I’m here today to talk about a very serious issue – Twitter addiction.
The UK Government now estimates that up to 10m people in this country may be Twitter users, many of them teenagers, too young to drink or smoke, yet free to legally interact with social media, even when it involves members of the opposite sex or people with views at odds to the government’s own!
That is why the Home Office is today launching its “Twitter: Know the facts” campaign, to educate normal, decent people of the terrible dangers that come with this “social” media.
FACT 1: It starts with friends
It’s all too easy for children, teenagers, vulnerable adults and husbands to be drawn into Twitter because their “mates” use it. These “mates” are typically keen to encourage them to set up their own accounts, pretending that doing so offers a richer and more rewarding social life, seemingly oblivious to how little time they now spend away from a keyboard or not staring at their smart-phone.
If you fear somebody you love may be at risk from Twitter users then start by looking at their friends. Are they pasty and introverted? Do they sometimes spend hours trying to think up terrible puns? Do they get twitchy if a sentence goes on for longer than 140 characters? Do they use Twitter street slang, such as “retweets” or “favs”? If so then it’s likely they are addicts and heavy users and it’s important to get them away from your loved ones and family as soon as possible.
FACT 2: It doesn’t stay with friends
Most people would be shocked to discover that upon opening a Twitter account you are “pushed” towards following other people, with the software making recommendations as to who you should follow…even suggesting people you don’t personally know! Up to 98% of new users will follow Stephen Fry, even though he has the capacity to “tweet” non-stop hate-speech or sexually explicit images, should he wish to do so.
Even at this early stage Twitter users can slip straight into hard usage, typically replying to all Stephen Fry or J K Rowling “tweets” with “Plz follow me!”. This sort of shameless behaviour isn’t just promiscuous, it’s un-English!
FACT 3: Celebrity users are a gateway to hard “tweeting”
Within the first month of “tweeting” most users will become addicted to getting “retweets” or gaining followers, and will begin obsessively checking their phones, tablets or PCs. “Favs”, the methadone of Twitter addicts, may satiate them temporarily, but they will return within hours to try to be the first with a quip, pun, point of view or reference to Fight Club.
This need will drive them away from mainstream celebrities, carefully vetted by our over-intrusive media, and into the seedy worlds of minor celebs, punsters, parody accounts, Scottish lawyers or people who inexplicably want you to visit Wakefield.
This is the first stage of full-blown addiction, although the addict will normally still claim that it’s “harmless fun”. However, by this stage 98% of Twitter users will un-follow Stephen Fry, realising that for him Twitter has become impossible, because of the thousands of people replying “Plz follow me!” to everything he tweets. Research shows that by this point more than 60% of Twitter users will have developed abhorrent views. They may start to believe that some news sources are biased, that the government sometimes misleads them, that some issues are more complex than they first seem, or even that it’s acceptable to support the Green Party!
If you suspect that your friend, child or lover has reached this stage then they need professional help – call 999 and ask for a paramedic specialising in Twitter addiction.
FACT 4: It will not stop naturally!
The first time Twitter user will get a “buzz” when they are “retweeted” and will, initially, be delighted when 20 people follow them. Within months that buzz will have worn off and they will be complaining that they only have 300 followers and got a measly 5 retweets on something they thought was good.
From then it’s just a slippery slope until they have 5,000 followers and are regularly hilariously joking that Stephen Fry refuses to follow them. Their life has become their “brand”, they will have no interest in normal human activities, unless they might provide tweetable material, if forced to take a break from Twitter, perhaps to attend the funeral of a parent or spouse or you, they will start apologising for not tweeting.
They are now trapped in the “twitter bubble” from which they cannot escape unaided. If they keep tweeting for the rest of their lives then eventually they will die! There can never be sufficient followers or retweets for them.
FACT 5: You can help
You can easily help out your friend or loved one with just three simple steps, but I’m really close to 400 followers and I just thought of a good Corbyn joke, so I’ll pick this up next week, OK?