Only a week ago Kate Bevan tweeted this to the co-founder and CEO of Twitter after an few rumours were abound regarding changes to the way in which Twitter was going to be structured.
.@jack How about listening to all the concerns about abuse, Jack? things have changed a lot since I wrote this https://t.co/3gK1S8nin1— Kate Bevan (@katebevan) February 6, 2016
It led to a quick but nostalgic conversation between myself and Kate about how the community aspect of Twitter seems to have been lost as it has grown and it's harder to find cool people to engage with.
Stephen Fry is often regaled as the Godfather of (British) Twitter. Because of his early adoption of the social media platform, many people felt that they could connect with him as he shared images and updates of his life. Let's be honest, in the early days, he was one of the first people you followed (along with Jonathan Ross and Philip Schofield) in the hope for a tweet from him or even for him to follow you back. Twitter was much quieter back then though.
Last night, during the BAFTA awards ceremony, as the host, Fry made a comment which upset a few people. Not event attendees, but viewers at home, watching on their television sets (on approximately an hour's delay) with a Twitter app to hand. The basic premise is that Fry called one of the BAFTA winners a "bag lady" because of the way she was dressed. Twitter erupted in defence of said lady and Fry retaliated saying that it was a private joke and called everyone sanctimonious fuckers (or words to that effect). Even I had a bit of a dig about it:
So Stephen Fry shared a private joke in public arena then got arsey when people didn't understand? Ok then...— Nickie (@nickieohara) February 14, 2016
Twitter erupted once more and less than 12 hours later Stephen Fry had
left Twitter deactivated his account. Again, I had something to say about this but I felt like I was battling against the tide with my viewpoint...
So, Stephen Fry has taken his ball and gone home.Maybe that's a good thing, all things considering. A break is often a positive move.— Nickie (@nickieohara) February 15, 2016
So let's rewind just a little bit...
There have always been keyboard warriors. In the same way that anonymity can provide some people with confidence, it is very easy to hide behind a screen name and share negative comments. Trash forums have always been popular and even five years ago live streaming social media wasn't really a large part of our lives. Since mobile phones became more accessible (cheaper contracts, wifi connectability, etc.) and the development of apps became a Serious Business, more people started using real time connectives such as Twitter or Facebook. And this isn't necessarily a good thing. The whole concept of talking to 'strangers' online definitely wasn't new but here was another way to meet new and interesting people in 'real time' other than in forum-based chat rooms or using a messenger-style programme.
A large part of today's news media is about how yet another person has had to deal with a negative experience online. I could easily write a couple of thousand words about 'trolling', disposable social media accounts, how the new breed of account holders use Twitter these days, bullying, celeb-bashing, opposing views, blatant racism, how popularity breeds reaction/interaction and so much more but what has all this got to do with Stephen Fry?
Coincidentally, Fry is revisiting a series he made a few years back which examines the life of the manic depressive - something he has battled for many years. Speaking from personal experience, I know that people with mental health issues very often take actions to the extreme; over-thinking other people's viewpoints, doing something to the absolute limit, quitting without warning... There is not enough support or help out there and local mental health resources are stretched at the best of times. We have to respect self-management.
Today, we heard that the Cabinet Office will continue to fund a thousand year old tradition of having British laws written on vellum (with immediate effect). This was on the same day that a pledge (just a pledge, mind) of £1bn per year by 2020-2021 for additional and continuous mental health resources was made.
Vellum before mental health.
I'll just let that one sink in.
At least we all know where we stand now.
Social media is a very explosive arena and even for the most blasé of people, it can be an upsetting place. I very much enjoy having a difference of opinion with people and conducting an adult discussion. I can often learn from their viewpoint but as soon as anyone resorts to insults then it's time to block them and move on or simply switch off. This time, rather than let his mind be over-worked with everything, I'm rather hoping that this is what Stephen Fry has done this time.