Janet Street-Porter is a twat.
Some of you may already have come to that conclusion by yourselves and are now wondering why I am stating such an obvious fact. Well, up until last week I pretty much had no idea who she was. I had heard the name and knew she was some kind of “sleb”, but exactly what – if anything – she had done to deserve it, I had no idea. In fact, I still don’t.
I was going to at least Google her before writing this, just so I wouldn’t be dishing dirt on a subject I don’t really understand. And then it struck me that that is exactly what I should be doing in this case. Because more than the actual person, what I’m really writing about is the crappy little column she wrote about Twitter. From the first paragraph in, it was blatantly clear that she really had no idea what she was talking about. Also, she called me and everyone using Twitter a twat, and was mean to Stephen Fry, and there really is no call for that kind of thing. I guess she heard the name Twitter being bandied about and decided to give it a bash because it’s the thing du jour*. Everybody’s bashing Twitter, it’s popular, therefore it must be evil. I’m sure the Daily Mail will soon find proof that Twitter gives you cancer. Probably gay immigrant cancer. Of the balls.
Right, so, to write an article about something you know nothing about, you need a few random and preferably unverified facts to throw in to make it look like you’ve done plenty of research. Ok. Well, how about the latest Twitter-related wonderstat: 40% of tweets are “inane babble”. Wow, that sounds good doesn’t it! Based on that alone, we can easily conclude that Twitter is Really Badly Rubbish, eh?
I’m sorry, but 40% of life is inane babble. Twitter isn’t some miracle content generator, it’s a tool, a means of communication, nothing more. What the hell do you expect? If you were to analyse all phone calls made over a week, or all emails sent, I would be very surprised if you found less than 40% inane babble. Although I guess that also depends on what you define as inane babble. I’m guessing they mean things like people chatting about how they’re feeling today, how they had a burrito for lunch, or that their hamster is just back from the vet and the poor thing has a discoloured vulva. The hamster, not the vet.
So what? Isn’t that exactly the same kind of stuff we talk about round the coffee machine? And yet nobody publishes shocking stats on how 40% of all human interaction is pointless crap, do they? I’m actually surprised that anything as high as 60% is actually deemed to be interesting content!
Anyhoo, back to our quarry. JSP decided in this case to quote the age stats of twitter users, and went on to conclude that only the 25-50 year-olds were using it, meaning that Twitter is a boring place for old, untrendy people. I’m sorry, Jan, remind us how old you are? How old are the people who read the inane babble you write for the Independent? How funky and down with da kids are you exactly? How on earth is the age of the people using it any reflection of how valuable or relevant it is? If it had been mainly used by teenagers, I’m sure the argument would have been that it is not to be taken seriously.
The other argument she made was that nobody could possibly convey anything of any interest whatsoever in 140 characters or less. Well, for a start, you are allowed several tweets. You can actually still be talking about the same thing 3 tweets later and amazingly, people will be able to put them together! Unbelievable, I know. The other thing is that, well, sometimes having to think about something and make a little effort to sythesize can be a good thing. You can fit plenty of sense and wisdom into 140 characters, if you give it some thought. Just as you can fill 4311 characters with utter bull poop. Can’t you, Janet.
*In fact, I have since googled her, and it seems that she wrote a similarly bilious article about how facebook was killing all real world relationships a while back. Oh well, at least she’s consistent.