When I first learned of Twitter (which then had a 128 character limit), I thought it dangerous and felt it risked trivialising serious issues, I avoided it like the plague. How can you have a serious debate when you have so few letters to make your case? I was persuaded to relent, as friends pointed out that I was missing the opportinity to promote my blogging activities, which are important to me. I am still not sure I made the right decision, although having just shy of 3,000 genuine followers, all of whom are lovely, I do realise I shouldn't judge the community by the dozen or so vainglorious fools I've blocked.
Almost immediately I regretted joining. I discovered the appalling world of Trolls. I discovered that people actually think having lots of fake and phoney accounts following you is not only desirable but worth spending time and money on. I learned that some rather silly people judge you by the size of your following, rather than the quality of what you post. I found that some people see Twitter as a game of "Gotcha!". I discovered that some people set up accounts where they pretend to be someone else, purely to congratulate themselves on the marvellous quality of their own tweeting. For the first few years, with a sense of pompous self importance, I had a policy of blocking no one and always responding to lies, misinformation and all of the other rubbish we have to endure. Then I was diagnosed with cancer, took a long, hard look at myself and realised that not only was this futile, it was stupid and damaging. I took a different path. If I think someone is an idiot, I block them and ignore them. Quite often, friends screen shot and send me details of the stupidity of some of the worst people I've come across, but I have no interest in them. Why would anyone choose to fill their life with nonsense? Very occasionally, today was one such day, I get sent a screenshot and my curiosity gets the better of me and I have little peek at what the Trolls have been up to.
Invariably, I see a stream of banal rubbish, that any sane person would block. It has absolutely confirmed my determination to exclude such rubbish from my timeline and my thought processes. In some ways, the worst trolls I've encountered have done me an enormous favour, as they made me realise that blocking stuff that is boring, stupid and plain idiotic is a great idea. If it isn't directed at me, I just unfollow the account, but if stupid people want to start a dialogue that is purely done to irritate, it is very much C U Next Twaterday mate.
What is interesting is how Trolls are almost universally narcissistic, thin skinned, very unintelligent (often pretending they have degrees from Oxbridge, when their tweeting displays that the only time they've been to Oxford is to buy a tin of beans from Aldi) and compulsive liars. They regularly contradict themselves. They adopt confrontational positions, which they post remorselessly, posting links to dubious websites and Daily Mail comment articles as 'proof' and 'facts'. They develop unhealthy obsessions with unsavoury characters, who they see as fellow travellers, remorselessy retweeting them. They will manically post dozens of tweets, then completely disappear for a while, only to re-emerge (I wonder if it is when the Largactol wears off?). They love to tweet how wonderful they are, how many followers they have, how they were the first to do something, yet never actually post any content of their own, preferring to nick the pictures of others. I am constantly surprised that when Trolls do post original content, it is always awful. Pictures are badly composed, websites they create are dull and unoriginal, which look like adverts for 1970's cats home bazar's. It seems that many Trolls seem to think that their imaginary friends are real people. I am sure many of them could do with some counselling ( I am not saying this as a dig, I'd genuinely like to see them get help and get a life).
When I say this, I am, of course, completely ignoring the good side of Twitter. The side we highlight on the Tweets of the Week. The interesting info, the good guys. The rich goldmine of fascinating information. These keep me engaged with the medium.I have a small hope that Twitter will become what it should be, interesting and fun. This will happen, when people stop getting sucked into battles with Trolls and simply ignore them, block them and move on. You don't deliberately pull up a chair at the Pub Bore's table if you see them in your local. You move on to the next pub. Do the same with Twitter