Stephen Fry and Twitter wobbles

Stephen-Fry-had-a-Twitter-001Here’s a slightly longer version of a Guardian article I wrote about being a needy, needy performer. It has a couple of bonus jokes in it.

It’s been a lively week in the land of Twitter where anyone who’s monitored my computer use over the last few months will know I’ve been pretty much living (I’m sure I now qualify for dual nationality). First the Twitter King, Stephen Fry, threatens to walk away from the social network because of “aggression and unkindness” which would be our Roland Emmerich disaster movie, our “2012”. Then Katie Price breaks down in no-more-than-140-character sections and tells her “haters” to just attack her and get it off their, er, chest (her words not mine).

The Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Jordan’s meltdown, though sad to witness, was perhaps more predictable than the Ur-tweeter Stephen Fry’s. His reason for wanting to bail out was that one of his 938,485 followers casually mentioned that he found Stephen’s tweets “boring”. It may seem strange that the Great Man would worry about the opinion of one person but as a performer myself, I understood. Compliments are like water through fingers to a performer. Silky water, but water nevertheless. Few of us can quote the best review we’ve ever had but ask us about our worst and we’ll reel off a verbatim list that even Wagner aficionados would find a bit long and tedious. Who cares about a thousand compliments, a single insult confirms what we all deep down feel is true: that we’re rubbish, talentless, or, in my own case, “possessing a face that belongs on the X-Files”.

Time was all you had to do was avoid the reviews and the odd tactless yawn in the audience but now everyone’s a critic. Every youtube clip you’re in, every blog or article that’s posted online leaves space for comments. And Web 2.0 is not shy about telling you what it thinks. Unfortunately, for some of us, the Ego 2.0 upgrades haven’t quite come in yet.

So why not just avoid the comments? I wish it were that simple but we’re insecure performers. We need praise. If I ever have to check into the Priory it won’t be for drink or drugs or sex. It’ll be to try and stop me putting my name into Google. One friend of mine even occasionally checks his feedback on ebay for a little boost. The internet can toss us performers the treats we need but it’s a high risk strategy and Twitter is the highest risk of all.

Like nuclear power, Twitter can be a force for good or evil. It’s great that it allows fans access to their heroes (cheap, affordable fuel), but it also blurs the lines between the public and private (North Korea). Stephen Fry’s momentary wobble, which would have remained tactfully unseen a couple of years ago was suddenly 938,485 times more public (Katie only 425,216 times). And there are other dangers. If you’re not careful it can become like having a microphone available 24 hours a day to go and say something funny into and have people clap approval. The problem can be what happens if they don’t, if even just one of them calls you boring or a slag or the worst thing that ever happened to Peter. I’m sure the Man Who Called Stephen Fry Boring never dreamt Stephen would read what he said, let alone be hurt by it. Just as the woman who filled in a Shag or Not Shag questionnaire on Facebook two years ago about me would never dream that I still remember everything by heart (Not even to save your family? Really?!)

So if you’ve enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. But if you haven’t, then please don’t say anything. Because as sure as Windows 7 follows Window Vista, in a weak moment some time soon, I’ll be going online to have a look.

This article first appeared in The Guardian, November 3rd 2009

  1. TheMole says:

    Enjoyed reading this. Hope that gives you a few seconds of validation.

    The most worrying thing about social media, I reckon, is the increased opportunities for surveillance and data collection it provides.

  2. Shark Trager says:

    I thought you were amazing in Mission Impossible.

  3. Hi thank you for an perceptive post, I actually found your blog by mistake while searching on Goole for something else nearly related, in any case before i ramble on too much i would just like to state how much I enjoyed your post, I have bookmarked your site and also taken your RSS feed, Once Again thank you very much for the blog post keep up the good work.

  4. Lenaville says:

    I don’t think you will actually read this 🙂 but I do find your website simply hilarious.
    As for the article, I enjoy your style. This “Kick me, I don’t care… unless you kick me hard” attitude is endearing.
    Great job!

  5. David says:

    I always read complimentary comments. And then learn them by heart. Thanks for your kind words, Lenaville…

  6. turpit says:

    U the funniest man in 140 chars….reasonable amusing in length. And remember – the Shag or Not Shag lady may not have had a very nice family

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