Was Ryan right to say goodbye to Twitter?
Published 11/08/2011 | 05:00
He's one of Ireland's most famous 'Twits', but this week broadcaster Ryan Tubridy waved goodbye to his 60,000 followers for good on Twitter.
"No drama, just not enough time," the 38-year-old tapped out in his farewell tweet.
Tubridy, who is four weeks into his BBC summer stint, had caused a bit of a stir earlier with a tweet about the London riots.
He was watching coverage on Sky News and commenting on the havoc taking hold of the city. He tweeted: "Awful scenes. The revolution is being televised."
He was believed to be referencing Gil Scott-Heron's 1970s political anthem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
But some followers didn't get the link and criticised him for linking 'ignorant, violent thugs' with a revolution.
Some commentators even speculated that the notoriously conservative BBC could have been concerned about the controversy.
So is this the beginning of the end for Twitter? Deirdre Reynolds and Joe O'Shea argue for and against.
Deirdre Reynolds: These twits do far more harm than good
It used to be the case that only birds could tweet, now it seems almost everyone does. While reading the Henry Miller masterpiece Tropic of Capricorn recently, I stumbled upon the lines: "My friend Kronski used to twit me about my 'euphorias'. It was a sly way he had of reminding me, when I was extra-ordinarily gay, that the morrow would find me depressed."
Modern audiences could be forgiven for thinking the author was way ahead of his time.
In the past, needless to say, the word 'twitter' was defined as a chirruping noise or state of anxious excitement. But try telling that to today's young internet users -- for whom the word has been totally hijacked by a certain social networking site.
Arriving on the cyber scene to a trumpet-blast six years ago, Twitter was instantly hailed the new Facebook -- a natural successor to the then-two-year-old social utility.
After all, why bother going to all the effort of constantly updating your status report, typing out and tweaking your personal information, joining groups and uploading and tagging photos, when you can bore total strangers to tears in just 140 characters?
Twitter took the best (or worst, depending on your viewpoint) of Facebook -- status updates -- and eliminated all the flab.
But as Ryan Tubridy learned to his chagrin this week, its brevity is also its major flaw.
And the reason why I haven't, and will never, succumb to the microblogging site.
Admittedly, I'm no great fan of Facebook either -- indulging, as it does, the nosy neighbour in all of us and moving society one scary step closer to an Orwellian dystopia.
But at least over on Facebook, the user's viewpoint is padded out within the context of their age, where they're from, where they went to school, their religious and political leanings -- even something as simple as your holiday snaps can help build up a more rounded profile of what you're really like.
So when Tubs tweeted the lyrics of a Seventies song that would be obscure to most, it's not surprising that the young fogey -- whom any of his regular listeners will know is a big music fan -- was taken completely out of context.
As one of Ireland's most vocal proponents (and occasionally, critic) of the social networking site, the disappearance of his page will be a big blow to his online presence as he attempts to crack the UK.
But he's just the latest victim of 'thinking aloud' on Twitter.
In a damning blow to his clean-cut image Stateside, golf's golden boy Rory McIlroy was labelled 'a spoiled brat', 'childish and immature' after engaging in a bitter war of words with sports commentator Jay Townsend on Twitter last month.
Meanwhile, WAG Coleen McLoughlin infamously took the bait on Twitter earlier this year -- branding another user a 'dog' after she taunted her on the site. And hubby Wayne Rooney hasn't fared much better -- landing himself in it by threatening to pound a user who posted an abusive message towards him.
Elsewhere, glamour model Katie Price was this week urged to pull her head out after tweeting to moan about a Now magazine article -- while failing to even acknowledge the London riots, which she hastily redressed in a follow-up tweet.
After being subject to a number of personal attacks, Tubridy had a love-loathe relationship with the site before bowing out for good.
In truth, like so many other online forums, it's degenerated into attention-seeking, bitching and bullying -- and who needs that all for the sake of finding out what Kim Kardashian is having for supper?
Incidentally, Kardashian can reportedly command $10,000 per 'advertising tweet' -- further proving what a propaganda machine it's become.
Most celebrities are at pains to stress that the views they express on Twitter are their own -- not that of whoever pays their bills.
But whether we like it or not, we're all working for the man -- and if you choose to get plastered at the Christmas party, urinate in public or flap your lips on Twitter or Facebook, chances are it'll come back to haunt you.
Notching up around 200 million tweets from 200 million users worldwide, Twitter certainly has generated a lot of hot air -- but most of that has been, as Tubridy would put it, 'pub conversation' -- in other words, utterly forgettable and pointless.
So to quote another famous song, and one that I hope won't get me into trouble -- Twits: You say it best, when you say nothing at all.
Joe O'Shea: I'm hooked on Twitter -- but it's a minefield
Twitter can be a bit of a jungle. Especially if you are a high-profile media figure, as Ryan Tubridy has discovered. Even with 60,000 followers and plenty of positivity from fans who have been following his recent foray on to BBC radio in London, Tubridy appears to have grown tired of a fairly constant stream of abuse (all from anonymous big-talkers, of course).<
When you are trying to engage and entertain, being on the receiving end of Tweets such as "Tubbs U R A MASSIVE KNOBHEAD!" might lead you to reconsider iPhone ownership.
The final straw probably came when he tweeted, regarding the London riots, that it looked like "the revolution will be televised".
In typical Tubridy fashion, it was a knowing pop-culture reference. In typical Tweet-o-sphere fashion, a minority of followers completely missed the reference to the rap song by Gil Scott-Heron and piled in with "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE U R CALLING IT A REVOLUTION!!?? -- U MASSIVE KNOBHEAD!".
As Ryan appears to have decided, why would you even bother?
Twitter was supposed to be a boon for celebrities, sports stars and politicians who welcomed the chance to bypass mainstream media and talk directly to the man in the street.
And it has worked out very well for high-profile celebrities, from reality TV star Kim Kardashian and rapper 50 Cent in America (who get paid big money to product-place on the site) to the likes of Stephen Fry and much-misunderstood footballer, ex-con and philosopher Joey Barton.
But the instant, unfiltered access works both ways. And celebrities who put themselves out there on Twitter are doing the cyberspace equivalent of inviting people to come around to their homes, stand outside the window and shout nasty things about their mums.
The bigger you are the more 'trolls' (people who use the internet to provoke and abuse) you are going to attract.
Stephen Fry, wildly popular and loved with almost two million followers, has already 'quit' Twitter at least twice after finding it is not a place for sensitive souls.
And you don't have to be famous to find Twitter a hard place to hang out. With just 140 characters to express your thoughts and plenty of people willing to pull you up on anything from your views on the London riots to bad spelling, it is very easy to start an argument.
My own experience with the micro-blogging site (and you can follow me at @josefoshea) has been very positive since I started four months ago. And I am now totally addicted.
Twitter will not change your life but it will open some very interesting windows and get you engaged with people you would not normally meet.
I love it. But then I do follow some basic rules. First off, don't just blaze away the moment you sign up. 'Lurk' for a while, learn the language and etiquette and ease yourself in.
Funny and provocative is good. But it's important to ask yourself, pre-tweet, "Is this something I would be comfortable saying in company down in the pub?"
Even then, your friends might laugh if you suggested a certain politician "should be shot". But it can look a lot different in cold, hard, pixels.
I am pretty careful about whom I follow (again, I tend to look at their "feeds" or past history of comments and avoid the more obvious head-bangers).
And if somebody has a go, I'll take a deep breath, then either ignore or tweet back with an attempt at humour that might defuse the situation.
There is absolutely no point in piling in with, "OH YEAH!?? WELL YOUR MOTHER SWIMS OUT TO TROOPSHIPS!"
If some randomer is having a go at you for no reason, chances are you are never going to out-crazy them.
Trolls always look for a reaction. They want to argue, it helps fill what otherwise must be very boring and sexually barren lives.
The number one rule of social networking? Never feed the trolls!