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Lessons from The Studio of the Mountain King

I’ve never been the subject of trolling on Social Media before – but it’s taught me some useful lessons.

I was attacked on Twitter this week.

Admittedly, it was neither a particularly virulent nor long lived assault, but it’s not happened before and because of who the perpetrator turned out to be and the small flurry of support his attack received from others, it’s really made me stop and think: both about how I present myself on social media to those who do not know me and how best to deal with the latter’s insults and ridicule, should they choose to engage with me in such a way.

Before going on to examine this further, you ought to be put fully in the picture as to the particulars of the incident.

An individual whom I have followed for a little while retweeted a post from a third party about the announcement of the forthcoming General Election. I had previously spent much of the evening on another social media platform espousing the view that, at this particular time and in this particular election, no one’s vote was likely to make much difference to the outcome and I confess I had already, metaphorically speaking, applied a fair whack of war paint. I hear you sighing and, yes, I should probably have held back, but didn’t.

The tweet in question, to my mind, was particularly fatuous, but that is by the by as my reply did not address that point itself. This was my reply, reproduced here as it appeared at the time, with two typos:

Mu disinterest could not possibly be more emphatic. UK politics has become a meaningless farce – they strut anf fret their hours – poor players”

There were then two responses to this from the originator of the tweet I was commenting on, viz :

“for a copywriter your spelling is terrible”

and, after others had jumped on the bandwagon to slap him on the back and similarly decry my writing prowess, there followed this:

“Tenth read and it still makes no sense. Like Google translated from Welsh?”

…heralding yet more back slapping in the form of likes and retweets from the band leader’s Twitter entourage

Each of you will have your own views on these comments.

Here are mine:

Typos or not, it was unprofessional and somewhat foolish of me, as a copywriter using social media to promote my business, to allow my post to go out with the errors it contained. I shot myself in the proverbial foot and have admitted as much in a further reply to my critic. However, his foot I think is halfway down his throat….

The second response, which appears to have been an effort to curry further favour with the rhythm section – which to a limited extent it did, seems either ignorant or obtuse and not a little insulting to the Welsh. Whether the writer is himself from God’s Own Country I know not and it may have been merely self-deprecating, but even so: not the cleverest remark at all from someone who turned out to be a “journalist/broadcaster/Editor” and recognisable, (at least according to his Twitter bio) as “Him off @SkyNews”. I don’t watch it, but neither do I doubt the verisimilitude of the bio or the photo with, (he’s a bit blurry), is it…Eamonn Holmes. Well, I almost fell off my chair.

The reference in my comment comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

“Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”

Apt I felt for the politicians of this age and, if you know the entire soliloquy and at which part of the play it comes, a fairly pithy and adroit reference to have chosen in relation to much of what is going on in British politics today.

Did the “award winning” journalist not know this, or was he seeking to spike my tweeting to induce further verbal parries off which he hoped to feed? I don’t know, but no one who follows him and/or joined in the exchange to retweet or like his admonishments of me, bothered to inform him of the relevance of my comment or it’s origins. I admit I quite enjoyed someone’s quip: “something about pool players”, cleverly adding witty grist to the mill of supposed misspellings, but I couldn’t help but conclude that none of them were actually aware what I was referencing.

On first thought, that’s quite astounding, especially for someone in the media, but is it that surprising, or even in any way important? I don’t know. Possibly Shakespeare isn’t the best reference point for expressing oneself on Twitter, but surely damning the reference with the lines:

“…it still makes no sense “

is sheer ignorance on a stick, and adding:

“Like Google translated from Welsh”

shows a stupefying disregard for the immense pride that Welsh people take in their language and is itself a thoroughly inane comment that carries no value whatsoever, other than for his seemingly equally vacuous online chums.

More importantly though, this exchange has taught me a few worthwhile lessons: look before you leap; present yourself better and choose reference points that might be more readily understood by a broader demographic.

That said, I think I will continue to make use of literary quotes to highlight my argument, when and if they are relevant and sufficiently famous that it is likely the majority of readers would understand their import. It doesn’t matter if you don’t of course. No one is a lesser being because they didn’t happen to get something referring to Shakespeare, Dickens, Grieg or perhaps Tom Wolfe…not at all.

However, whilst learning my own lessons, I have to conclude that those who would jeer from the social media terraces because they are either ignorant or just spoiling for a fight might wish to look unto themselves before so readily assuming the higher ground, or seeking to bask in the supposed preeminence of a studio spotlight to which they have become accustomed.

After all, if you are the King of the Mountain that is a position, whilst it might not be obvious at the time, from which – trolling around unthinkingly – there may be further to fall.

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