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Matthew Phillips

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I am on Twitter and I Need to be Loved

Posted: 27/09/2012 01:00

To date, I have 625 followers precisely. It is a feeble, impotent number and I blush crimson with embarrassment when I dwell on it too much. The figure leers out at me from my iPhone, a constant reminder of my crippling inability to make virtual friends, let alone real ones. Christ, there are five-year-olds with Chicken Pox in Cheshire that have more followers than I do. It is a perennial source of chagrin that I - a master of polysyllabics - fail to attract more attention.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, demurely, that your Twitter feed is even less popular than my own. Do not berate yourselves my dears; you're probably not an artist attempting to utilise Twitter as a promotional platform. If you are, heaven help you!

In any case, it can't be denied that Twitter has completely redefined the relationship between performers and their fans. Once upon a time, our glitterati were untouchable and infallible. Nowadays, one is likely to receive a personal invitation from Peter Doherty with instructions to burgle his house, graffiti his walls and scandalise his personal bidet. Where, I ask you, has all the mystery gone? Furthermore, why do we, as users, actively choose to make ourselves party to the laconically banal soundbites of our most cherished stars?

Twitter only grants 140 characters per Tweet. I don't know about you, but I can barely complete a decent subordinate clause within such restrictions. I appreciate that we live in an age of austerity, but I do not see why we have to be as frugal with our language as we are with our finances. Perhaps as a result of this, Louise Mensch (remember her?) has recently launched her own social media network - the narcissistically titled Menshn - that extends its character limit to an apparently generous 180. Mind you, who, apart from Mensch and its co-founder, Luke Bozier, will be using Menshn? The point is, these limitations, whether of 140, 180 or 2272 characters, are entirely arbitrary. There will always be a 'somebody', somewhere, dictating what confines we nobodies are destined to observe.

Have you ever considered why a CD is exactly 74 minutes in length? Not 70 minutes or 80 minutes as might be expected, but exactly 74 minutes. The story behind this peculiarity is heartening: during the creation of the original Compact Disc, the President of Sony decided that the new format should be able to contain Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor in its entirety. And so, owing to the eccentric whims of a classical music enthusiast, rather than to the mechanics of an industry, the CD was born.

However, although listening to Herr Ludwig could be viewed as a culturally enhancing exercise, confining our Twitter gambits to a paltry 140 characters is decidedly less ennobling. Let's face it, the grammar such enforced brevity breeds is an absolute disgrace. At a time when our young schoolchildren can barely spell the newly proposed Baccalaureate that they are destined to sit, it is clear that the future of syntax in our society is doomed. Don't get me wrong, I understand the reasons why Twitter chose to curtail its updates - I'm not a complete nincompoop - I just bemoan the relentless dumbing-down of our beautiful language.

I suppose this article must sound like the futile rant of an embittered reactionary and, in that assumption, you would be correct. You see, Twitter is the most juvenile and cruel popularity contest I have encountered since, as a child, I was last-picked for every football game that I had the misfortune of participating in. I am as bereft of followers now, as I was of willing teammates during my internment in the playground.

Alas, due to the fact that I have a band to propagate, it seems that I have little choice but to join the bovine masses and make it my quest to increase Kites' online social status. Thankfully, London is presently hosting Social Media Week - a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media - and I, for one, will be taking notes. I need all the help I can get.

So, yes, I will Tweet about this article. I will probably also ask the good people @HuffPostUK to Tweet it too, before retweeting it myself. Perhaps I'll even @mention Menshn in a shoddy attempt at wordplay. Egad(!), I'll join Menshn myself if its founders are willing to ignore the prerogative remarks made in this article.

Meanwhile, I invite you all to investigate my Twitter account where I can be observed attempting to cram a sonnet into 140 characters. After all, someone has to wave the flag for morphology in a climate of grammatical indolence. Join the revolution @kitesonline.

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photo by Eloisa Cuturi

 

Follow Matthew Phillips on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kitesonline

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