Friday, 21 February 2014

Twitter could render us all brainless. Sign up today!


Ah, Twitter; the moderately new centre of the Universe. It is our go-to for news, sport and weather, as well as viscous arguments, homophobia and racism whenever we bloody well feel like it. Apologies, I mean controlled discussion and the sharing of information. Of course that is what I meant. Or is that just the fantasy of Twitter, the reverse version of George Orwell's 'Big Brother' in which we cannot refrain from revealing every action of our lives to? It's like being stalked in reverse.

What exactly is the difference between the pretty, sickly reputation of Twitter as the biggest time-wasting utensil in the world compared to the reality that many of us numbly scroll through, retweeting hilarious pictures of overweight Americans taking selfies while laughing heartily at people on benefits on Channel 4 because, after all, they're not real people are they?

Now, if like me, you're sad enough to visit 'The Twitter Rules' page on the company's website to find the answer to what exactly you're supposed to do with this application for interacting with all of your imaginary friends, you'll find this:

"Our goal is to provide a service that allows you to discover and receive content from sources that interest you as well as to share your content with others. We respect the ownership of the content that users share and each user is responsible for the content he or she provides. Because of these principles, we do not actively monitor and will not censor user content, except in limited circumstances."

This embodies the vision of equality which (put on your best sarcastic tone here) 'The Virtual Revolution', the growth of the Internet, is supposed to promote. Essentially, due to how Twitter is now used by the average person, it encourages the sharing of those stupid pictures of Arsene Wenger falling over or those idiotic accounts which exist just to tweet every single one of us fake links to 'One Direction tickets' which, if you click on, will likely involve some middle-aged man hooking up to your computer, stealing all of your credit card details and personality traits and retiring to Monaco on a sun lounger acting as the new you while the real you begs for money on the corner of the street you once lived on.

Anyway, the above Twitter policy, despite it not considering the possibility of trans-genders providing content for others in this modern, politically-correct age (Only "he or she"? The bastards!), does sound attractive. It's quite the sell-line for somebody contemplating selling their soul to Twitter, and that is undoubtedly the reason for its existence.

In fact, it does ring true in countless senses, as I can easily "discover and receive content from sources". Right now, I can instantly search for the reports and opinions on the thousandth round of Syrian peace talks, or watch video clips of news reporters donning Wellington boots and getting rather wet while those forced out of their houses make hilariously rude gestures in the background (this has been commonplace on the BBC News channel of late).

You see, Twitter is like a virtual onion. Not only will it make you cry at some point (although onions probably won't insult you for having an opinion), it has multiple layers - according to who and what you 'follow', that is. This socially accepted virtual stalking allows you and I to use the social network to suit our needs, whether it be viewing pictures of slaughtered animals in Africa and hurling abuse at the unknown poacher ("I hope you die, you Simba-murdering tw*t!", goes the average response) or following every politician under the sun and therefore having a timeline resembling the mind of a BBC Radio 5 Live day-time presenter.

The customisation element is genuinely brilliant, allowing every one of us to have this free, constant...thing...which has become so imperative to all areas of the media in order to interact with us. Anything you or I could ever want to learn or know can be collated into one constant stream of information. It eclipses everything that Facebook and all of the prehistoric social websites such as Myspace ever stood for or achieved. Although I wouldn't know whether Google+ is any good at this stuff, as it consists mostly of unearthly, cryptic symbols and patronising thingymajigs which are surely what the carvings of drug-crazed cavemen wearing 3D glasses would look like.

Seriously, I believe that Twitter is a genius idea; but, from many a person's experience, it's like a group of primates being handed a TARDIS or like giving Justin Beiber alcohol, drugs and a car. However, we are ALL guilty (unless you're really, really boring) of brilliantly and shockingly defying what Twitter's philosophical commissioners musty have once envisioned due to how we use it.

As an average Twitterer and 'micro-blogger' myself, it's hard not to see that side to the website which completely contradicts its own ideology. I imagine, given the fact that you may be reading this after finding in on Twitter, there's a large possibility that you are something along the lines of a hash tag-loving teen, one of those suspicious eggs or a creepy impersonator. There's also a slim chance you may be a normal, real person.

Therefore, you may well be able to relate to the daily happenings of Twitter that we view when stood knee-deep in the excess water of the Thames or half-watching Britain not be shit at snowboarding anymore but be shit at commentating on it instead. Ha ha ha, let's all celebrate and laugh at the snowboarder falling on her arse and destroying the dream she's had for the last four years.

So, what are these so-called daily happenings? What defies the democracy of our parallel, virtual world? First up, we have the classic and incredibly entertaining argument. In its purest form, it can be over literally anything from Justin Beiber and One Direction to some form of football-related 'controversy'. This occurs so frequently that right now in Britain there is roughly one sandbag for every 50 arguments spawned by Harry Styles' choice of hair products or John Terry's existence or something or other.

A typical disagreement, or "spat" if you write about these things as if they're real news, begins with one of two occurrences: the polite disagreement or the all-out, sweary attack, with the latter obviously being the more thrilling way to kick things off. This is naturally followed by personal insults which steadily multiply in severity as one person insults another due to their idiotic appearance in their profile picture, or alternatively brings their 'mum' into it.

Either of them are then likely to assume the undisputed status of Grammar God of the Internet. They will likely criticise their opponent on a small spelling error and thus it all concludes in a satisfying "yeah...well...just f*ck off". God help them if they happen to be a woman with a controversial opinion on anything as well - grr, stupid female, what can she know, get back to the kitchen, etc., etc., scream the voices from our friendly, revolutionary cyberspace.

Further Twitter meltdowns are due to the animal sympathy or killing sprees I mentioned earlier, particularly the giraffe murdering of late which is trending in European zoos, as well as the resurfacing images of distressing poverty or some form of socially unacceptable image plucked from 2009 which was long forgotten. These pictures are carefully selected by vain, teenage males pouting and displaying their abdominal muscles in their pictures and begging for retweets in order for their celebrity egotism to be satisfied. By the way, please retweet this article once you've read it, please do it, please please pleaaase.

One recent fashion and gleeful pastime of many British users I have noticed is to tag the Metropolitan Police's official account in posts; this is often connected with users labelling any ageing male with facial hair as some sort of Operation Yewtree suspect. Perhaps, I admit, it could be worse; at least people's limbs seem to stay attached to their bodies, unlike what Facebook became infamously popular for.

However, I'd imagine it to be almost fact that everybody follows or knows of at least one weirdo who posts or retweets material that indefinitely makes you sit and ponder what the f*ck is wrong with the world. You see, the explicitly dark side of Twitter appears to be some form of uncensored Death Star for stormtroopers with their thumbs fused to the 'tweet' button by an invisible force called stupidity.

In-between notoriously 'trolling' celebrities and public figures for the hell of it (the racism and homophobia and personal abuse is reaching new levels), we users may well laugh at an innocent video or be interested in a piece of artwork or flick through a collection of photographs to enjoy the digitally edited world from our own home.

However, by the time you find yourself doing anything of the sort, it becomes evident that, actually, you've spent the last six days sat in the same spot doing nothing but flicking aimlessly through the lives and profiles of a million other users in a sort of virtually-induced fugue state. Think of all of the time in life you've spent on Twitter not actually doing anything: it'd be pretty scary if you were to add it up, wouldn't it? It's something we are all guilty of, but it blows the mind to actually consider the time wasted doing, ultimately, nothing.

Seeing as how most of the planet is now supposedly hooked on social networking and can't even reach for the toilet roll properly in case their laptop falls from their naked thighs, we should all take one long, hard look at ourselves (in the reflection of your device's screen, right now). Or should we? It's just normality, after all; it's widely and socially accepted these days that we all have a virtual copy of ourselves, whether it be an accurate representation of who we are or not. In fact, maybe I've just exaggerated everything about Twitter and what it stands for, throwing a dark twist in there to just make you think a little more than you would have if this had been the average, boring Twitter article. Silly me.

And so, the meaning of 21st century life all depends on what you want Twitter to be for yourself. Sitting bang on the fence, I can look both ways and take in both sides of the daily Twitter activity. To one side, there's the Twitter that makes The Lord of the Flies look like a gentle, friendly fairytale - a place cut off from the world where the evil sides of people which wouldn't be seen in real society can dwell.

Inevitably, this is skirted over by parental-type journalists who point the finger at Facebook and blame it for creating the seven deadly sins; simply because the weird side of Twitter is hidden completely in plain sight and they haven't noticed it yet. If I'm to look the other way, however, there exists the polished, angelic Twitter: a world in which users send images of fluffy kittens to one another, debate political issues sensibly and in a refined manner, read news sensibly and just follow celebrities instead of aiming 140 characters' worth of personal abuse at them.

How long the modern world's Twitter addiction will last is unforeseeable; however, it may be simply abandoned by its users and left to die as the planet moves onto the next popular social website, and I'll moan about that one instead. Alternatively, an all out battle will occur resembling what World War 3 would look like if it were online, the whole of the Internet will implode and we'll all be living in caves soon after, wishing Stan Collymore had never been trolled in the first place. I hold no doubt that you do not wish to end up as a brainless, insulting shell of a human being, am I right? Seriously then, you should save yourself while you can.

Anyway, I'm off to tweet angrily about the people who won't read this article, the selfish, stuck up, newspaper-reading bigots, so leave me in peace.

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