This morning – I was getting dressed, and flicking through my emails. I’d got one from the O2 with details of their upcoming shows and ticket sales. I scrolled through and saw Peter Kay was due to perform there, and tickets were on sale.
I looked at the picture, and I thought there might have been some slight mocking of the homeless with his cardboard sign. I fired out a tweet seconds later –
“Peter Kay mocking homeless people with his cardboard sign. Can’t help but think it was an ill thought addition to the original image.”
I put my phone down and carried on getting dressed, my phone buzzed a few times, and I had a look. A few of my followers suggested it was probably hitchhiking. However in my mind, a hitchhiker would have a sign with the destination, and I replied as such.
Then, it got worse.
My phone was buzzing more, and I was getting tweets from all corners of the internet. People who don’t follow me were wading in on the action.
“Do go out of the way to scour the Internet for stuff that offends only you? Or does it somehow magically just worm it’s way into your happy little face?”
“There’s ya destinations, snowflake.”
“I don’t remember homeless people owning the copyright for cardboard and black pen”
I started replying, but it was just too much – utter madness.
Looking at so many of the replies, they came from largely very proud football fans. Most not overly proud of sharing their real name, or photo though. It felt horrible. My pithy observation was now going viral, random people liking the worst responses. I thought about deleting the tweet, the anxiety inside was palpable. I could feel my heart racing.
Yes – it was probably a hitchhiking thing, but it didn’t process like that with me immediately. It looked more like the signs you see homeless people holding up. Twitter is instant, twitter is immediate, I put my first thought out there, and it was probably wrong. But still the angry unknowns were coming at me.
Then. It got worse.
David Baddiel, internationally renowned comic with over half a million followers RT’d it with the quote –
“Kip. It’s a hitchhiking reference”
I love David’s twitter account, and I was very aware that he has a lot of angry idiots following him. Now, they were looking directly at me. My pithy tweet was hitting the feeds of hundreds of thousands more. My brain hit a fatal exception error. I nearly dropped my phone. I was getting a poounami of abuse before, it was going to explode if I let it continue. I deleted the tweet, I couldn’t cope with any more.
I replied to David, and explained that it was just my brief observation whilst getting dressed, and it had weirdly snowballed. I apologised, and moments later he responded –
“No need to apologise to me, of course. I was just trying to stop another comic from getting piled-on by people outraged by the wrong thing. I will delete my tweet.”
Then, just as quickly as it started.. It stopped. The pitchforks went down, and interestingly, so have a few of the more disgusting tweets. I was surprised at the reaction, I hadn’t hashtagged or atted anyone. It was just some words into the ether. However – Peter Kay was trending this morning, and when you clicked on the trend, there was my stupid face with my quickly fired out tweet. Usually those tweets with the most interaction are nearest the top, and of course, mine was getting a LOT of interaction, and it continued.
When viewing the entire poster, rather than the snippet on the original email, it is, of course, very clearly a hitchhiking reference. He’s by a road, with a case, and his sign, and a long list of venues. I hadn’t seen that until after the storm was raging. Then though, it was too late. I was clearly wrong. We’ve all made judgements and opinions quickly, and a lot of people tweet them. Sometimes though, more people than you could ever imagine will see them. You realise what a nasty, angry world it is outside of your Twitter bubble. You’re not always playing to your audience, people who follow you because they like your output. It’s going out there, for everyone.
Has this taught me anything?
I don’t think I’m going to change the way I tweet. Twitter has always been based upon the moment, the here and now. That’s why I love itand loath it in equal measure. Maybe next time, I’ll abbreviate the person’s name, or check the trending topics first.