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My latest piece in The Oldie

Twitter and the rest

January 2018

We hear endlessly about  ‘social media’, especially on the BBC.  What they usually mean is Twitter or Facebook.  I barely use either of them; in fact, if they were dis-invented, I doubt I would care one, let alone two hoots; the truth is, they are often far from social if by social one means friendly.

This doesn’t mean they aren’t popular, influential and occasionally useful – and there’s the rub.  They are far more prominent than they have a right to be, but it is not just their fault.

Let’s look at who uses Twitter, for example.  True, there are many businesses; no problem there provided that we recognise that it’s just another form of marketing.

It’s most of the other users that are the problem, those people who believe we want to hear what they’ve got to say.  Twitter is all too often a platform for what we once called barrack room lawyers, pub bores and some delusional fanatics who use the anonymity that Twitter offers to say things that would get them arrested if they said it on a crowded train.

In other words, whatever you see on Twitter is from a self-selecting group of people who are either promoting their careers (Piers Morgan, or even the blessed Gyles Brandreth of this parish) or who simply like the sound of their own voices. 

I have no problem with the former – we all have to earn a living - the trouble is, it tends to be the latter who receive the attention, and worse, they especially attract lazy news reporters. 

In the olden days (less than a couple of decades ago) the only way to judge the mood of the people was to ask them; a reporter got on the phone and started calling around, or, better, went out on the street and started asking around.  I was recently at a conference on digital journalism; one grey haired regional newspaper editor there was exasperated by his young reporting staff who, he said, seemed to think that they had office jobs, that they could do it all sitting at a desk and that reporting what is said on Twitter is a fair representation of what people actually think.

That’s nonsense, of course; not least because Twitter and Facebook are already known, by the young, as ‘old person media”.  The young look elsewhere, which is why Facebook, especially, keeps buying up the new kids on the block, most recently WhatsApp and Instagram.

Ah, WhatsApp.  Now that really is for us Oldies.  You need a smartphone to use it, but once you vault that hurdle, it is free to use and for the moment there are no adverts. I image we may have to pay a few pounds a year to avoid the adverts one day, but I would happily stump up.

WhatsApp is a means of sending written, audio or video messages, or make phone calls, to those people you have chosen (and who have accepted you). It works worldwide, is private, encrypted and secure. 

It’s most useful feature is probably the ability to create private groups of people.  You send one message to the group and they all get it, but no one else does (unlike Twitter or Facebook where it’s much too public). We have a ‘family’ group for passing news around our children; I am also part of a group that includes only members of a Board on which I sit, and a friend has a ‘golf’ group of golfing cronies, and which they use to arrange games.

Of course, the loudmouths don’t like it, because they are never invited to join a group, or if they are and but prove irritating, they are ejected.  Now that is a social medium - or socially acceptable, anyway.

 

Some more resource

To find out more about WhatsApp, go to their website:  click here:  https://www.whatsapp.com/

 

News that WhatsApp may be intruding adverts - perhaps starting in India.  I did warn you.

Click here

 

A note on The Spectator showing how MPs use the WhatsApp Group facility: Click here

 

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