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James Butlin Headshot

Twitter's Opinion Problem

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Twitter is an incredible conduit for listening to other people's thoughts on everything and anything, being a bit of a journalist/student/film fan, I'm up to date within seconds on plenty of film news or gossip, whether it gets denounced the next day or not. All the newsy gossip and stuff comes in from the many news people and sites I follow, whether these be well-known hacks or up and coming graduates and students. It's an incredible site and when it's good, it's really good.

However, lately I've come to a realisation that it often gets to a point where you just have to leave it for a few hours. Subjects come up and the subjects could be anything, from gossip (Beyonce's baby) to serious news (Stephen Lawrence's murder trial), and the subjects have to be commented upon. Maybe I should rephrase that, they don't have to be commented upon, but people seem to think they do.

What follows as soon as said news breaks, Twitter floods in with what I like to call the three-step reaction timeline.

First, everyone makes the announcement themselves, via a retweet, or often pretending they broke it themselves, with a (via @joebloggs), this gives them some sort of satisfaction as to being really 'on the ball', whereas a retweet fully acknowledges the original news-breaker, generally a trusted source like Sky News Breaking. Often this follows with a simple opinion, nothing too edgy, saying how the tweeter is "glad justice has been done" or something of that ilk.

The second step is the joke reaction. The tweeter missed the original boat or thinks too highly of themselves to give a real opinion so they just start getting sarcastic and edgy. Often these are well ripped off jokes from Sickipedia or a similar joke website. Steve Jobs died and it wasn't before long that all you could see were "There was no Hope and no Cash and now there's no Jobs".

The third step is a mix of the two, it's a reaction by the first people to the second people, but the key is that it's done indirectly. These usually take the form of saying how people are "so disrespectful" or "how would you feel if this was your dad?" and then everything gets a bit congealed and then everything breaks down into a mix of the three.

The best example of exactly how this worked and how quickly it worked was the death of Amy Winehouse. She'd been hounded in the press for a fair while as her music career started to die away and attention turned to her many substance problems. Originally she was the next big thing, with a soulful voice to die for, but soon it was overshadowed and the press had dived on that, and at the time of her death, the last thing she was remembered for was an awful comeback gig.

When she died, the first thing was to announce it, then within seconds the "she should've gone to rehab" jokes came out and then within seconds people were saying how it was "so sad" and "people shouldn't make jokes".

In all honesty, Twitter is a great place to pour out your opinions, but it's not a race and an opinion isn't a necessity. Just chill out, man.