Friday, November 17, 2017

Twitter: sometimes, you learn the hard way...

I'm not a prolific user of Twitter, I admit. I use it more as a combined news source and means of keeping up with my friends, than as a way of communicating. Occasionally though, I do take a dip in the gasoline-covered waters.

This evening, I made the mistake of responding to something that Iain Dale had retweeted, pointing out that the 'divorce bill' he was referring to was the United Kingdom's share of the costs of commitments entered into jointly by the members of the European Union. Not hugely controversial, I thought. Apparently though, this offered Iain the chance to make a snide response, spotted by his 100,000+ followers.

He's allowed to do that - it's a free world. But he sends me a clear signal that he believes his fame to give him the right to be unnecessarily rude without consequence. And again, he's entitled to that.

However, what he also implies is that any exchange on Twitter will be on his terms. Unfortunately, he's not wholly entitled to that, as the word 'exchange' requires two parties to make it work. In other words, I have to accept his attitude if I want to exchange ideas with him.

Now, as I noted at the beginning, I use Twitter as a combined news source and means of keeping up with my friends. Iain isn't my friend - we've met socially from time to time, and we were a year apart at the University of East Anglia, where he was a prominent member of the Federation of Conservative Students... and I wasn't.

That makes him a potential news source. But, if his attitude is to be rude to people he doesn't agree with, that doesn't make him a valuable news source either, as I would need to seek validation of his opinions from other sources. Life is too short, and there are too many other sources of information that I respect more, regardless of whether or not I agree with them - I'm a devoted Times reader, for example, and the Guardian mostly annoys me.

And so, I'll free up a little bit of bandwidth on my Twitter feed by unfollowing Iain. It's no great loss to me, and no loss at all to him, especially as he doesn't follow me.

But perhaps it's a sign of the times that Brexiteers and Remainers are digging themselves into their respective trenches. And for those of us who are genuinely keen to get the best for our country, whatever that is, it's just another measure that, in the pursuit of ideology for ideology's sake, we become a country that's just that little bit less pleasant for all of us.