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Stephen Fry & @brumplum in the playground

October 31, 2009

Remember the school playground? Remember how someone would say something, then someone would react and then before you knew what was going on there was one group on one side of the playground backing the person who spoke first and then an even bigger group people on the other side of the playground backing the perceived victim?

The same thing has happened today. On the interweb. On Twitter. Today.

Caught in the middle are those of us who reckon we understand what the web is like, desperate to stake out our position by acting as judge and arbiter, if such a dual role can exist.

Something’s kicked off on the internet this afternoon. One tweeter – someone I’ve been in contact with on various occasions – @brumplum passed comment on Stephen Fry’s tweets, dismissing them as “boring”.

Stephen Fry didn’t exactly warm to this and as a result blocked @brumplum from his list of followers. This is his right. This is how Twitter works. I do it all the time. I usually do it with people I know from work when their unbearable smugness grinds me down. I’m in doubt there are plenty of people at work who do exactly the same to me.

No celebrity has done it to me (almost certainly because no celebrity follows me, or if they do they probably don’t take any notice of what I say). But I have done it to plenty of celebrities – including @wossy who’s frequent tweets became inextricably linked with the perception I had of him when he was on gardening leave after that Russell Brand-Andrew Sachs affair early this year.

I confess I also took the liberty of pointing out to Mr Ross why I was abandoning him. It probably wasn’t the best idea of all, but I figure in retrospect that the high profile celebrity he is and the willingness he demonstrated to place his head on the block by indulging in Twitter meant he was almost certainly able to handle the feedback.

I’ll also confess to unfollowing Mr Fry sometime ago. I didn’t tell him why on that occasion and have no desire to do so now. What I’m surprised to discover is that at some point I ended up refollowing him. That did come as a surprise. Clearly I receive so much Twitter spam I never hear from the man.

Unlike the people who are criticising @brumplum for voicing his opinions, the Brummy blogger isn’t wrong to have expressed his reasons for abandoning Mr Fry.

Twitter is about free speech. It’s a communication tool. It’s a massive playground. Children say all sorts of things in the playground especially when they’re using a communication tool which offers them distance from the recipient. Recall the last time you sent an email because you were angry knowing full well you were extremely unlikely to say the same words to the person’s face.

Stephen Fry earlier announced “Think I may have to give up on Twitter. Too much aggression and unkindness around.

This in response to an exchange with @brumplum, the most recent being a response to the “boring” accusation. Good comeback.

You can see where I’m going with this. Fry has already held up his hands and suggested he’s feeling very low and depressed. No one likes the thought of Stephen Fry feeling depressed. Even though I don’t know him at all, I remember feeling quite concerned for his welfare when he disappeared during a west-end run of a play. He returned and reasserted himself. If it is he’s hit one of those down moments then I’ve every faith he’ll bounce back in time.

@brumplum was well within his Twitter rights to reveal the fact he’d been blocked by Mr Fry and was also well within his rights to describe Fry’s tweets as ‘boring’. You can’t satisfy everyone all of the time. Some won’t get you. Others will. So long as you’re reasonably polite about stuff, saying ‘boring’ isn’t all that difficult a piece of feedback to take on board. I know I’ve received far worse.

But what would be really good is this. Could everyone just shut up about the spat? Could everyone quit churning messages of support for Stephen Fry and could the remainder on Twitter quit turning @brumplum into some kind of perahia?

If people don’t then pretty much everyone on the social networking tool will be guilty of the very thing Stephen Fry is claiming is putting him off Twitter. And if that’s the case it will be him who’ll need to hold out the olive branch.

So boys and girls – the hoards congregating behind the perpetraitor and the victim. All of you. Break time is over. Go back to your classrooms and get on with your work. @brumplum say sorry to @stephenfry. @stephenfry say sorry to @brumplum. And any journalists with a notebook, please move on. There’s nothing to see here.

  1. I had similar thoughts, but I refrained from blogging as such because I didn’t want to add to the media storm-on-a-slow-news-day. Ah well. 😉

  2. Emma permalink

    I agree with you, the press should stay away now, things like this happen all the time and they go unnoticed. its petty to be frank that they dont have anything better to write about.
    Thing is though, its not really to do with the fact that it was ‘his right’ its just common sense that you dont say something that could hurt someone esles feelings…

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