It’s Not a Conversation, Stupid

Heads up chaps. While this post is to do with something that’s ongoing here, in the good ‘ol UK of GB’n’NI (although, if anyone’s feeling radical, I’m not horribly possessive about NI and, quite frankly, think it would probably be best if we just quietly gave it back, without much of a fuss, d’you see), there’re bigger issues up for grabs here.

I am, of course, talking about what we might call (and probably will fairly soon) McAlpinegate or Twittergate, which, for those who don’t follow current affairs in the UK, and I suspect there may be a few, is the threat, by lawyers working on behalf of Lord McAlpine, sometime Treasurer of the Tory Party and all-round Big Beast, to hunt down and punish those Twitter users who promoted and furthered certain recent (and unfounded) allegations about aforementioned former Treasurer. (And breathe.)

Be that as it may. It’s a lead in to a couple of issues. The first is one that I’ve posted about before – and I know that linking to oneself is the height of vanity publishing, but, hey, I’m flexible enough – and is the propensity for ostensibly sensible people to go all yoghurt-brained when confronted by social media in all their myriad forms and with all their myriad possibilities, and to start publishing things that are either inappropriate, or offensive, or cringeworthy or simply just cretinous in the extreme. I called it Twitterette’s Syndrome. (Thank you. Yes. I thought it was brilliant also.) It is this, in part, that has lead to certain Twitterers leaving themselves open to a right royal suing for libel. Ouch. Costly.

The second is an issue that is raised in this rather edifying piece from yesterday’s Evening Standard, a widely-read (and quite informative) newspaper, based here in London. The issue is that social media, by their very natures, encourage people – if not into full-blown Twitterette’s, at least into unguarded and unwise commentary. As the author, Sam Leith, rightly points out – social media, through their informality, lead us to believe we’re engaging in conversation.  By dealing in the moment-by-moment, that all is temporary. By being streams of content, that they’re transient.

None of this, of course, is true. If you Tweet something, you are publishing.

And what was it someone once said? ‘Publish and be damned’? How, I sincerely hope, very appropriate.

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