Two Million Reasons To Be Cheerful

Sometimes those warts show horribly. I can be in a bad mood – I have surely bored the nation enough on the subject of my mood disorder – and I become absurdly oversensitive and vulnerable to slight, insult and offence in low moods. When cheerful I can take the whoppingest and meanest abuse in my happily loping stride. But when I’m down it’s like a kind of photosensitivity, the hurt is horrible.

These are the moments when I get myself into trouble by instantly firing back at any negative tweet I happen to see aimed in my direction. I miss 99% of them (do the maths, the chances of my seeing any given tweet are very, very small) but some do get through. Naturally it makes me look like the worst kind of pillock when I respond angrily. “All he wants is adoration and praise, he can’t take criticism” is the perfect reasonable conclusion that might be arrived at. They do not know how many times I have seen incredibly rude insults and not bothered to reply, or have done so in joshing merry fashion.

I learn, but have learned slowly. I was like a puppy running endlessly into a mirror in the early days, now I’m more like a suspiciously growling hound. A pity, perhaps, but inevitable.

I’m an optimist and tend to believe the best in people, but there are unquestionably some grotesque and vile figures out there. If ever you have the misfortune to meet one, Jonathan, never ever be afraid to use Twitter’s block option. You won’t see their tweets and they won’t see yours. There’s nothing they can do about it and you will be happier as a result, infinitely happier. It’s what I do to newspapers and to those who want to upset or provoke me. No matter who you are no one has a right to see your tweets, a right to be followed or a right to address you if you don’t want to be addressed.

These days if you’re a celebrity you will often find yourself followed in the street by amateur paparazzi. Any kid with a decent camera can be such a creature. They hope you’ll go into a porn theatre of course, or be seen with someone inappropriate or doing something dodgy. Failing that they really, really hope that you’ll become pissed off at their wasp-like presence, the boredom, the impertinence and the unkindness of being stalked and that as a result you’ll turn and remonstrate. *SNAP* – that’s the picture they want, you looking cross, sticking up a finger, your face contorted with rage. Even better if you hurl their camera to the pavement. A lawsuit! Well, as in life so online. There are twitter stalkers like that. One soon learns to spot and to block them. One obvious clue is that they only seem to follow, and publicly to tweet, “celebrities”.

And yet…

And yet it’s mostly wonderful here, Jonathan. The majority, the great majority of people are friendly, forgiving and kind. It is a miracle that so much can be read into little messages of 140 characters that offer no personal clues by way of handwriting, styling or formatting. After a while you will be astonished by how perceptively your moods and meanings are interpreted and with what bewildering accuracy. You will be astonished too by the wit. The speediness, elegance and brilliance of some twitterers regularly takes my breath away.

Of course there are dimwits who will ask a question rather than Google or look back up the timeline. Well, maybe they aren’t dimwits but opportunists. A certain kind of person will always end their tweet with a question in the hope of getting a reply.

I like replying, I like being involved in twitter. If I’m raw from a recent mauling I’ll stay away and feel shy and nervous of looking at any single tweet or DM, either because they’ll be upsettingly sympathetic and concerned or because they’ll be mean. But mostly Twitter and my two million followers are as good a reason as I know to trust people. To respect people. To believe in people.

Welcome, Jonathan, and enjoy.


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2 comments on “Two Million Reasons To Be Cheerful”

  1. mobijack says:

    Dear @stephenfry

    I thought your letter was exquisite, but was worried when the first tweet I saw ended “Eat sh… ( I wasn’t sure if I should click on the link. I’m glad I did).

    I am new to twitter (1st October) and only have the one account. As you suggested I initially thought what’s the point; until convinced by @ewanmcintosh at the 10BigThings event in Edinburgh. He encouraged the audience to sign up, get tweeting with each other and get chatting in person if you shared any interests. Since then I’ve been a convert.

    I was very impressed with the latest #freebees challenge, getting from Land’s End to John O’Groats through the power of mobile social media by @documentally. He masterfully demonstrated some of the other social tools such as audioboo and gowalla. (Given my family life and day job, I haven’t opted into these yet, but @documentally makes strong arguments for them).

    Likewise I’ve seen the downside of twitter, when a twitter wall was used in a conference – there’s nothing worse than getting heckled by tweets.

    BI stands for Business Intelligence (yes, yes, an oxymoron). It’s a term used for making sense of all the data that companies acquire, and turning it into Information, and in turn it may move higher up the chain through Knowledge and Wisdom. A hierarchy eluded to by T.S.Elliot in “Choruses from ‘The Rock’”

    Where is the Life we have lost in living?

    Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

    I am currently doing a part-time Masters in BI @DundeeUniv, whilst also doing a full-time job, as my twitter profile suggests. My undergraduate degree @DundeeUniv was during the period that you were rector.

    Dundee is my adopted home after originally coming from across from Northern Ireland to do my degree; 16 years on I am happily settled here my wife and three daughters.

    Many congratulations on reaching 2 million followers. I’m sure there will be many more to follow. Congratulations on the way you have leveraged this social media tool for the power of so many good causes, as well as entertaining everyone. Yes I’m late to the fold in terms of Twitter, but glad I’m here now.

    Many thanks for the mention (I must say it’s been a bit daunting receiving so many mentions as a result, I can’t imagine how your twitter client can cope).

    Should you ever be passing by, be sure to tweet.

    Warm regards,

    *and a hug back*

  2. bridgid says:

    Hello! My name is Bridgid, I’m from Ireland& I just wanted to say that I absolutley love you! I love QI,my boyfriend & I just sit their & craic up! I’m facinated by your incredible use of vocab! Your so elegent to top it all off! Sorry if I’m not making sense, but I’m not on twitter so I found your website just so I could leave this! Keep up the good work! As we say in Ireland ‘your class!’, Slan go foil!

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