The ones who pepper every tweet with things like “lol”, “my lovelies”, kissy-kissy huggy-huggy and “mwah!” I have images of them chasing you across vast open spaces, with arms outstretched, crying “kissy-kissy my lovely, kissy-kissy! Mwah! Mwah!”
  • And finally – absolutely anyone who posts “lmao” to everything. They haven’t an original thought in their head, have the mindset of a boorish 12-year-old, and try and pull everything down to their level. They are tiresome. It seems to be getting replaced these days by the crying-with-laughter emoji, which is every bit as pointless and irritating. It became a pet hate of mine.

(3) One of the most telling insights I’ve come across about Twitter was from a young girl on YouTube, who was talking about how she gave up social-media for 6 months, and what she learnt from it. She said it was very noticeable that nothing ever changes on it. That you can depart it for a significant period of time, and yet when you come back it’s as if nothing’s happened. You would think that might be reassuring in some way, particularly in these turbulent times, but it’s not. It’s the same old tosh still whirling round. Like going back to a workplace you left some time before, and finding the same old rubbish still there, reminding you why you left in the first place. Recently I saw someone announce she was going on a mass-unfollow, simply because she wanted a change of scene. Last year (2017) I too went on a Twitter purge, unfollowing about 900 accounts. I fully expected my Followers count to take a sharp nosedive afterwards … IT BARELY CHANGED AT ALL!! Likewise, in April 2018, when I tweeted this blog post as my final tweet, I again expected my Followers count to take a sharp nosedive. It stayed almost completely static. It only confirmed to me what a load of old hooey Twitter Followers counts are. If you’re desperate to be rid of someone, but you feel a permanent Block is too harsh, then do a soft-block instead. A soft-block is when you block someone and then immediately unblock them again. It removes them from your Followers list. Some argue that you might as well just Mute them, but I’ve never found that terribly effective. I Muted one guy who drove me mad with his constant moaning. He did disappear from my main timeline, BUT he was still showing up in my Mentions when he sent me tweets (never has the old expression “misery loves company” been more true). In the end, Blocking was the only answer.

(4) BE VERY WARY ABOUT WHAT YOU REVEAL. In the early years of social-media I really don’t think many of us gave much of a thought as to what we posted. It was usually a spur-of-the-moment thing, and as disposable as a hastily-scribbled note. We would share anything. We humans are a sociable bunch. All that has changed. Towards the end of my time on Twitter I was becoming increasingly cagey about what I posted. I’m not talking big stuff here (bank account details), but little things, such as “I’m sitting in the garden”. Not because I thought anybody was stalking me – although that is a very real risk for anybody Online, and shouldn’t be underestimated – but because I simply didn’t want to run the risk of some crashing bore finding something to lecture me, or get offended about, and thus shattering the spell of the moment. Think I’m being paranoid? Take this recent example, what I call IceCreamGate. A vegan lady recently posted an innocuous tweet saying how she’d bought a little girl an ice-cream to cheer her up. All very sweet and harmless, you might think … NOT IN TWITTERLAND. A fellow vegan homed in and proceeded to rant and rave at her about the horror of a vegan buying ice-cream. It briefly became a social-media sensation. I read about it in the Guardian newspaper. I thought “love, just carry on buying ice-cream, but don’t tell social-media, For God’s Sake Don’t Tell Social-Media”. These days I get a naughty kick of out NOT telling social-media things. I once posted a tweet about having a spot of lunch in the back garden, whilst listening to music on my headphones. It was a fine moment. I had a bitter follower coming back at me raving “YOU LIVE LIKE A QUEEN!!” (knighting people? opening parliament? going to the races?). I sometimes still think of him … when I’m sitting in the garden. When I had my very first mammogram I posted a public tweet thanking the radiographer, simply because I had been very nervous about it beforehand. I am a complete wuss when it comes to anything medical. A complete stranger burst in on me demanding to know if the radiographer had told me her name, as it would have been very unprofessional if she hadn’t, blah-blah-blah etc etc etc blah-blah-blah (I can’t say her name was uppermost in my mind at the time). It was horrible. This man – whose name, appropriately, was Richard Bore – had wrecked it. Social-media can go fuck itself. ADDENDUM 7/5/2018: I read an article in the Telegraph about why young people, the ones currently in their mid-twenties, are being so abstemious about sex these days. One of the reasons cited was our old friend social-media. For instance, men who are concerned they may not give an absolutely perfect performance, are worried it may then get plastered all over Facebook. Where sex and relationships are concerned, you now run the risk of every embarrassing little mishap being broadcast to the entire Internet world, sometimes with added illustrations to boot. In the old days the worst you had to fear was somebody having a snicker with their pals behind your back. I can’t imagine what it must be like to worry now that someone might plaster nude pics of you all over cyberspace! I can see why people are more wary.

I’ve just discovered this quote on Quora, by Kahlil Gibran: “travel and tell no one, live a true love story and tell no one, live happily and tell no one, people ruin beautiful things”. Yep, sums it up perfectly.

(5) This one should be obvious, but it’s absolutely amazing how many can’t seem to grasp it. When you include the @ next to somebody’s username, then your tweet will automatically show up in their Notifications. I once had a bunch of students discussing one of my blog pieces this way, seemingly oblivious – or more likely not caring – that each comment was appearing in my Mentions page. HOW BLOODY RUDE!! (The annoying little prick who started it had something like “social-media influencer” in his bio. “Social-Media Dickhead” more like). It’s like having some arrogant little tosspot perching on your desk, and deciding to tell the rest of the office what they think of your work, as if you’re not there. Likewise, it is also extremely rude to tag people into your private convo’s/arguments. Their Mentions will then get stuffed up with your dreary debates, whether they like it or not, and if they ask you to untag them then it’s only good manners to do so. Don’t be so damn arrogant. Would you do that to someone in real life? (Don’t answer that, you probably would).

(6) How To Get Followers. People will tell you a lot of old rubbish about how hard it is to get Followers on Twitter. It’s not, it’s bloody easy. If you’re really desperate, just follow as many accounts as possible. I had one Follower who bragged about being “a complete Follower whore”, in that she spent her evenings following as many Twitter accounts as possible (well if you’ve got nothing better to do …). She didn’t stay as one of my followers for long, once I read that comment. That sort are only interested in the numbers game. And you will always have the spivs and double-glazing salesmen to boost your number. For example, I once followed Nigel Slater, and in return got followed by kitchen designers desperate for customers! I tweeted the word “solar” in relation to a news article about solar flares once, and got solar panels salesmen. Tweeting the words “golf”, “mortgages/insurance” and “plumbers” is also a good bet for some reason, although to be honest, I don’t think a 24-hour friendly plumber based in Los Angeles would be much use to me here in Blighty. If really desperate you can simply tweet the word “followers” or put that word in your bio, and you will be snowed under by the Team FollowBack and Buy Your Twitter Followers Here bots. Another way is to tweet along to popular TV shows, such as The X-Factor or Great British Bake-Off. As you wade through the inevitable trolls, you may also pick up the odd new follower along the way. Unfortunately, you may well find that that TV show is absolutely all you’ve got in common, and you have no other interest in each other at all, but that won’t stop you from following each other for years on end, until you’ve both completely forgotten why on earth you followed each other in the first place. You are never short of company on Twitter … it’s just rarely the meaningful connections you were probably after.

(7) Respect other people’s space In Real Life. One bloody rude and intrusive trend which has arisen with the growth of social-media is the habit some people have of taking pictures of, or filming, complete strangers on their phones, and then posting it on their Facebook/Twitter page, either for “a laugh”, or to try and shame said person in some way. I once had a girl who kept trying to film me on her phone when I was sitting, chatting innocently to my husband, in a pub one day. She only stopped when I stuck my tongue out at her*. I once complained on Twitter about a rude guy on a nearby table, who was being a complete sod to the waitress. A Follower urged me to take his picture and shame him all over Twatterland. No I didn’t. I confined myself to being sympathetic to the poor waitress instead, and giving said bastard filthy looks. He soon got the message and left. What happens In Real Life should stay In Real Life. *A A Gill once wrote that he hated the way TV programme makers would leave a pause at the end when they’ve been interviewing you, as if hoping you’ll say or do something embarrassing for their delectation, either that or just simper in a gormless fashion, making yourself look a sad wally. He would kibosh this by yelling “fuck!” at the top of his voice, causing them to hurriedly stop filming. Me sticking my tongue out at the rude girl was my way of doing this.

—-

You might legitimately feel I’ve been too harsh on Twitter in this piece, and I can understand that. I am genuinely trying to rack my brains to think of a time when I absolutely, whole-heartedly ENJOYED Twitter. (1) a live tweetalong to a 1970s nostalgia show one evening, that was wonderful, and the jokesters were on top form (2) Halloween 2011, when everyone got in the mood and posted spooky or just alternative culture stuff. (3) oh and the day gay marriage was legalised. For a brief few minutes, amongst British tweeters anyway, there was a genuine feel of joy and bonhomie. Other than that, um …

It has to be said though that Twitter got unfairly maligned during the August Riots of 2011, when politicians and media tried to blame social-media for the mess, but it did actually do a lot of good during those highly fraught few days. The Clean-Up operation was organised entirely over Twitter, when people armed themselves with brooms and went to clean up the streets. I was one of the many tweeting during the Riots, and I remember some vulnerable people were warned from straying into dangerous areas whilst it was all unfolding, thanks to social-media. One man who was frightened and trapped in his flat with his wife and baby during it, was kept going by some lovely people sending him messages of support. None of that got reported by the powers-that-be.

Anyway, I’m largely done with it now. I feel I have well and truly done my Twitter tour-of-duty. The only reasons I’m not deleting the account (at the moment) are because I don’t want Russian bots getting their greasy mitts on the username. Although the way things are going I suspect I may well change my mind on that one at some point.

PS: I wrote this blog post mainly because I had 8 years of Twitter-inspired grievances to get out of my system. Trouble is, once I got started on it I found I had great trouble stopping. I want to apologise to any innocent tweeters I may have been sharp and hasty with over the years, but there were just too many times when Twitter got right up my nose!

PPS: check out a short vid called ‘5 Reasons Why I Hate Twitter’ by a YouTuber called Croc Gang Ent, it’s very funny.

If you haven’t already seen it, have a look at the Black Mirror episode Nosedive. If you still want to live in a social-media world after that, frankly you’ll deserve it.

UPDATE 17/5/2018 – I was always planning to do a final update when I was 30 days on from my last Twitter post, but in all honesty, I cannot think of anything terribly profound to say. I feel I got a lot out of my system with this lengthy blog post. Stuff that had fermented for too long. It was never my intention to be unduly harsh on anyone (apart from the worst of the trolls, as far as I’m concerned it’s open season on them), but once the dam burst it all came flooding out y’see.

Only this morning though I read an article by Dan Nosowitz (I Don’t Know How To Waste Time On The Internet Anymore) who said he missed the early years of the Internet, the years of LiveJournals and people blogging their passions and interests. He says that in recent years – he cites 2013 as the turning-point* – Facebook and Twitter have taken over too much. People have been predicting the death of blogging for years, but I refuse to believe it’s had its day. Blogging gives you a far more effective free platform than social-media ever will. It is YOUR space, your little realm. Last year (2017) I didn’t blog for months on end, but once I blew the dust of it, I decided I wanted to get back into it. And although I never did a LiveJournal, I do think they’re a great idea. Back in the Noughties I used to read author Poppy Z Brite’s LiveJournal every day, and found it fascinating. Sadly he doesn’t seem to do it anymore, and has retreated a lot from the Internet public scene, which I can completely understand. *I think 2013 was the turning-point. So many previously keen tweeters seemed to suddenly stop and vanish from the scene around them. They were very wise.

At the end of his article Nosowitz writes that the Internet is not a place of fun and escapism anymore, that it is a “utility world”, that “it is efficient and all-encompassing. It is not very much fun”. I think you have to find the bits of it that still are fun and that speak to you personally. I know I bang on about YouTube, but it has been a godsend for me this past year. I discovered ASMR and ambient noise videos through it, which have helped me enormously. For convenience, I have now collected them all onto one list (ASMR / Ambient Noise/ Background Music) on my YouTube page*, and from the Comments I’ve read on them I know they help a lot of other people too.

There are a lot of articles around on Google about What You Discover When You Stop Doing Twitter, and they all tend to be fairly accurate. The most obvious thing you find is that you suddenly have a lot more time at your disposal, as if some benevolent god has granted you several more hours in the day. You can also enjoy the moment, without feeling the need to share it with a bunch of fractious strangers or spambots preying on you. I did notice sometimes that I almost automatically went to reach for my phone, as if “oh it’s a couple of hours since I last checked in, I’d better do it”. I was reminded of the sequel to The Stepford Wives, where the women had to take a pill every few hours, to keep themselves in robotic mode. I was recently sitting outside our local bakery, and watched a family walking along the pavement. All of them, mum, dad, kids, had a phone in their hands, which they were busily gawping at, not saying a word to each other. The robot family.  Back in 2014 I had a bad dream in which people were choosing to have their heads shrunk, and were perfectly happy about it.  The dream disturbed me at the time – which is why I still remember it years on – but I hadn’t realised quite how prophetic it would turn out to be.

And yes, it’s true what they say, you do become much happier. I’m not saying Life suddenly becomes all sunshine and flowers, but it does get more mellow. You don’t spend all day thinking a complete stranger in cyberspace is about to come and tear you to pieces for something you tweeted back in 2014, or one of your dear “followers” is about to launch into a vicious rant about something you really don’t need to know about. The current Royal Wedding here in Blighty has also made me greatly appreciate the absence of Twitter in my life. Royal events are nauseating on Twatter at the best of times. I still have bad memories of being on Twitter for the Queen’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee. I’m not overstating it when I say it was appalling, and I hope to never to experience mass hostility on that level again. There is nothing worse than being branded a “hater” (a horrible word) just because you don’t share their unbridled enthusiasm. So I really don’t miss the ardent royalists yelling “haters” at the rest of us, or “STFU and sit down”, or orders to leave the country (um … it’s my country too). Of course, you still get the ardent Royalists shouting all over the place In Real Life, but somehow it’s usually easier to handle.

The Royal Wedding is just one instance of a number of occasions I’ve had in recent weeks where I’ve had occasion to think “thank God I’m not on Twitter anymore”. It’s like cutting yourself loose from the Borg Hive Mind. I read an article recently in which another Twitter refugee said he had found himself wondering what other Twitter users thought about something before making up his own mind. It gets you like that. Now I feel liberated. I can have my own thoughts. I can even keep them to myself if I feel like it. I don’t have to justify my opinions to the Grim Collective.

And it’s not just about opinions. One thing that really used to irritate me on Twitter was this assumption that EVERYBODY in the known Universe works 9-5 Mondays-to-Fridays, so on Friday afternoons you would get a mass outpouring of “Happy Friday! Squee! It’s Friday everybody! Clappity-clappy. Happy skippy dance” (yeah eat Crunchie). They would then spend the next 48 hours moaning about the weather / the TV / the kids / going to the shops etc, before an enforced pall of gloom would descend once again on the following Monday. On the day after a Bank Holiday or the Christmas hols we would get bossy Twitter trends like “hashtag BackToWork”, which came as news to those of us who had been working all along. I remembering seeing a female follower doing a ridiculously over-the-top “it’s Monday people, but it’ll soon be the weekend, we can do this, we can get through it”. I knew for a fact that she was a self-employed writer who worked from home, so what buggering jaysus difference did it make to her that it was Monday morning?? I ask you, really! Talk about being brainwashed into the Collective. I once saw a man audaciously tweet “actually I quite like Mondays”. I have images of him being bundled into a back room somewhere, bound and gagged, until he stopped having such daring avant-garde views. Twitter can often feel like a cyber form of Communism in that respect. The drone workers, all clocking in and out at exactly the same time. And God forbid anyone should be so delightfully random as to publicly confess that they actually enjoy their work! I suppose the point I’m trying to make with this particular grumble is how much Twitter can make you feel like you’re being herded into the Collective, and a pretty dismal Collective it is too. One where you are a boring cog in the wheel, groaning on about your grey life, unable to think for yourself, and only capable of a modicum of pleasure when you’re inflicting braggy selfies on your bored and irritated audience.

Recently I had a browse round Twitter – before I finally pulled the lever for the last time – to see what was going on, what kind of threads people were posting, mainly to see what I could write (if anything) for this blog update. I found (1) an earnest spat about Mother’s Day in America (2) some high-handed little so-and-so decreeing that no one sorts laundry anymore (doncha just love it when someone half your age lays down the law), and (3) a trend asking “is calling old white men ‘gammon-face’ racist?” (dunno, don’t care). Oh boy, what a lark! So Dan Nosowitz was absolutely right about the lack of fun these days, but I would argue that that’s Facebook and Twitter for you. It seems to have become a mosh-pit of humourless tight-mouthed prigs, all with a bee in their bonnet about something. What I now call the POAS lot, Permanently Outraged About Something. And if it’s not them it’s the tedious Telling It As It Is brigade (telling it as they see it, might be more accurate), who spend all day inflicting their boorish opinions on us, and making the brazen assumption they know what the rest of us are really thinking (bloody cheek!). I can only assume the reason they’re on Twitter so much is because In Real Life people must run across the road, dart behind trees, out of the back doors of pubs, or hurl themselves into the frozen veg section of the supermarket when they see them approaching. BUT not all the Internet is like that, thank God. Some of us manage to escape from it, into the wacky world of The Rest Of The Internet … and we’re not going back.

Magical words: I Am Not On Twitter Anymore.

THE SELFIE-TAKER 5/6/2018 – A story which has shocked many people is that of the selfie-taker at an Italian train station at the end of May 2018.   A Canadian woman had been hit by a passing train at Piacenza, near Milan.  As rescue teams rushed to help her, a grinning young man took a selfie on a nearby platform.   The selfie-taker has sparked outrage in Italy, with one commentator remarking that the young man had “turned off his soul”.   Another described it as “a cancer which corrodes the Internet”.   I can’t really add anything to what has already been said.   It is a truly depressing state of affairs.

I am reminded of some of the worst selfie-takers I used to see when I did Twitter.   It was truly staggering how many they posted each day, and how it appeared that everything they did (however routine and mundane) had to come complete with a selfie.   Why do people feel the need to live their lives in this way?  Are they frightened they will cease to exist, or become invisible, if they’re not frantically posting pictures of themselves Online?  Can they not function without complete strangers messaging them as to how adorable they look?

There is a belief in some ancient cultures that having your photo taken steals your soul.  It seems with some people they may have been right.

UPDATE 23/6/2018 – I’ve recently begun vlogging on YouTube myself, posting little diary-ish vlogs – usually only a few seconds/couple of minutes long tops – it’s great fun, but you’ll be relieved to hear that you don’t see my big fizzog on them (WARNING: not yet anyway).  I’ve disabled the Comments sections, simply because the thought of getting some boring smart-arse messaging something like “that’s 27 seconds of my life I won’t get back”  or “WTF?” fills me with a deep inner groan of tedium-induced pain.

A COMMENT ON “ELITE” TWATTER 6/6/2018:  An article in Wired today complained that the problem with Twitter is the way it seems to have become entirely geared towards the “Elite”.  By that I think they mean it has become obsessed with the blue tick so-called celebrity Verified accounts.  The ones that seem to have a followers count the size of several countries.   For months now Twitter has been doing an annoying What You Have Missed feature, (everybody hates it, but Twatter HQ doesn’t care), which heavily promo’s the big (i.e really boring) accounts at the expense of the smaller ones.   Certainly Twitter seems to have become dull and dreary since the “elite” – and that most definitely includes the mainstream media and politicians – discovered it.  I can’t help being reminded of a quirky bistro restaurant we used to frequent back in the 1990s.  It was great … and then the comfortably off middle-classes discovered it, and it went downhill from there, turning into just another overpriced city restaurant frequented by braying, bragging, tight-arsed dipsticks.  It has since gone out of business.

My twopennoth: the Wired article suggests that one way to improve Twatter would be to drop the public stats.  It is nerdishly obsessed with numbers and algorithms, and users fret over their statistics to a ridiculous degree.  It would be a way to equalise it, to put everyone on a level playing-field, whereby you judge everyone on the quality of their content, and not because they’ve got 10 million followers.  I have seen some YouTube accounts which hide their public stats, and I think it’s often a good idea.  It stops people forming judgements at first glance, and would stop the narcissistic, egomaniac attitude of “I’ve got over a 1000 Twatter followers, I’m the biz, doncha know, everyone should listen to me”.    If you think I’m making a big issue out of nothing, all I can say is I really wish I was.  But I have actually read so-called serious news articles these days whereby a famous person’s Twatter follower count seems to be regarded as being Of Great Significance (don’t ask how many spambots this includes).   Meanwhile, I don’t think it will be long before we’re in Black Mirror territory, and we see world leaders being interviewed on TV, with their Twitter followers count included next to their names.

ADDENDUM 28/6/2018 – an article in an American magazine, National Review, says it is extremely hard to give up social-media.  Well yes I suppose it is, otherwise it wouldn’t have taken me as long as it did (well over a year) to finally divorce myself from Twitter once and for all.  In the end, tough measures were called for.  I had to completely burn my boats, and make it very hard for myself to go back.  One thing I learnt was that halfway-house measures (such as the author of the article seemed to be doing), just don’t work, and believe me I tried them.  I went on lengthy Twitter sabbaticals.  I started up a little account, which I thought would be much more low-key.  I went on mass-unfollows.  I removed the app from my phone.  None of it worked.  Because that aggravating little Blue Bird Of Evil was always lurking there in the background.   In the end, I had to do a complete surgical operation, and remove it entirely.  It is NOT easy, at all.

BUT I can assure you that once you have done it, you will feel completely liberated.   In the couple of months since I last had anything to do with Twitter, I do feel as though my life has opened out enormously.   I know that sounds a tad evangelical, sort of I Found Jesus & Now I’m Whole, as it were, but it really is how I feel.  You can argue that, as I’ve just started doing a bit of vlogging on YouTube, that I’ve just switched one social-media for another, but we’ve had this argument before, and no I don’t believe YouTube is social-media.  I don’t allow comments on my vids for starters, so if anyone wants to troll me they’ll have to go to all the trouble of finding my email address.  They can still do this, but I’m making it a lot harder for them.  I’m chucking obstacles in their way.  It will make them think more about what they’re doing, other than just a hurtful throwaway comment, which takes them only a few seconds to write, but which can cause pain to the recipient for months afterwards, and they will have to engage with me, in private, one-to-one (evil cackle) … and if I dislike what they’re saying I’ll just hit that handy little dustbin symbol, either that or “oh oopsy, you must have gone into my spam folder, such a shame”.   But it’s the freedom from care which makes all the difference.  Of course, I could’ve made little videos and posted them to Twitter, but I know from experience it would have been a hideously soul-destroying experience.  I would’ve got (a) tumbleweed (b) something along the lines of  “oh yes, you think you’re happy, but there is TOTAL MISERY IN THE WORLD, YOU SELFISH COW”, or (c) someone deciding to post a puerile joke/comment about it in several months/years time, which would just leave me feeling utterly baffled (and totally bored).   I could post them to InstaGrot I suppose, but I really, REALLY don’t want to go back to that whole Followers nonsense.  The very thought makes me feel ill.   YouTube frees me from all that.

The National Review article makes some good points, in that Twitter lures you back in, however much it’s against your will.  Once you’re back, scrolling through your feed, that’s it, you’re hooked back in again.   You’re back in the cage, being liberally splattered with shit from every passing nutter and time-wasting bore.  The author of the piece includes the quote “the cage of the door is locked from the inside”.  Yes it is, and YOU have the power to unlock it, and set yourselves free.

And now B-R-E-A-T-H-E …….

 

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