The nastiest person on Twitter has quit Twitter. Because I’m so generous I shan’t mention his name. All I’ll say is he that he co-wrote one of the 1990s’ warmest, funniest, daffiest sitcoms — which is possibly what made his attack-dog vitriol so especially hurtful. It was like being stabbed with a fork by Gyles Brandreth, kneed in the groin by your vicar, given the middle finger by the Queen. What, you kept wondering, could possess someone you were predisposed to admire to make them behave like such a dreadful heel?
Because social media makes monsters of us, unfortunately. Some people, at any rate. We discussed this at the weekend at the Battle of Ideas festival in London at an event called: ‘We need to talk. The vices and virtues of social media.’ One of my fellow panellists, Alex Benson, a club promoter, described the terrifying sensation of having once been caught in a Twitter storm and feeling so universally hated that he scarcely dared venture outdoors. But when he did so he discovered something odd: in real life (IRL) everyone was as perfectly affable as ever they had been. All that rage had been confined to the social media bubble.
As Benson noted, people say things on Twitter that if voiced in a pub would get you a punch in the face. This is partly because the 140-character medium encourages you to be pithy, provocative and nuance-free in order to grab other users’ attention. And partly because taking out someone when you can’t hear them squeal is much easier than killing them with your bare hands.
Read the rest in the Spectator.