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Eurovision 2009: Tweeting Eurovision

May 14, 2009

One of the grand ideas I had about blogging about Eurovision this year was to provide some kind of record for myself about everything which went on about this crazy time of the year.

Clearly I’ve made a conscious decision to publish all of those posts publically when you’d think I would have been satisfied with just keeping it all private. Somewhere along the line however, the result of a understandably human desire for attention, I have made them public. Little wonder then that this bizarrely timed and oddly pitched idea for a post gets committed a couple of hours before the second semi-final for 2009.

Eurovision wasn’t like this last year. I don’t remember wanting to write stuff as much as I do this year. I don’t remember chasing audiences and pursuing attention the way I have this year. I don’t remember feeling quite susceptible to the outcome of a single television programme as I have done this year.

There are terrific mood swings. Moments of inexplicable elation often quickly followed by serious questioning. Hours of feeling inside the bubble are swiftly surpassed by odd moments of being on the periphery. That in itself is a bizarre experience. How can something like a light entertainment television programme provoke such a range of emotions in a single human being in a relatively short space of time.

There is a swift answer to this. The finger of blame can be pointed directly on the likes of Twitter.

There have been plenty of examples of how the micro-blogging service has shaped global news events. Go back only as far as the Mumbai attacks and the Hudson plane crash to be reminded how the news appeared to break away from traditional news outlets and on Twitter.

With so many people talking about Twitter, so many news stories making reference to the tool it felt as though there had been a revolution. Considerably more cynical people than me quickly followed with their considered opinion, choosing to not participate in it, dismissing it as another fad, another thing they resented having to sign up to.

I too have had my moments with Twitter. Going from advocate, to serial twitter, to silent observer and then back to shameless self-promotion via the networking tool. What has surprised me the most during this Eurovision however is the extent to which so many people have embraced it or how much conversation on Twitter has been about the contest.

It has without doubt been a really interesting process. I’ve seen opinions about different countries and their acts fluctuate over the past couple of weeks. I’ve observed the medium exploited to promote individual acts and found myself establishing new virtual links with people I’ve never met but whose sincerity is judged purely on the 140 characters they’ve chosen to publish publically or privately to me. It’s nothing new in itself – people have been talking about the very same thing for months maybe even a year now – but it’s new to Eurovision.

It also reminds me of quite a dark side to the personality – my own. With so much conversation about the subject, the usual buzz I’d experience about the event (the anticipation, the thrill of watching and then the subsequent downer when it’s over) is heightened and extended. When you realise you’re using the tool to promote yourself, it’s not long before your competitive streak kicks in. Regardless of the acts competing with one another for a place in a final or the Eurovision crown, those people engaging conversation about the contest online do (at least one or two of them – I know I do) find themselves competing with one another.

It’s hardly the most upbeat of posts to publish during what fans describe as “an important time”, but it is honest and if like me, you’re interested in following the ups and downs during that time it might be make for an interesting insight.

That competitive streak is a strange thing however. It’s taken me a bit of time to work it out, but as a result of these past couple of weeks, I think I’ve worked it out. The sense of online competition is pointless and worthless. It is a redundant and ultimately destructive feeling borne out of a misunderstanding of what Twitter – indeed, any social networking tool – is about.

The one thing I’ve forgotten about over recent weeks is the hashtag. That seemingly innocuous thing at the end of every tweet preceeded with a # symbol is the sign of a potentially global conversation. The hashtag strives for a democracy where every single person who has a view or information to share on a subject can join a massive clan of people all participating in the conversation at that very time. The idea of one voice above all others – the commentator – is quite obviously the complete obvious of what a conversation is meant to be.

Now that I’ve grasped this all important fact about the very tool I’ve relied on over the past couple of weeks, I realise that the mood swings and the anxiety and the motivation to contribute something is a pointless one.

There’s a global conversation going on which we can all participate in and no one voice is more important or more valid than the next.

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