Time To Banish 'Twitter'!
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
There are seismic events which have such import, that it is possible to remember exactly where one was and what one was doing when the news first broke.
I was in the school library looking out on an Autumnal scene with a large Oak tree gently showering its golden leaves to the ground, when I heard that Chairman Mao had died. When Princess Diana was killed in a Paris car smash, I was just getting out of bed on a Sunday morning at home in Buckinghamshire. And when the first cruise missiles hit Baghdad as part of ‘Shock and Awe’, I was at a drinks party at the Foreign Office in London, and rushed downstairs to watch the first footage in the press office.
I was sitting minding my own business at one of those inspiring events organised by the Push Institute in Minneapolis when I first heard the word ‘Twitter’... What? I will have to re read my own words! I actually remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about Twitter? Extraordinary as it may seem, that is the case, but I think I must remember this, because my immediate reaction three or four years ago was a mixture of incredulity and extreme scepticism. Only twits would Twitter, I thought. Strangely enough that remains my view, for the reality is that only utter twits, Twitter.
The time has come to ask; what on earth is the point of Twitter? Why would anyone in their right mind bother to spend time twittering short banalities about what time they got up in the morning, whether they caught the 91 bus, or in one of those hideous one liners, littered with typos and abbreviations, inform all and sundry what they think of Wayne Rooney’s decision to stay with Manchester United? The only remotely good thing that has come from Twitter are the tweetings of the serially stupid, vapid public figures, whose streams of consciousness often contain nuggets of such astounding vacuity that they can make good newspaper diary items, and earn one some money.
I remember sitting next to a fellow reporter on one of those mind numbing tedious Sundays when nothing was happening in the newsroom, and asking him why he bothered to tweet all sorts of nonsense. “It’s the bosses in Doha”, he said. “They all have the TV switched on in their offices – but they never have the sound on, so they have no idea really how good any of us are. But they do got to lots of pointless meetings and get bored. Which is when they switch on their blackberries and see us tweeting”. Reluctantly, and under his guidance, I set up a Twitter account. The day in question was one when North Korea’s Kim Jong Il was threatening to set off a nuclear test, and since bizarrely the news editor hadn’t seen fit to get me – one of the very few journalists to have reported from that country, and on several occasions – to commentate, I sent one short, lonely tweet. I can’t remember what I wrote about North Korea, but I did elicit a response, from a former colleague that I couldn’t stand. So that was it. One short tweet into cyberspace, a response from an abomination of a man I just could not abide, and the rest is history.
So you see, Twitter is a waste of time and space. It gets in the way of real communication and provides yet another excuse not to work. It is unutterably childish and banal, and no adult who wishes still to be regarded as such should go anywhere near it.