Love it, hate it

Social media's clown prince; Twitter. What would we do without his playful banter and jesting dramatics?

A generation of accelerated communication where any given immediate thought I might have can be shared practically instantaneously (as quickly as I can type 140 characters) with someone on the opposite side of the world. And God damn it the world needs to know what I'm thinking, preferably in a witty attention grabbing sound-bite. A generation where our ego transcends to anyone that wishes to care or clash with it, we exist two-fold, on-line and off-line with our on-line existence protected by anonymity (if preferred) and by virtue of an ip address.

Could we survive without it? For every person using it, there are many more that don't. The fortunate ones. It's not essential but if you're invested in the internet and its every day cycle and recycle then you'll be hard pressed to walk away.

To cover off even half of the things that could be discussed (etiquette, rules of engagement, war games, practices etc) I'd need to write a book to do it justice. As simplistic as the tools to blog and share information is, the relationships with others that participate can be complex and far removed from mundane face to face discussion. You know, discussion where you can articulate with far more composure as the person facing you listens and also takes note of facial expressions and hand gestures. Human contact, that over-rated experience which usually means having to venture outside, is far too much hard work.

Twitter is a crazy mixture of fast paced condensed diplomacy and bravado where your inane thoughts become part of the shared conciousness that's plugged into it. There are unlimited misunderstandings obstructing your every move. But much like real life, you don't always have to navigate yourself around said obstructions. You can always turn around and head into a different direction altogether.

No book, there's no time for that, just me throwing my thoughts into this blog - another tool of social media, one that can be a little more nurtured with slow brooding control and not always reactionary mainly because you have to draft, spell-check (and still miss the grammatical c**k ups), publish and wait for people to read and comment.

Facebook isn't something I'm involved in outside of this blogs own FB group page which is simply used to engage other Spurs supporters with the latest articles and news. Any official page (like the Tottenham one) is best avoided if you don't want to spend your time shrugging in disbelief at some of the inane 'Adrian Durham' styled knee-jerking. It's almost like there's a filter that stops the pragmatic, logical and sane Spurs fans from posting. Which brings us back to Twitter.

Twitter itself is a maze, an impossible to escape labyrinth of continuous information and opinion. Utterly engaging and infuriating at the same time. You can of course escape from it. There's no David Bowie here but there's plenty of muppets. Remove or disable your account; you're a strong person if you don't reactivate it because of that festering obsession with wanting to know if someone is talking about you or if you're missing out on discussion between people you know (but don't really know) that could have done with your interjection of yet another witty soundbite.

Cynical much? I'm not. Not really. I actually enjoy it. I enjoy the mess of it. It's like walking through a muddy puddle. Even though you've just ruined your shoes there is something wonderfully juvenile about it all, a sense of freedom and a unconstrained license to be something a little more colourful than perhaps you would be in normal life. In normal life you wouldn't stand in the puddle and jump up and down in it. Unless your name is Peppa Pig. Or a child.

Hmm...I think I'm onto something.

Or you could just ignore these practices and do whatever the f**k you want.

Or you could just ignore these practices and do whatever the f**k you want.

That's not to say some people don't play it safe and straight. That's not to say everyone is trying hard to please or be something more than what they are. People use it for pleasure, business, work, politics, hobbies, trains of thought similar to theirs - it's multi-layered. There are so many hives of activities and interests.

You can for the most part speak your mind. There's a limit of course taking libel, racism/homophobia and death threats into consideration amongst other anti-social traits. Everyone is learning fairly quickly (thanks to some of the libel cases highlighting that we are all now 'virtual publishers') to have respect for others partaking in this on-line community just like you would off-line. Although someone should gently point out that people are a*seholes regardless of an internet connection. For all the good natured talk there is a fair amount of hate, bullying, bad taste comedy...again, not that different from anywhere else on-line or off it.

Does the platform encourage it? No. Again, the internet and trolling/arguing/debating has been here for a long long time. It's the nature of the beast. Yes people are far braver than they would be face to face but in some ways they are perhaps more honest. And more regretful in the aftermath. You have less control of emotions because emotions can be so much more expressive and creative.

The platform allows us to have discussions with people we probably wouldn't have in any other waking life. The ease for one to default to name calling is no different to any other dark corner of the world wide web.

There's etiquette in terms of how info is shared and even social media cultural annoyances (#FollowFriday RIP). There's the fine art of networking. You can make new genuine friends, meet people face to face, push an agenda or promote something that others are also interested in. You can be unfollowed by someone you like for no apparent reason and feel a little empty about it, momentarily, until you extract 'revenge' by unfollowing them back.

Unlike real life, if something is directed at you, it's a lot easier to walk away from it. Like I said, any obstacle is easily ignored. Then again, it's even easier not to ignore it. Yes, contradiction and hypocrisy are vital building blocks of this thriving community.

You are then sucked into the semantics of right/wrong and the rationalising and justification of whatever it is you've decided to 'discuss'. You can react or be reacted to by its vast ocean of polarity, as you sink or swim. Or just float around not bothered by any of the waves and the occasional whirlpool, preferring instead to laugh in the face of the circling sharks.

You couldn't do this back in the 80s and most of the 90s, pre-internet. Obviously. You just spoke about football with friends in the pub/work/college/school/at the game or got into a ruck at a tube station with rival fans.

Social media itself is simply part of the current chapter of new age tech and communication. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it. It's progress. The problem with social media isn't the technology, it's the users. But much like you have clashes of ego, arguments, fights and disagreements off-line, you can hardly expect peace whilst slagging of X player for a misplaced pass that you have microscopically analysed and commented on in the space of a second. It's just easier to throw words around via the keyboard than it is throwing punches in the street. Not that Twitter itself is exclusively a war zone. There are countless positives to be had. But conflict is what mankind is best at, whether it be on the battlefield or pixelated on Tweetdeck.

The complexities of what constitutes those rights and wrongs is another absolute head f**k. Fact is there is no right or wrong, just opinions. The thought police ever present. Someone shares an opinion about how everyone should support the team and shouldn't seek to scapegoat all the time. Someone else tells that person that there is nothing wrong being critical and that criticism doesn't necessarily mean they are unsupportive and that it's better than being a sheep. Which one is the officer of the law? Why does one person have to abide by the virtues of the next person? There is no written or unwritten rule that encompasses when it's the right or wrong time to say something. You just say it and be damned.

These very same opinions are no different to the ones shared amongst friends (and non-friends) during and after a football match that people physically attend (I think I've done this cyber life and real life comparison to death now). They only appear to be worse on Twitter thanks to the time-line that scrolls in-front of your eyes, forever retaining a scathing opinion (or otherwise), frozen in time and amplified by the very nature of those pesky 140 characters.

Ambiguity, context, sarcasm, parody, satire all mixed up with actual information sharing, stats, breaking news, promotion, awareness drives, social commentary, television commentary. It's a sensory overload and one that you can control by selection. For all the melt downs during and after Spurs games, you can't deny the brilliance of some of the comedy (especially when you see the same 'joke' tweeted 500 times in an hour).

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if they (you, me) choose only to stare at the ugly, that's your own personal prerogative too. It's a popularity contest for some and a process of elimination for others. Posting inane stuff about every day life like it's completely special or entertaining (guilty as charged) even if in 'real life' you wouldn't show a photo of what you ate earlier to a friend (they'll have seen it already on I right?).

From e-mail to usenet and ICQ chat to instant messaging and message continues to evolve and there are still dozens of methods of communication to be had. Twitter is the one that currently works best for truly instant reaction. Breaking new breaks on it before it breaks out on any given news outlet and its yellow ticker. Sometimes it even breaks in the form of live updates. We are truly connected to everything and everyone.

I've always preached that if you follow the right mix of people that relate to whatever interests you have, then it's an engaging tool. A fast moving forum of micro-blogging. It suits me for a number of reasons. Promotion of this place, the podcast, the 1882 movement. Discussions with fellow Spurs supporters (not all followed are people I agree with because I know I can have a good healthy disagreement with them) and other feeds of info from journalists and writers, dj's, authors, scientists and comedians.

I also enjoy the 'game'. Much like a discussion board thread unravels into heated debate and name calling, there's a game of thrones element to how Twitter is used by some. I've been guilty (on the rare occasion) of not involving myself deep in the politics of engaging others. An example would be not attacking someone on-line for their hypocrisy because of the knock-on effect it might have with other users I know which are all connected to the person I planned to attack. A case of not being bothered to argue with people rather than a fear of not wanting to rock the boat. But if I do rock the boat the network of friends might fragment. Did I mention it's also a massive melt of a soap opera too?

I'm perfectly in my rights to hold back if I so wish. I've seen people criticise something I'm involved in and simply make assumptions based on their own ignorance or self-fulfilling misery. Thankfully sometimes 'attacking' back produces strong discussion. Many on-line and on Twitter feel that there is a duty to ones self to avoid being mugged off, so if a statement is made, be prepared to argue for it.

Others use it to appease and aid their own self-doubt and insecurities (what you looking at?) I should care a lot less if I'm perfectly honest with myself. 

Follow. Unfollow. Re-tweets. Stealing tweets. Stand up comedy. AVB OUT. Self-preservation. Finger pointing. Hipsters. The hipster hipsters. The 'in' crowd. People too cool for school. People too school for cool. Them and us. Parody accounts. Accounts that may as well be parody. And so on.

It thrives, it simmers and it explodes.

The reality of all of this is -  we are all part of the biggest reality show there is. One where there are untold millions participating, not all with each other but only with those they chose to friend. You can log off whenever you want. You can even make it untenable for you to remain part of the collective. You could treat it too seriously or not at all. You are not defined by your avatar or the amount of followers or tweets/posts you make. You are defined by what you say and share and your interactions and much like real life (have I mentioned this already?) you are defined by the people you surround yourself with. You are however unequivocally free to behave as you see fit and deal with any consequences that might befall you.

Love it, hate it. Be loved, be hated. It is what it is. An altered state, a cartoon where you choose how animated you want to be. Could I survive without it? Probably. But then how would any of you know what I ate for dinner last night?