Calm down dear, it’s only a Tweet

It’s been quite a high-tension week in Twitter-land. Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) has been getting quite depressed:

He’s even talking about leaving Twitter:

And it’s all Richard’s (@brumplum) fault:

Although he did later apologise:

Stephen won’t have seen his apology, having blocked him. Stephen did manage to release a little tongue-lashing on poor unsuspecting Richard, mind:

So, what’s happening here? Could it be that celebrities such as Stephen Fry are confusing Twitter with real life? And maybe people have realised that they can hide behind a cloak of relative anonymity to bruise celebrity egos. I could easily write something hurtful or hateful to a celebrity on Twitter, but what would be the point?

Equally, I could do the same in real life, but (a) I wouldn’t have the guts and (b) I don’t actually mix in the sort of circles where I encounter celebrities. (I did once encounter Chris Morris at the bar of a theatre in London during the interval of a performance of “Art”, but what could I say to him apart from “Fact me ‘til I fart”?)

So my advice in this situation is this: @stephenfry: Don’t confuse Twitter with real life and don’t think for a moment that because one person deliberately writes something with the intention of you reading it that we all agree with them. There will be many others (several hundred thousand in your case) who like you, respect you, enjoy your tweets, but don’t write to you to tell you that, because, well it’s not the “done thing” is it, paying people too many compliments, it would go to your head.

And to @brumplum: What was the point of telling @stephenfry that you found his tweets boring? My mother taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, then not to say anything at all. In this case, that would have been the better policy. Nobody can please everybody all of the time, not even Stephen Fry. If you find his tweets boring, just unfollow him or don’t read them. I can see that you’ve apologised and understand that Stephen did over-react, but there was just no need in the first place. I hope Stephen’s fans don’t treat you like Scott Baio’s fans treat the “haters”. (See below.)

Comedy writer and Twitter activist Graham Linehan (@Glinner) has already made his opinions clear on this sort of thing:

As has comedian and writer Richard Herring (@Herring1967):

In this case, the culprit was Paul Carr (@Paul_Carr), who wrote something about Richard’s podcasting co-host Andrew Collins (@CollingsA), something along the line of him being boring, as I recall, (it has since been deleted by its author), but again in this instance, the person involved apologised and thought they were being funny:

So, what shall we say? I can’t help but agree with Graham and Richard. There’s just no point whatsoever in using your newfound proximity to celebrities to goad them by saying things about them which are only designed to hurt them.

In the case of the two individuals whom Graham Linehan blocked, they weren’t directing their insults at him, but he felt offended on their behalf enough to block them. The same could happen to you. And so it should. What’s the point?

I respect Graham and Richard for their stance on such matters, but I do not respect Scott Baio (@RealScottBaio), (I don’t know what he’s famous for, but he appears to be a minor celebrity).

He managed to leverage the power of his following to get someone locked out of their Twitter account. I will spare you the gory details, but if you search for “realscottbaio plz blk” on Twitter, you’ll get the idea. Someone calls him to account on a couple of irregularities in his tax affairs, and he just instructs his followers to block his accuser.

Maybe Twitter isn’t the forum for such things, but telling your followers to block someone, which leads to their account getting locked by Twitter, is an abuse of power. Remember what Uncle Ben says to Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

If you don’t like what someone says to you, you can block them. But if you seek to silence those who disagree with you or say inconvenient or uncomfortable things, then you seek to remove free speech.

And that’s not groovy. Look out for each other, Tweeple.

Quick update: The story has now made the BBC News website.

Second quick update: Stephen Fry is feeling much better, thanks, and seems to have forgiven our hapless young mite:

And they’ve kissed and made up:

Last update (hopefully): The matter is now closed, according to BBC News:

Lastly a Comedy Ending, from @Glinner:




Filed under Awesome opinions

2 responses to “Calm down dear, it’s only a Tweet

  1. I think that if you’re going to be rude you shouldn’t tag someone, but inevitably sometimes it happens. The beauty of Twitter is that it breaks down the walls between celebrities and the public – and lots of celebs like this because it allows for more direct communication. Alas, as so often in life that communication isn’t always nice, and there are lots of people on Twitter desperate for a moment of fame by winding up a celebrity and getting a response. It’s a great leveller: “You may be a rich, famous celebrity and I may be a poor man living in a bedsit, but you have acknowledged my existence”. The flip side of all of this is that when the slightly dim man tweeted Stephen Fry, a million tossers realise that they too can affect Stephen Fry, this time by rushing to his aid and villifying the slightly dim man. “Look Stephen! We’ll campaign to get the man banned, and we’ll make hashtags to defend you.” And that makes me far more uncomfortable, because it leads to kind of slavish mob rule, in which the twitterosphere nominates their villain of the week and decides in their very liberal, Guardian-reading way, to give them a proper kicking.

    Stephen Fry is a celebrity, writer, actor, director and performer. He must be used to getting negative reviews and comments. Frankly, some nobody saying “You’re not very interesting” is not much of an insult. It’s not nice, but I’ve had far worse directed at me, and I’m mostly incredibly unfamous, having never made any films, had my own sketch show and hosted loads of quizzes. If you open yourself up by broadcasting your every thought on Twitter, you have to expect some negative feedback. That doesn’t mean that you should accept or tolerate abuse, but you do have to accept that not everyone will think you’re funny, witty and charming. It’s the internet, not a vicar’s tea party.

    When I’ve said similar things on Twitter, people have chipped in by saying, “Oh, you meanie, Stephen Fry suffers from manic depression”. And of course, bi-polar conditions are horrible. But his history of depression doesn’t mean that he is above criticism or can live in an ivory tower protected by his loyal twitter minions. This isn’t a homeless orphan begging for a crust of bread – it’s Stephen Fry, who is perfectly capable of defending himself. Anyway, for all we know, the slightly dim man also suffers from a history of depression. Personally, I’d rather Twitter didn’t turn into a parade of suffering in which rather than twibbons, people decorate their avatars with mental health warnings “Feeling fragile today – do not respond to tweets unless it’s with virtual hugs”.

    Perhaps the most negative effect of Twitter is that constant use can lead to you allowing your self-esteem to be dictated by whether a group of random strangers on the internet finds you funny/perceptive/sexy. Every so often I take a break from Twitter to remember that there is more to life that telling everyone what I’ve had for lunch. There’s a whole world out there of leaves and sky and cars and soups. And when you do get to the point where your mental health is adversely affected by the fact that one of your 950,000 followers doesn’t find you funny, it’s definitely time to take a break. Not everyone can love you all the time, even if you’re Stephen Fry.

  2. Pingback: Calm down dear, it’s only a Tweet « ᴉʞᴐᴉʌǝɿ ʍǝɹpuɐ

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