I joined Twitter 5 years ago - I was listening to Test Match Special on the first day of the Lord's Test v New Zealand and Alison Mitchell was doing something called 'tweeting from the boundary'. I joined purely to read what she was saying.
Since then I've had lots of fun on Twitter and got to know many kind and interesting people, some of whom I've met in real life. The key word is 'fun' - and when something done in leisure time ceases to be fun then it may be time to walk away.
I've never automatically followed those who follow me - instead I've looked at their tweets and, if I've found the tweets interesting and the person has engaged with me, then I've followed back. Beyond that I've followed various sports and news journalists, commentators and players.
When Margaret Thatcher's death was announced I knew there would be some unpleasantness on Twitter - but I didn't expect to see the worst of it, having been reasonably discerning in who I follow.
I was wrong - the spite, bile and viciousness that passed through my timeline was breathtaking. I unfollowed so many who previously I had thought of as reasonable, normal folk, who either tweeted their own vicious messages or RTd ones they agreed with.
Maybe it's due to my age (I'm 60 next month) but I was astonished and depressed at the tweets about an 87 year old mother, grandmother and friend who had left politics so long ago. So much so that I stayed off Twitter.
Yesterday, expecting the worst to have passed, I launched Twitter and read some tweets - only to find a storm about @Old_Holborn. I looked into what had happened and found his abhorrent tweets about the Boston bombings, the Jamie Bulger murder and the death of the 96 Hillsborough victims. I wasn't surprised, for years he's been an attention seeking, bandwagon jumping, arse.
What DID surprise and depress me was the number of tweets defending him on the grounds of that old, convenient chestnut, 'free speech' - again, those tweets were on my timeline. The Old Holborn tweets were gratuitously nasty and designed to offend whilst hiding behind an excuse of 'free speech' - the exact kind of thing that gives free speech a bad name. That people, having read them thought Old Holborn's tweets worthy of defence is, in the parallel universe that I inhabit, astonishing. What happened to basic common decency and kindness?
Maybe, just maybe, I'm not the kind of person who should use Twitter any more.....
Keith Simpson's Christmas Reading List
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