News Ian O'Doherty

Friday 19 September 2014

Twitter makes you mad? Only if you let it ...

Published 13/08/2014 | 00:00

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Beauty show: organisers of the Texas-based Universal Royalty pageant plan to hold a competition in Belfast.

As news flashes from the vaults of the screamingly bloody obvious go, the study, which found that Twitter can turn you into a head case with psychotic tendencies, won't have come as much of a surprise.

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After all, the micro-blogging site is perfectly designed to allow people to spew the bilge and effluent that passes for their thoughts to as many followers as they can muster.

Is that unfair? Yeah, it probably is. But it's also a fairly accurate representation of the murkier end of the pool on Twitter.

The news that a woman in Berlin became so obsessed with it that she was hospitalised is surely, however, taking things a bit too far.

According to the five doctors who have studied 'Mrs C': "She would spend several hours a day reading and writing messages, neglecting her social relationships and, sometimes, even meals and regular sleeping hours." That will probably resonate with plenty of people who have found themselves stuck in a loop on social media. After all, plenty of us know what it's like to lose themselves online; back in my gaming days, it was not uncommon to spend an entire weekend trying to crack Medal Of Honour.

But we also know there is a difference between the virtual and the real. And the fact that the woman was also convinced that an unnamed celebrity was sending her coded messages would appear to indicate a deeper psychological malaise than merely spending too much time glued to her phone.

If you listen to some of the more excitable commentators, you will hear plenty of Chicken Licken warnings about Twitter and Facebook bringing about a cultural apocalypse, where everyone loses their own humanity and individuality and becomes a vicious, spiteful electronic assassin who exists only to make other people's lives as unbearable as possible.

And, it should be noted, these people can be quite successful in their endeavours. But here's the trick, and it's a painfully obvious one - simply refuse to let the bastards grind you down.

Yes, yes, I know.

That's easier said than done and sometimes you're simply not in the mood to be abused by a whole raft of low-rent simpletons who use the device as a form of anger therapy.

Japanese companies used to encourage employees to spend 20 minutes at the start of every day bashing a dummy with a big stick. Similarly, there is no shortage of folk who use this mode of communication to vent their bile and they seem to use it as an emotional purgative. And if they happen to ruin someone's day, then all the better.

But for every story about someone, usually an aspiring celebrity, who find their lives being made a living hell by hateful tweets, the one question always springs to mind - why don't you just block the people who are bugging you?

Personally, I've probably blocked nearly as many people as I follow, simply on the basis that you wouldn't sit in a public place and take that kind of shit from anybody, so why would you listen to them in cyberspace?

The German study claims that people 'prone to psychological disorders' tend to become obsessive pests when they're on Twitter and Facebook. And you can never, ever beat crazy.

But blocking certainly shuts them up. And bugs the hell out of them.

I guess she's doing it for the little ones

One of the most bizarre kerfuffles of recent years was the furore over an on-again, off-again child beauty pageant. Brought to us by self-confessed 'larger than life' (or, if you prefer, mad as a box of frogs) organiser Annette Hill, the outrage was far more entertaining in the feathers it ruffled than the show itself.

The debate shows the rank hypocrisy and utter refusal to engage the brain that infects so many Irish people. After all, when you have Irish parents hiring Jordan's carriage to bring their kid to their First Holy Communion, going all moral majority on an essentially dumb but harmless pageant smacks of double standards with lashings of prim mendacity thrown in for good measure.

Now the Texas-based Universal Royalty pageant is back on our shores, if not necessarily back in our country, with plans for one show in Belfast.

Having previously been treated as if she was carrying a particularly virulent form of Ebola, Hill says she "wants to do this for the people of Ireland".

Um, she wants to do this for the people of Ireland? Or she wants to do this to the people of Ireland?

Is it because she is not black? Yes.

Rather than signalling a great bridge between the races in America, Obama's election seems to have served only to further polarise relations between black and white in America. Some of his critics are undoubtedly bigots, who will simply never accept him or anything he does, purely on the basis of his skin colour. But when it comes to segregation and exclusion, there are plenty of people in the black community who are just as dumb and blinkered as their white brethren.

Take the case of Rachel Brothers, who recently won a law suit against her former employers, the Black Educators Association, after she was fired for not being black enough.

Brothers became the victim of a campaign of harassment from one of her subordinates, Catherine Collier, who objected to her new boss on the grounds that "she was too young and too light-skinned",

I wonder would the White Educators Association do the same thing? Oh wait, there isn't one. Because that would be racist.

Irish Independent

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