I actually remember where I was when I first heard about Twitter. I was in London, on the Tube, and reading about this new website where you could tell friends what you were doing at any time. “Right. Who on earth is going to do that? That’ll never catch on” I thought, and turned the page. OK, so now I’ve outed myself as being on the same level as Lord “this time next year, the iPod will be dead” Sugar and that bloke from Decca Records who turned the Beatles down, it’s time to admit that, these days, I more or less live on Twitter. Yet it’s still very difficult to explain why, at least to the uninitiated. “I like to think my life’s more interesting than 140 characters” was one comment last week. Or “Twitter? Isn’t that just like Facebook only you can only post a status update?”. Or, “Twitter? (a slightly condescending chuckle usually follows now) I’m not particularly interested in Stephen Fry being stuck in a lift, I’m afraid..” No, no, no (and not just because Stephen Fry isn’t that good on Twitter to be honest. But don’t tell him, he’ll only get in a huff and threaten to close his account). I thought it was time to give the top 5 reasons why Twitter rules. And, in the interests of balance, the top 5 reasons why Twitter sucks.
5 great things about Twitter
1. You’ll meet some awesome people.
You’ll probably start following your friends, and maybe the odd ‘celebrity’. They’ll retweet things from their friends. You’ll read them, may find them interesting, start following them. If Facebook is a place where you lie to your friends, then Twitter is where you tell the truth to strangers. It’s a social network in the truest sense of the word – even just searching the trending topics for something you’re interested in is likely to put you in touch with a whole new community of people who have things in common with you. It’s like a dating website, only it actually works and there’s none of that awkward sex stuff to deal with. Well, unless you’re Jason Manford of course.
2. It’s the greatest, and quickest, news service in the world
If anything has proved that the traditional forms of news media are dead, it’s Twitter. Even rolling news stations like Sky News or the BBC have been left behind – while they’re double-checking sources and finding various experts to give instant opinions on, it’s already all the talk on Twitter. Sure, there are people who make up stuff (read this from @glinner for a marvellous example), but genuine, huge stories like the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the death of Michael Jackson, election results, and the Japanese earthquake? All were first broken and verified on Twitter.
3.If someone bores you, just unfollow them
Say you’re at a party and someone keeps walking up to you saying “Woo I’m pissed, lol” or “gettin a takeaway on way home, love it, lmao”, you’d probably first ask them to stop talking like a text message, and then try to avoid them for the rest of the evening. But, the danger is always there that you’d stumble on them again at some point, possibly doing their world famous elephant impression or attempting to drink the punch direct from the bowl. On Twitter, this isn’t a problem. If someone keeps clogging up your timeline with “Dentist tonight, scared rofl!!1ONE!” or a simple emoticon of a ‘sadface’, you can simply click the ‘unfollow’ button and they need never bother you again. And they’ll never know either, unless they use one of those sites like Who Unfollowed Me, which obviously only desperately clingy and insecure people use (I may, or may not, have used one of these sites). (I have).
4. It’s the greatest self-promotional tool in the world
I like to write reviews – if I want people to read those reviews, I’d have to post on forums, try to get around the stringent Wikipedia rules on promoting yourself, or maybe stand in the street handing out paper copies of my review while chanting “please read this, please read this” (the last one may draw unwelcome attention from professional health care workers). Now, with Twitter, you simply tweet the link out to your followers. If they like it, they may retweet it to their followers. It’s the Domino Theory in it’s simplest, purest form.
5. It’s a comedy goldmine out there
As you can only type 140 characters into Twitter, it’s the perfect medium for stand-up comedians to practice short, snappy one-liners (see Gary Delaney, Paul Sinha and Jason Cook for a perfect example of this). Yet it’s the rise of the ‘parody’ accounts that’s really taken off recently. The best of which is probably The Big Sam (a sometimes frighteningly manly, foul-mouthed parody of football manager Sam Allardyce – “Not sure I could live in London. So much access to disease-ridden whores would worry me. My cock would be weeping like an orphan in no time” runs one example). There’s also Cat Bin Lady, in tribute to Mary Bale who once inexplicably dumped a cat in a rubbish bin (“I’ve just kicked a pumpkin in the face. Brenda’s in the kitchen talking about something clever her godaughter has made that I have to see”), and the most recent parody, Dr Peter Thraft, a sex therapist who offers advice such as “Men, when performing a strip tease 4 ur partner – turn round, lift ur buttocks and arch ur back (nude). This will reveal ur hanging scrotum”, and then get very upset when people question his medical credentials (“you are now blocked – Dr Peter Thraft”).
1. Internet Warriors
Obviously, this phenomenon is not just restricted to Twitter. A wander around the comments section on YouTube will soon have you bent double, weeping furiously for the future of mankind as phrases such as “yer mom sucks balls yo” and “lol imma find you and kil ya bitch” ping-pong around your head. Yet the intimacy of Twitter and the mere presence of celebrities seems to be enough to turn certain people into the hardest of keyboard gladiators. Even the most obscure of celebrity isn’t safe from the steady stream of “I hate you, I wish you’d die, you’re shit” tweets. Imogen Thomas gets death threats and offers to throw acid in her face from people who are far too obsessed with football, and Manchester United footballer Darron Gibson lasted a mere 2 hours before the constant stream of abuse made him realise that this Twitter lark really wasn’t worth it. Advice to celebrities tempted to retweet any abuse: Don’t do it. Simply block and ignore. If you retweet anything sent by these people, they’ll be cackling manically while furiously masturbating into a wet sock. And that’s an image nobody wants.
2. “Can I get a RT?”
This is one of those phrases that, when typed, results in a little bit of your soul instantly dying. “Hey, Kim Karshadian! Love you and your style! Can I get a RT?”. “Hey Wazza Rooney! Congratulations on your league title! Can I get a RT?” It’s kind of the polar opposite of internet abuse, but just as insidious. Compliment a celebrity, rely on their ego being flattered, and they’ll retweet it. They’re now just like your friend! You can probably hang out with them and stuff. Why not hide in their wheelie bin later and sniff their potato clippings? Go on, you’re their mate now. No you’re not. Stop it. Everytime you write “Can I get a RT?” a small kitten gets shot in the face and dumped in the ocean, just like Osama Bin Laden.
3. Daily Mail outrage
Everybody knows that the Daily Mail is evil. It tacitly supported the Nazis during World War II. It stands for everything Middle England believe to be great and true, which means that things like immigrants, gays, women in positions of power and Muslims should be feared and despised. Last year, a woman called Jan Moir caused understandable outrage when she claimed “there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death”, insinuating that, because the Boyzone singer was gay, and he and his partner had the temerity to invite someone back to their house for the night, he was a dirty pervert who deserved to die. Cue almost universal anger, and a Twitter campaign aimed at companies who advertise in the Mail. This was all well and good, but it had a side-effect – everyone who linked to this article was responsible for boosting the Mail website’s hits. Overnight, the Daily Mail became one of the most popular websites on the internet. And now, almost daily, there’s an article on there frothing and raving about something that is bound to push most liberal people’s buttons. Who will get all outraged, and complain about it on Twitter, linking to the article concerned. Why, it’s almost as if it’s a deliberate ploy by the Mail, isn’t it?
4. Charity Scams
Every year, around the same time as Comic Relief or Children In Need, you’ll see the same sort of tweets. “If I get 1000 followers, I’ll donate XX amount of money to Insert Name of Charity here!” This comment is then retweeted by various gullible people, comfy in the knowledge that they’ve done their goo deed for the day. Except, call me a cynic, but how does anyone know that money will be donated? Why not just, you know, donate. Why do you have to have an extra 1000 people following you? If you’re funny and interesting, Twitter followers will come. To emotionally blackmail them by pretending to donate money to charity is the worst of the worst.
5. Justin Beiber
A few months ago, I tweeted disbelief that Justin Beiber had won a BRIT award over The National (one of my favourite bands). This was a mistake. It was a mistake because Justin Beiber fans basically own Twitter. And if you say anything bad about their hero, they will mobilise forces and the Beiber Army will relentlessly attack you. “How DARE you criticise Justin?”. “You are nothing but a MUSIC SNOB”. “U R just jels of Just” (I have no idea what this meant). If anything, it reminds you that Twitter is not your world. It is the Beliebers world, and they just let us reside here on certain conditions….