I don’t often write things on this site that are not linked to some photo-fuelled nonsense project, but the events of Sad Friday (as it shall now be known) have made me want to put it down in print. Not that I expect anyone else to be interested in an event as insignificant as me losing 30 Twitter followers. No. But it’s good for me because one day when I’m 74 I will be sitting on a park bench and I will bore a stranger to stone with a woeful tale of how I once lost 30 followers in one day on a website that used to be very popular in the days before we were all allowed 160 characters and could send those 160 characters telepathically.
Quite how it all happened is somewhat odd. Now, I lose and gain followers all the time, I’m sure we all do. In fact I quite like the dynamics of how it all happens. My favourite loses are the people who have been following me for about 5 days after someone has kindly given me a #FF or something like that. I like how they give me a few days grace and then seemingly all together go, “Nah, this guy’s an idiot.” I notice it particularly when someone like a journalist makes the well-meaning error of recommending me to their followers. Usually the people who follow these sorts of clever journalist folk like to play intellectually, culturally and politically in areas I choose not to play in. Alas, they are led to me by the goodwill of someone they respect, and what happens? I tweet something like how a hot dog once reminded me of Canary Wharf. I really can see how those poor people would feel both duped and violated.
But Sad Friday was different, very different. It all started, as so many good stories do, with Chris Eubank. If you don’t know who he is, Google him (you’ll get a far better insight than anything I could write). But let’s assume you know who this wonderful man is.
Eubank lives in the same city as me (Brighton) and he’s somewhat of an eccentric – loved or merely tolerated in equal measure. Personally I love him. As a boxer he was wonderful (simply the best, in fact) and as a person his unique take on life draws me in. He came back onto my mental radar because a local radio station was running with a story about how Eubank was defending the honour of the City of Brighton against the ‘rival’ seaside town of Skegness after some truly shocking comments made by them. It was an enthralling story and one I followed with gusto. In fact, it was just the sort of story that I was put on this Earth to be interested in. I tweeted about it a bit and, because I like the radio presenter who orchestrated the whole thing, I got involved in my own little way by chipping in to the radio show with tweets and retweeting the odd thing that they said on the matter. All fine so far. Then I thought it would be a really good idea, as a tribute to Eubank and to honour the good work he was doing on behalf of the people of Brighton, to temporarily change my profile photo to one of Chris Eubank. In my head I also thought it would be a good idea if everyone on Twitter in Brighton did the same thing to show their support for the great man. Of course nobody did, partly because I didn’t ask anyone to and partly because nobody would have done so even if I had asked.
Then something odd started to happen. I started to lose followers at a rate I didn’t normally lose them. At first I didn’t think much about it. And then a couple of direct messages came to me. They both questioned whether me putting a photo of Chris Eubank as my Twitter profile was ‘slightly racist’. I didn’t really give it any thought as the suggestion is quite obviously ridiculous. Then I started to get a few other comments that suggested similar misgivings. Then I lost more followers, and then a few more, and then I wondered if I had turned into Nick Griffin without realising.
I’ll be honest with you, I knew I wasn’t Nick Griffin so I couldn’t understand any of it. How could putting a photo up of someone you like, someone who amuses you, someone who I would put at the top of any celebrity dinner party guest list (along with Holly Willoughby) be so misunderstood? Then I lost some more followers.
As it happened, I’d only planned to have the mighty Eubank up as a profile picture for a day anyway, so at the allotted time (11am) I duly reinstated the old photo of me holding a pineapple (I love pineapples) and that was the end of that. Eubankgate was over and I had survived largely intact but with 21 fewer followers. I knew in my heart that I was no Jim Davidson, so I was happy. The worst anyone can truly level at me is that I’m a child in the faded body of a 42 year-old who gets excited by trivial things and tweets too much.
You’d think now that I would have just shut up for a bit. Instead I decided it would be a good idea to let my followers know that I cannot stand zombies or anything to do with them. It was not a decision I took lightly, although I admit it was a decision I took with a considerable hangover. It is no exaggeration to say that I had wanted to come clean on the whole topic of zombies for some time, but I felt scared. There are many people, truly good people, (friends included) who like zombies as a concept and as a creative tool. But I just don’t. We live, however, in a culture where to admit that you’re not in on the whole zombie thing is a damaging admission to make. People judge you, dislike you and, as I found out, instantly stop following you on Twitter. Undead fascism I call it.
I was lucky though. Two of my favourite Twitter people (and big zombie fans) have, at the time of writing, stayed with me. They know that it’s not them I’m attacking, but just those zombies that I can’t stand (all of them). Look at it another way. I love a bit of brutal 1960s concrete Soviet architecture – always have done, but I don’t make judgements about the person if they don’t share my love. Now, people who don’t like brutal 1960s concrete Soviet architecture are clearly misguided – of that there can be no doubt, but that’s not the point here. The point is that immediately after my zombie admission I lost 7 followers. Shortly after that I lost another 2. It felt like the love of my life (TV’s Kate Garraway) had turned around to me and said, “I did like you, but when I found out that you didn’t like zombies I realised it could never be between us.” It hurt. I don’t mind telling you it hurt.
Now, I’m not a numbers person, I don’t mind how many Twitter followers I have, but it did slightly bemuse me that some folk think putting a photo up of Chris Eubank is, “mildly racist,” and others think they cannot be linked to me anymore simply because (very sensibly) I detest zombies (and I really do detest them). It truly is an odd world sometimes.
And that is how I lost 30 Twitter followers in one day. By the way, have you heard my views on Tim Vincent?