Idle Thumbs: a Tweetise
Updated: Jan 5, 2021
[Some contribution I made to some book or something. Reproduced here to contribute to an event about “Digital Influencers” *beurk* in EU blurtery.]
Welcome to the fetid shallow pond of EU Twitter.
There’s a handful of very (very) small big fish and a shoal of minnows, all gasping desperately for oxygen in this murky puddle.
There’s a fug of smugger and self-servery rising from the slightly oily surface.
And a light acrid foam of ineptitude bobbing in the breeze.
But then, of course, I’m snarking away from my own particular algae-ridden crevice of the pool, like some kind of piscine bottom-feeding twypocrite.
Social media – we know this – can be incredibly self-regarding. It can foster a delusion that Your Things matter to everyone else as much as They do to you. Nowhere is that more exposed and amplified more than in politics – and further, I’d venture, in what is referred to as the EU Twittersphere.
From Brussels beltway expat gripes to live-tweets from dreadful events to the dad-dancing display that is top eurocrats trying to engage with the citizens, the experience can be unedifying.
So why do so many of us have a constant Tweetdeck ticker scrolling away next to the day-job stuff we do (or don’t do)?
It can’t all be to service a self-indulgent contemporary reflex to share online.
Or to tick a vocational box to do something – anything – on social media to make a semblance of promoting whatever impenetrable niche of eurogeekery you happen to work in.
Or indeed simply to absorb our goldfish attention spans, to punctuate the daily drudge of our respective existences with bad memes, worse puns, and cheap shots.
No, it’s all of the above.
But it’s also – *serious face* – a fabric of community of sorts. A very broad one, frayed at the edges and in parts in the middle too, but a community nonetheless.
And in amongst the fluff, it informs and shares news and insights.
And yes, I hear you mutter derisorily, “that’s the point, duh.”But for the EU Twittersphere, it provides that forum where there wasn’t really one before.
National politics features in every domestic newspaper and news broadcast of that country, and fuels discussions across the land at dinner tables, in pubs, and during lulls in swingers’ bars and niche-interest ‘massage parlours’.
Not so EU affairs. They are inward-looking and unsexy. As lively as the conversation was that you had with your peers on Thursday at the Grapevine before losing count of how many bottles of insipid rosé you’d had, it’s only with those peers you’re able to have that discussion, and it only really happens within the beltway.
Big-picture important issues such as Brexit and International Handshake Protocol raise the water level of EU politics and they spill over beyond the beltway. The EU Twittersphere as an amorphous but vaguely identifiable corpus of social media users is clearly part of the international blurtings on such issues. But remember the pond analogy from earlier? The water level rising means the europuddle is then a diluted part of a much bigger, wetter thing, with more and bigger fish.
However, when the water level falls again, maybe – just maybe – the europuddle has grown a bit. EU-themed discussions and references become that little bit broader longer term. I mean, if UK tabloids are bickering over the compatibility of FTA negotiations with customs-union membership, then maybe comitology reform will, too, someday no longer be a taboo for conversation at my local club échangiste.
Bréf: The EU Twittersphere serves its various purposes to varying degrees of success depending on what you want to get out of it. Don’t expect it to deliver online fame and be the silver bullet for ‘unlocking your networked comms potential’. As with traditional human social contact (remember that?), social-media takes time and effort. Particularly if all you have to talk about is swan preservation or inland waterways policy. But through judicious account following it can be an incredibly powerful information tool, and through judicious engagement on the EU matters that matter to you, a way to communicate that simply wasn’t there before.
So come on in. The water’s lovely and tepid. And not too deep.