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January 31, 2010

“What is Alex Reid?”

Part-time viewers of the final series of Celebrity Big Brother would have been left in no doubt as to the answer. The programme’s summing up provided an indisputable narrative. He might have entered the house sporting the image of sn albeit reasonably attractive male bimbo with the kind of well-developed body any hungry gym-bunny-bore would be proud of, but he left a considerably more rounded individual. He had depth. He had feelings. He was a thoughtful chap. He wasn’t just a towering mountain of muscle and the illustration of poorly applied fake tan.

Reid had something between the ears. He was a sensitive soul. A handsome fella. We felt sorry for him. We wanted to protect him. We felt for him.

I was pleased he won. He seemed the right choice after Stephanie Beacham lost out so early on in the final show.

And yet Reid’s win came with caveats. There was a limit to how much of his soul I was comfortable seeing him bear in his final interview. Reveal too much of your innermost thought processes Reid and I may be forced to watch Kirsty Wark and her new Review Show from Glasgow. Careful.

I’m thinking about Reid possibly because I risk bearing my soul too much. Transparency might be the new objectivity but there are limits, aren’t there?

Yes there are. That’s why turning the reasonably common human experience of spectacularly jumping to the wrong conclusion into one of those drearily positive learning experiences is not only a challenge in not bearing too much of my own soul but also an opportunity to proactively do something to reduce the chances of doing the same thing again.

That’s the theory anyway. That was the thinking during the planning phase of this particular blog. Yes. This post was planned.

Yesterday saw the BBC make what turned out to be a less than jaw-dropping announcement about who would write the UK’s song at this year’s Eurovision.

Us in the “content production arena” inevitably saw this as an excellent opportunity to create some content of our own. And, having created it, I looked to the likes of Twitter to distribute that content. Insodoing I made contact with a seemingly new Eurovision tweeter on the block – jonwillchambers – who incidentally also happened to be an unfeasibly young Labour activist. not only did he seem to have been born in 1992 (making him irritatingly young) but also seemed to have an equally annoying biography. I normally get quite jealous when I observe teenagers who have been so succesful so early on. It only serves to remind me to what extent I failed as a teenager.

I’d best make contact with him, I thought. It is the Eurovision season after all.

We exchange tweets. He leaves a comment on my blog. And then his seemingly pointed question to @bbceurovision piques my interest. I read his question with a voice in my head which almost certainly doesn’t match the one he had in his head when he tweeted it in the first place. I am my own worst enemy. I know that. There’s no point in telling me so.

@jonwillchambers occupies a great deal of my thoughts on my way home after work. Who is he? I thought I had a pretty good idea of who the Eurovision fans are on Twitter (if that isn’t in itself a self-absorbed comment I don’t know what is). Why ask such a strange question? What’s so important about guaranteeing a tour for the UK Eurovision artist? What are you trying to prove? What’s the deal there exactly? What’s he about? Is he for real?

An hour or so later and I’m sat listening to the @bbcphilharmonic‘s Radio 3 gig from the Bridgewater Hall at the time as tapping search criteria into various online tools. The first checking out his domain name

This is as far my research takes me. Hey Presto! I’ve found my first discrepancy to fuel the suspicions which have fermented during the day. The domain name was registered in 2007 in Surrey. Mr Chamber’s blog indicates he’s lived in South Norfolk all his life. What the hell’s going on there? Something doesn’t add up. I know, I think, I’ll tweet my indignance to the man in question.

Of course, I should have known better. But a glass of Cava and suddenly my inner demons take over. I reckon I’ve uncovered someone who is pretending to be something he’s not. And because I’ve come into contact with him on Twitter I do – though I question the sanity of actually confessing this here – I reckon he has set up this website and his Twitter account and subsequently made contact with me with the sole intent of ridiculing me.

And I think of all of this without considering for a moment I might be being self-obsessed. The thought doesn’t cross my mind for a moment. No sirree. I wouldn’t be that. I might have been that in the past and been wrong but this is different. I’m right this time.

I tweet my findings publically, promptly following this up with one of those “damn you – I’m blocking you – you fraudster” clicks on the button marked “block”. So satisfying. And so depressingly dark too.

“Don’t you think you might be seen as stalking?” asks a friend. “I couldn’t give a fuck,” I reply with the kind of self-righteous indignation I know I’ll only regret 24 hours later.

Less than 12 hours later however I’m sat at my PC again giving considerably more of a fuck than I though I would, responding to a Facebook message sent by Mr Chambers expressing confusion at me blocking him without me giving him a chance to explain publically how it was he came to register his domain name in a different county from that in which he was living.

Suffice it to say his explanation plus an opportunity to nose around his Facebook profile (something I really should have done before I wrote anything on Twitter) left me gasping in wonderment at the extent to which I had been incorrect and how quickly I had jumped to the conclusion I had. Wow.

Soon after discovering this I’m penning a suitably grovelling apology to him and to the friend I snapped at electronically too via Twitter. With the Facebook Reply button clicked I slumped back into the office chair and thought about the irony of my situation.

Most people would brush such incidents under the carpet. They’d shy away from the thing. The last thing they’d do is make public all the insecurities implicit in their investigations regardless of how common those experiences or feelings might be. Have you no shame Jacob? People don’t need to know everything about you after all. Hold something back for God’s sake.

And yet it’s not the first time I’ve done this kind of things. It’s often the source of much unnecessary angst. It’s destructive. It’s fundamentally tiresome. It’s something which is also incompatible with a career in journalism and one guaranteed to damage reputations and lose friends.

So what to do? How do I tackle this? Do I spend another small fortune on self-help books and therapists to discover the root cause of this affliction in the hope of avoiding it in the future?

I’m 37. This has happened before. So no. Going to experts isn’t the answer. Far better turn the experience into a learning experience both professionally and personally. Confess all. Be transparent. And insodoing I make a very important request. Those who care do please keep an eye out for any future recurrences and advise accordingly.

I’m working on the basis that if we work together we can make the world a better place.

One Comment
  1. You’re a brave soul to be so candid. If you can keep being this open, the deep-down learning you crave will happen all by itself. These incidents will occur less often. You’ll find another tactic for dealing with moments when someone acts like a prat and it’s on the tip of your tongue to shriek: “PRAT!” through a megaphone and across every communication channel you can find.

    The only reason I’m less prone to exactly the same thing (and I’m 45!) is that every time I shout: PRAT! I turn out to be wrong. And I do mean every single time. I’m never right about that. The upside of this shameful character flaw is that it may mean, on average, the majority of people merit the benefit of the doubt most of the time. I like the idea of living in that world, rather than the one populated by mostly prats, plus you and me and a few other nice individuals. Although I’m not yet convinced.

    Between you and me, I still THINK ‘prat’ at the top of my voice, most days. And then sit there feeling a mixture of smugness and shame when I’m eventually proved wrong … yet again … but nobody knows about it.

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