Wounded – because I could be thought a techno-geek. I build my own PCs, maintain and set up my office networks, buy books on Linux, and hold endless, sad conversations about interoperability. I am not a technophobe.
I just notice that (1) sometimes people pay more attention to the virtual world in their hand than the real world around them; (2) sometimes it’s rude to do so (say, when talking to real people); and (3) sometimes its obsessive and pointless behaviour.
The Tweetminster site promises to link Westminster to the real world, and I do want MPs to have real friends, real debates and real conversations. But that is not the same thing as sending random messages to strangers in the virtual world. I question the value and indeed the intrinsic interest of a public running commentary on one’s life – partly because I want people and politicians to have more time for an inner (ie, non-public) life: reflection, thought, listening, reading, etc .
You don’t always get more interesting by talking all the time and there is no reason why tweeting constantly should be any different. I worry about people who can’t anymore just go to the gym, cafe or event without having to tell thousands they’re doing it . Just do it, I say !
For a politician to oppose tweeting, I am told by Labour’s Twitter czar, is like not looking ‘the public’ in the eye – but it is the addicted tweeter eyes, glued to their devices, who are (I observe) least likely to look the people around them in the face.
Tweeting may have a genuine place in show-business, where adoring fans hang on one’s every word – and maybe politics really is after all showbiz for ugly people – but does it get taken more seriously if encoded in instanteous messages. Had Churchill tweeted at Yalta “Just popping into see Joe Stalin – my what a huge sofa!” – would the event have become more relevant.
Ultimately I suspect that lightning-fast, perpetual communication does not much advance or deepen thought; rather, it encourages ill-thought out re-circulation of stock opinion and borrowed expressions.
Soren Kierkegaard, as garrulous and self-absorbed philosopher as you could find, said of the mass media – “the vast mass of the people have no opinions on many topics but, thanks to the press, here they come!” Tweeting – fun though it may be – is instant, undeveloped observation which makes the circulation of opinion easy without noticeably enhancing its critique.
* John Pugh is Liberal Democrat MP for Southport.