Saturday, 28 April 2012

Why a Stewart Lee rant has exposed Twitter's biggest failing

Stewart Lee
In all the furore around Twitter's role in the transformation of Ryan Giggs from scoring-every-season-champion to scoring-every-family-gathering-sleazeball, one element of the social medium has gone relatively unchallenged.
Celebrity stalking. Try it. Twitter search any random celebrity - say, Dale Winton - and become mesmerised as Dale goes about his daily life in London moving from "@noseynigel mega lolz, just seen Dale Winton getting into a taxi, he has a purple umbrella #Paddington" to "@cattycaroline Spotted Dale Winton buying a copy of Moby Dick. How apt, he's looking a bit whale-ish these days #Foyles". 

Twitter has taken celebrity spots on to another level feeding a gossip hungry wider world as well as, in many cases, feeding back celeb spots and opinions to the well-known figure themselves. 

Comedian and ShadowPlay favourite Stewart Lee said in an interview with Robin Ince and Josie Long on their podcast last year that the phenomenon has really affected his behaviour in public. The acerbic 41st best comedian in the world ever followed up his thinking in his live show this year, saying Twitter stalkers has documented an entire journey on his beloved 73 bus route to Stoke Newington last year. 

While Lee's act centres on his role as cynical curmudgeon, his point is right. He said he can no longer flippantly slag-off other acts, for fear that the person may post the opinion on Twitter and spread it. Moreover, he can't be kind to middling comedians when asked his opinion in case he is quoted as an avid fan on a poster. 

As a trained journalist (well, University of Sheffield…), Lee's concerns over tweeting photos was perhaps the most interesting. All the UK's major newspapers are signed up to the slightly questionable Press Complaints Commission's Code of Practice - a document which sets out guidelines drawn up to avoid legislation. Within them, publications are commanded not to print the faces of celebrity's children without consent, therefore Lee is understandably concerned that excited fans tweeting photos of him include his children. Lee has said the experience has driven him to go to 'celebrity hang-outs' he would never have dreamed of going to to avoid people listening in to his conversations and tweeting them.

Of course the Tweeters intentions are largely positive- expressing excitement to see well-known figures they like. And celebrity-stalking is no doubt fun, seeing that an untouchable character like Brad Pitt has been spotted nipping into a Greggs in Kings Cross is undoutably chuckle able. But there's also enough misquoting and misrepresentation to get on people's goat. Ultimately Tweeters will have to try to be more responsible and think about what they're posting to avoid a clamp-down on material and possible legal action. 

Don't get me wrong, Twitter can be a great medium, quick, funny, responsive to people's interests and daft in equal measure. As Lee says, the more he interacts the more his views are twisted and tweeted and put on blogs. Oh, bollocks, add this one to the pile then. Oh and this one


  1. Sheffield not good enough for you eh?

  2. Great article :-)