Twitter has soared like the mercury on an Australian thermometer to become one of the world’s most-visited websites. Facebook, its older cousin, the 5th most-used social networking utility, has become so alarmed that it is redesigning. Neither make money (nor does Thus, to be fair). The Twitter logo is a Disney birdie twittering on a branch. The inference is that we all need to put aside our fears of the meltdown of society and tweet banalities like there’s no tomorrow. The Queen tweets. Bono tweets. Starbucks probably tweets. Get with the program. Keep chattering and nobody will get hurt. Capice? Huxley’s Brave New World anticipated the phenomenon: Twitter may be the Soma of the chatterati, or it might just be a symptom of our terminal descent into the Age of Stupid. (twitter: go and see this great film, released on 15 March. Mates of mine were involved. Don’t let that put you off).
Pop artist Patrick Hughes used to hand people an exquisite calling card inscribed with the single phrase: ‘Why are you telling me this?’ I’ve been trying very hard to understand why anyone feels the need to bother strangers with random jibber-jabber, and how this has become a global phenomenon. Trying to fathom the Zeitgeist, I joined Twitter, but frankly couldn’t make beak nor tail of it. The first thing it asks is ‘ what are you doing right now?’ My immediate reaction was: ‘depends who’s asking.’ I probably should have stopped there, but in a spirit of uncharacteristic bonhomie replied that I was ‘thinking about revolution, and how to start one.’ Nobody seemed interested. I tried again, wondering if ‘the CIA, Mossad and M16 ‘Twittered.’ I now have seven followers. One is Barack Obama. Last time I looked, he was following 368,000 Twits. If he’s spending his time reading messages in the ether about someone’s plans to meet their friend Sandra for a lary hen night, thinly-veiled PR plants such as: ‘Buying tickets to see the great film, Watchmen,’ or ‘drinking Lucozade’ I think we have the answer as to the outcome of the current global crisis.
“Things Can Only Get Better” by D:Ream was the sinister and emetic anthem of Blair’s New Labour, fittingly a middle-of-the road song from a made-up pop group. Things most certainly didn’t get better for the huddled masses in Iraq, who got their arses tweeted out of existence by people they’d never harmed and didn’t even know. They didn’t get better for the workers – they never did, really. They didn’t improve for the middle classes, who saw their real disposable incomes fall by up to 30% in the US and UK. They did get better for Tony, Cherie, a bunch of warmongering liars, private equity spivs, arms dealers, some Jocks who ruined our financial system and people who sell surveillance systems. I’m not a natural optimist, and don’t join in with football chants or the national anthem. I didn’t cry when Elton John crooned ‘Candle in the Wind’ in a ridiculous wig at Di’s funeral. I’m not a natural Twit. My loss, I know. Another Scottish pop group, actually called ‘Middle of the Road,’ penned one of the most vapid hits of all time: ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep,‘ whose non-sequitur lyrics can be viewed as a surrealist comment on the emptiness of existence (‘where’s your momma gone – far, far away’) or as absolute bollocks. Either interpretation will suffice, if you think about it, which I know is a deeply unfashionable pursuit. It spent 34 weeks in the international charts then disappeared like Boo.com.
Fair play to Twitter and all the Twits. My partner in crime, Daniel Taghioff, started Twittering a week ago at my behest and has amassed a following of thousands. His tweets are sensible, pithy and occasionally witty. But I’m with Patrick Hughes. I don’t know why you’re telling me this.