Elon Musk beware! Twitter is the modern-day equivalent of Bedlam – Susan Morrison
In the 1750s, no day out in London was complete until you had toured the Royal Bethlem Hospital for the Insane. These days we’d call it a visitor attraction.
You’d wander about watching poor folk screaming and fighting and throwing straw and excrement at each other, then I assume you could exit through the gift shop. It was in every sense of the word, Bedlam.
In my head, that’s Twitter. It’s one of those social media things, like Facebook, only considerably more bonkers. In theory, it sounds amazing. All Twitter users can speak to each other. My friend once watched President Macron and his wife arrive in London for some high-level summit. She very much liked Madame’s coat, so asked her on Twitter where it was from. The answer came back très vite, even if it was from a secretary. She decided against buying one. The tailoring was fabulous, but the price tag didn’t suit.
Sadly, though, the twittering classes seem to spend most of their time shrieking death threats at each other because someone said something mildly inappropriate on The Great British Bake-Off. They hide behind invented names, and that’s probably not a good idea. It means they think no-one can find out who they are, which gives them carte blanche to be spectacularly rude.
Even when they do use their own names, they appear to believe the vastness of the internet means they’ll never be identified. Doesn’t always work. A very stupid young man wrote an utterly vile tweet about Mary Beard. The anonymity of the online world isn't as water-tight as you’d think. The young man in question was quickly outed, but more importantly, so was his mum. Mary Beard wrote to her about her son’s behaviour. History does not relate exactly what happened to the lad, but he apologised, pronto.
Facebook, with its pictures of my pals cats, dogs and new babies is more my thing. I know all the people I interact with. They tend to be people I know in real life. Facebook has reconnected me with old friends, even helped me make new ones.
It keeps me in touch with my community. Only this week, I spotted huge sheets of polystyrene floating along the Water of Leith. Couldn’t figure out how we were going to get this rubbish out, so I took a photo and popped a question online. Naturally, I ignored the stupid answers like “why don’t you just walk over and pick it up?” and got a great idea to contact an organisation called SOSLeith (Save Our Shore) who swung into impressive action that very day.
And yes, I am aware that Facebook is manipulating me. Fiendish corporations watch my every move to shovel advertising my way. And yes, sometimes it works in their favour. Only last week I bought an LED gadget to wear on your face that promises to improve the appearance of my wrinkles. It looks like the Iron Man face mask, but it's a very fetching pink colour, and looks like I've taken up welding for the Fairy Queen. I’ll get back to you on the wrinkle improvement.
So I wish Mr Elon Musk all the best with his shiny new toy, but I think he might have bought himself a very expensive lunatic asylum.