It was Dr Samuel Johnson who famously said “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. I thought of this quip over the weekend when reading Ed Sheeran’s dismissive comments about Twitter. He said, “there’s nothing but people saying mean things”. Mmmmmmn.
This is an amusing line and explains his reason for not using Twitter but it is not accurate – far from it. In fact it is nonsense. Don’t blame the media, blame the message and messenger. There’s a lot more to Twitter than meanness. There is of course poor behaviour on Twitter – as in every other way in which human beings interact face to face, by letter, by email, or on social media. It’s not Twitter’s fault that people say mean things and for me the right answer is to see past that to all the positive things it gives us.
It is a fantastic tool to help you connect with people from around the world were you share an interest in something even if you don’t share a continent – a place were you could meet when before that would not have been possible. It is a place to share ideas, views and opinions on an equal footing, where we all play by the same 140 character rule. No money, class or status can give anyone more space to make your point over someone else. Equality of communication. Man. Women. Any age. Any race. Any background. Any person. No barriers to entry. No-one stopping you from making your voice heard.
I totally respect Ed Sheeran’s right not to engage with Twitter, social media or any form of communication if that is his choice – he may have an aversion to carrier pigeon for all I know – but anyone who wishes to connect with a large number of people to share their ideas, work or music but who closes their minds to using social media and especially Twitter is missing a trick.
I use social media many, many times a day. It is not just a sociable, informal way of keeping in touch with friends and family, it is my primary source of news and views during the day. Aside from BBC Radio 4 (first thing for Today, the PM Programme at 5pm and the Six O’Clock News) it is my go-to source of news. I read the FT and New York Times for analysis, opinion and insights. Even the BBC news website, which I still use religiously, is no longer my breaking news organ of choice. But Twitter is where all news is broken; where the big stories are first aired; where every media outlet turns now when something big is happening or about to happen. It is also a place where every influential commentator, decision-maker or power-broker goes to see what is happening in their world. To check in. To listen out. It is the marketplace of the sharing economy.
I like Ed Sheeran. I like his music. I like his amazing story which charts his success from sleeping on the Circle Line to headlining Glastonbury. But, I will keep using Twitter and I hope he joins me and my fellow 328 million tweeters soon as we all think out loud.