Twats on Twitter

*big sigh*

Recently a number of celebrities have been caught up in public spats on Twitter and it's all getting rather boring now.  Can someone make it stop please?

The latest few appear to have featured Sir Alan Lord Sugar and whoever has narked him today.  His most recent 'victims' are Kirstie Allsopp, Chris Evans and Piers Morgan.  Having said that though, the latter has embroiled himself in a battle with Sugar for the highest number of followers.  The 'loser' pays out a few thousand pounds to charity.  I'd yawn but there's a nasty taste in my mouth and I need to get rid of it.

I did initially consider the fact that the Sugar and Morgan accounts were not real.  The people behind the @sy_cowell and @walshlife accounts could have concocted this little saga too as part of their marketing profile - showing the power of Twitter and how it can be used for promotion purposes.  The only spanner in the works of that little theory is that the both accounts appear to have been officially validated by Twitter.

The battle for lots of followers devalues the reason to tweet.  Twitter is a fantastic marketing and networking tool when used correctly.  It also feeds egos to some point, but these communal arguments are turning people off in their droves.  Secondly, people with lots of money who feel the need to publicly flaunt that fact need lining up against a wall and shooting.  Yes, we know you are successful business men but discuss your "competition" by, say, email or phone then use Twitter for what it has been designed for - conversation and marketing.  Once you have decided who is more popular (!) tweet how much you donated to charity and how you came about it.  I'm fast losing any shred of respect for anyone who tries this style of faux-argument for attention rather than focusing on the real meaning of charity.  

Honestly, I feel like gathering them all up and sitting them all on the naughty step for a couple of hours.  Then lecturing them on the pros and cons of the Twitter use.  I'd offer Shugs a tweet-off but I haven't got money to flash in his face so I don't think it's going to happen.

I could also bang on about public flouncing (yes, Stephen Fry.  I'm looking at you!).  What is the point?  It's the online equivalent to a teenager stomping up the stairs and slamming their bedroom door, only to come down 18 minutes later because they are hungry.  If anyone really wanted to leave, they'd quietly abandon or close their account and disappear into the sunset without any fuss.

"Twitter is the next big thing!"  
I've been saying that for two years.

Because of the media coverage that is given to celebrities using Twitter, I think it gets a bit of a negative press.  Some time ago, I started (but never finished) a post about why I think people should be using Twitter.  This was after a number of friends posed questions such as "What is the point of talking to people you don't know?" (asked by someone masquerading under a pseudonom on an internet forum but, hey...).  It is now becoming more common to swap Twitter names or search for someone's Facebook page rather than exchange phone numbers.

Twitter is very much a "suck it and see" type of social engagement activity.  I respect that it isn't for everyone but I do think that if you already enjoy chatting on MSN or blogging then it has to be something you should try, just for the interaction and promotional aspects.  I also believe that if you use the web-based version then you're not seeing Twitter at its full potential.  You could try an application such as Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Hootsuite.

I sometimes wonder how I managed to accumulate so many followers (without begging for them, natch).  I manage to interact effectively with each of the people I follow unlike a lot of celebrity accounts who either use their twitter accounts as mentioned above or have their minions tweet on their behalf!  It also annoys me to see tweets saying "oohh Im 37 off 500 followers. RT to get me to 500".  SO BLOODY WHAT! Interact with the 463 you already have!

I joined Twitter back in November 2008, wondering what all the fuss was.  Back then hardly anyone was using Twitter and the timeline was open for everyone to view.  Since then Twitter have taken several opportunities to change the way in which the time line works and now you only see updates from people you follow.  How then do you find new people to converse with?  Who is using Twitter other than those within your immediate network?

"Follow Friday" was introduced by Micah Baldwin. I suspect he never realised that a throwaway suggestion of nice, friendly people with whom he conversed was going to become part of the Twitter vocabulary.  #FollowFriday (or #ff) is the recommendation of a few favourite fellow "Tweeps" in the hope that everyone widens their network.  I have to admit that some of my best mates on Twitter have been discovered through these types of recommendations but I think that if you don't control yourself with Twitter (and Facebook for that matter) it is all in danger of imploding.  I can already feel certain circles closing in as the same people tweet the same people who tweet the same people.  Ever decreasing circles instead of network expansion. 

I also think that people forget that nothing is private on the internet, and that includes twitter messaging.  There is a facility called DM, or direct messaging, but that's exactly what it is - direct messaging not visible in the timeline, not a "private message".  My only advice is not to write anything on the internet (blog, twitter, facebook, forums) that you wouldn't be happy talking about or explaining to whom it refers.  It's happened to me.  Someone has misconstrued my words after receiving second or third hand information (think: Chinese Whispers) and they got a bit huffy about it.  Instead of directly asking me for an explanation they are now still very much in the dark about my original intention.  It's their loss.

There have been many discussions on forums about how people are spending more time social networking than they do managing their own real lives but when you consider the way in which the world is becoming dependent on wider connections using the internet, then this type of social life is inevitable.  The old "what can't speak can't lie" adage is fairly true but, unless you are adept at writing (very difficult in 140 Twitter characters or a Facebook status update) then sarcasm or a jokey term may not quite hit the mark when read literally.  Even with smilies.   :-)