In Tweetment: Colm O'Regan's guide to understanding social media

23/11/12 at 09:38 AM | 0 Comments

“And would you have much to do with this oul Twitter?” Chances are some of you may have uttered or encountered this sentence recently. A similar question has been asked about previous innovations over the centuries. It usually occurs when the public and private chatter about a new paradigm has become impossible to ignore. It has been heard from the start of this century “I suppose all of your friends now have these mobile phones.” right back to antiquity “And would you have much to do with this oul Fire?”. At some point the curiosity of the majority is piqued. This point is often where ‘The New Thing Now’ very publicly collides with a bastion of What We’re Used To.

Now that time has come for Twitter and the one single event that made it relevant? When it got Pat Kenny into trouble.

Over the last few years, many people in the public eye have made missteps because of Twitter. James Mclean fumed about Trappatoni, Chris Andrews pulled a shnakey one giving out about his own colleagues, Sinead O’Connor fired a barrage of rockets when she laid into someone pretending to be Linda Martin (with some of the shrapnel hitting the RTE make-up department). But that was to be expected. “A lot of these ‘celebrities’ are half-cracked anyway.”

But when Pat Kenny landed himself in hot water on the Frontline last year, when he read out an incorrect tweet, well, that was a different matter. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to Pat. He might have had the awkward moment on the Late Late with the grumpy woman not wanting the Toy Show tickets, Brigitte Nielsen taking off her boot or Pete Doherty pulling his hat over his eyes. But that wasn’t his fault. “The Late Late just never suited him”.

The Frontline thing was different. Pat got in trouble. So now, with the RTE report out, Twitter is back in the news. Therefore how should one answer the question – “Would you have much to do with this oul Twitter?”

Previously an explanation of Twitter might have required a little background explanation of the Internet. That is no longer necessary. Following the launch of pricepropertyregister.ie EVERYONE in the country is on the Internet because it finally has a proper reason for existing: To find out how much a neighbour’s house went for.

You can cut straight to the chase. The official definition is that Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as "tweets". To better understand it, think of Twitter as a room on the Internet where lots of people are talking and very few people are listening.

If you are going to get “mixed up in this oul Twitter”, there are a few important terms you should acquaint yourself with.

Followers: These are people who’ve signed up to read what you have to say. The rule of thumb is that the more followers you have, the better a human being you are. Not all followers are positive towards you. Some may hurl abuse. Think of the scene in Michael Collins where Liam Neeson gives a stirring speech on the back of a truck “Who’ll take my place?” He says. Amidst all the enthusiastic cheering, insert a few more people in there shouting “You’re only a bollox Michael!” And that’s Twitter.  

Retweet: Repeating what someone else said – it’s the cornerstone of gossip. Unfortunately, from a legal point of view, it’s dangerous. With real gossip some degree of protection can be created with the phrase “You didn’t hear this from me now” but on Twitter, you clearly did. And Lord McAlpine knows where he heard it too.

Hashtag: Somewhere in its illustrious history the ‘#’ character has come to mean only one thing to millions of people. Originally it was the hurried scribble which mediaeval clerks wrote “lb” for pounds, then it became a noughts-and-crosses symbol for people with small hands. On Twitter when it is placed in front of a word it becomes ‘alive’ and that word or phrase e.g. #colmsbookisonsaleinallgoodbookshops can be used to link all the tweets which repeat it.

Such is the ubiquity of hashtag, that some cognoscenti are known to litter their verbal interactions with references to it. “I see that Colm is still sneakily promoting his book in his articles… hashtag DESPERATE”

This should not be done unless you are a bit of a nob. In cases where this has occurred already, a file has been sent to the DPP.

Where enough people write a tweet with a hashtag in it, then the hashtag is said to be trending. Not everything that trends is important. This is where The Young People come in. The Young People are on Twitter in huge numbers. They follow Justin Bieber – (Beliebers) and/or One Direction (Directioners). Such is their power, they pretty much decide what is trending. Nuclear war could be threatened but on Twitter #OMGNiallisSOOOOCute will be the main topic. A word of warning, you provoke Beliebers or Directioners at your peril. They will descend on you – virtually of course, they’re sweet kids really – in their thousands. Such is their fanaticism, the charismatic evil genius who manages to harness their support for political gain will become president of the world. If he/she can get them to turn up to any rallies.

Troll: Previously this was a villain in Ladybird books – now they are people who deliberately try to provoke an emotional response on Twitter by writing something abusive. The best way to counteract a troll is to ignore them but if you are in possession of a sufficiently large Billy-Goat Gruff then kicking a troll into a river is perfectly fine too.

Now that you have the basics you’re ready for Twitter and you can start by following me! @colmoregan or my mater ego @irishmammies. (Hashtag DoesHeEverStop)

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