Tracking the soaring stocks and junk bonds of social media, helping you to invest carefully and speculate wisely. (By Rhodri Marsden)
You'll be familiar, of course, with that bogus piece of scientific research trotted out annually which deems the third Monday in January (or whatever) to be the most depressing day of the year. People on Twitter love that day; they love to identify with it if they're feeling anguished, or express surprise if they feel mentally strong, or pour scorn upon the whole concept of "Blue Monday" and its basis in absolutely bog all.
Today, by contrast, is a happy day, because "glad" is, at the time of writing, trending in the UK. You rarely see trending topics on Twitter that are this vague; the list of trending topics isn't dominated daily by such burning issues as "as", and "and", or "or". But however Twitter's algorithm works, "glad" has slipped through the net. For a while, "glad" even ranked above #kfc – and on a day when KFC in the UK is offering a free chicken voucher on Twitter, that's quite something. In my experience people more interested in free chicken than expressing any kind of delight.
Anyway, let's quickly take a joyous skip through some of the uplifting expressions of pleasure that have made people so glad to be glad:
I'm so glad I signed up for Mr.Rieds history thing 😍😍😍. FOOOOOD— Ariel Aragon † (@_ilovewhiteboys) May 7, 2013
Glad to know that my teacher doesn't know that spoons don't go in microwaves— Tony Ibrahim (@iBBSauce) May 7, 2013
Glad we can be friends 😊—K Sadè (@Heartbreak_Sade) May 7, 2013
I'm so glad the sun is out, I hope it lasts— rebecca norman (@rebeccanorman98) May 7, 2013
So glad I got the job! #money— Kelsey Bradburn (@xoxo_kdb) May 7, 2013
(And, conversely, glad to be not so glad:)
With most of the results declared in today's council elections in England and Wales, UKIP have 117 council seats. That makes them fourth largest party in terms of seats, sneaking ahead of the number of councillors standing independently with no political affiliation at all. Big deal.
OK, perhaps it's a slightly bigger deal than that:
UKIP’s performance represents the most successful performance by a fourth party in any post-war set of English local elections.— Andrew Neil(@afneil) May 3, 2013
But over at the Telegraph they appear to be ascribing some kind of importance to the number of times a political party is mentioned on Twitter.
"UKIP was mentioned more than any other party on social networks in the days running up to yesterday’s elections," says the article, as if it mattered. Chin-stroking over a large number of UKIP Twitter mentions is like getting excited over the fact that "UK Independence Party" has more letters in its name than "Conservative Party".
If something's getting mentioned on Twitter, it doesn't mean that people think it's great. We weren't letting off firecrackers and breaking out the cava when news of the Boston Marathon bombings was "trending". When someone tweeted "is fed up of dirty homos and is going after beaver” on the official Vodafone UK account, we didn't make a fuss because we thought that the firm should adopt it as official policy. Chris Brown trends from time to time, not because we love him, but because he's an arsehole who once bounced Rihanna's head off a car dashboard while saying "Now I’m really going to kill you."
So yes, lots of people went out and voted UKIP yesterday, and yes, the results represent the most successful performance by a fourth party in any post-war set of English local elections, and that's big news – which is why it's being blathered on about on Twitter. That blather is no more indicative of potential gains in a general election than the colour of Farage's socks. Because for every tweet like this:
David Cameron says Tories are going to work really hard to win back UKIP voters. This includes being more racist and wearing cheaper suits.— ncguk (@ncguk) May 3, 2013
One of the essential building blocks of internet entertainment is things being put on top of other things. It's hard to know where it all started, but I'll hazard a guess at Stuff On My Cat, which led to a book of the same name, and inspired people to put more than one thing on their cat. And things on their rabbit. And their dog. And their guinea pig – although I've got to say that guinea pigs don't look like particularly good load-bearers, and it causes me some distress to see them holding up even so much as a cassette. It's not right. It's like a website called Breeze Blocks On My Baby (which hasn't yet been registered, thankfully).
(Incidentally, when you start searching on Google for websites featuring "stuff on other stuff", you can quickly get led down a very dark alleyway by the previous panicked searches of distressed young people looking for information about "stuff on my balls", "stuff on my nipples" and "stuff on my labia". Just warning you.)
The best stuff on other stuff doesn't involve fancy adornment or picturesque arranging; it's just a thing balanced on a second thing, with the second thing taking on an uncharacteristic role as a shelf or occasional table. The last seven days has seen a doozy of the genre appear on Twitter, @thingsonmynan, with such glorious examples as
A microwave twitter.com/thingsonmynan/…— things on my nan (@thingsonmynan) April 30, 2013
Fosters twitter.com/thingsonmynan/…— things on my nan (@thingsonmynan) April 29, 2013
Fruit bowl twitter.com/thingsonmynan/…— things on my nan (@thingsonmynan) April 28, 2013
Golf club twitter.com/thingsonmynan/…— things on my nan (@thingsonmynan) April 29, 2013
The fact that Jean, the nan in question, has some kind of uniform which she dons before having stuff put on her only adds to the delight. There's been no action for a couple of days; I'm anxiously hoping that this isn't because anything bad has happened, like Jean falling ill, the family running out of objects, or the global rights having been bought by Endemol.
When the Duchess of Cambridge's sister landed a £400,000 book deal with publisher Michael Joseph for a "fully illustrated and beautifully designed book packed with recipes, crafts and inspirational ideas", a nation stopped dead in its tracks and said, simultaneously, "Jeez, you'd want the ideas to be as inspirational as Nelson bloody Mandela for 400 grand." When it finally appeared in the shops, Celebrate – "a one-stop guide to entertaining throughout the British year" – was almost universally panned as a vapid compendium of advice that barely qualified as common sense. But no-one slagged it off quite as beautifully as @pippatips.
#PippaTip: Enjoy a glass of water by getting a clean glass and pouring in water from a tap or bottle. If you like cold water, add ice— Pippa Middleton Tips (@Pippatips) October 26, 2012
#PippaTip: Watching TV. Find a comfortable place where you can see the screen. Turn on TV, find a nice channel and enjoy using ears and eyes— Pippa Middleton Tips (@Pippatips) October 26, 2012
#PippaTip: the juice of an orange can be used as a refreshing & nutritious drink. You can get it from oranges or ready made in cartons— Pippa Middleton Tips (@Pippatips) November 16, 2012
Most parody Twitter accounts are inevitably total dreck, with stabs at humour so desperate that you imagine the creator tweeting at knifepoint. But stock in @pippatips rose quickly because of the gloriously weary contempt for its target:
#PippaTips: if you're throwing a Halloween party remember that inviting friends and loved ones can really help get that party going— Pippa Middleton Tips (@Pippatips) October 31, 2012
#PippaTip: a heart-warming way to bring about a bit of joy is to form friendships with people you like— Pippa Middleton Tips (@Pippatips) November 1, 2012
which occasionally verged on outright insult:
Of course, successful Twitter accounts can attract the attention of publishers keen to make a fast buck. @pippatips set out its stall pretty early on:
And with the Duchess of Cambridge currently "eating for two", the subject matter of any potential book was always going to be baby-related:
Am swotting up on child-birth, these contraptions don't sound very much fun!— Pippa Middleton Tips (@Pippatips) January 27, 2013
And look! My goodness. Fewer than six months after the launch of @pippatips, the book is now available for pre-sale.
I hope the "shady characters behind PippaTips" got £400,000, but that's pretty unlikely, unless they're related to royalty
If you're under the mistaken impression that there are no #jobs out there, bloody hell, take a look at #job. I've been looking at #job for the last four minutes and I'm struggling to physically cope with the number of #job vacancies being flung in my face. Dozens if not hundreds of #jobs are posted every minute. #Jobs are raining down upon me like water from a Dornbracht Balance Module Rainsky Ceiling Mounted Shower, only £15,966.60 including VAT. Tons of #jobs. Loads of them. IT Operations Analyst. Senior Mining Engineer. Garment Technologist. Director Of Nursing. Compensation Analyst. Just pick your #job, apply for your #job, get your #job. Bingo.
Earlier today, #job was trending in the UK – a surefire indicator that the tough economic climate we've been valiantly battling against for the last five years or so is finally over. Well, either that or every recruitment agency in Christendom is slinging every #job they've got onto Twitter and hashtagging it #job. Ah yes, that'll be it.
The notion that anyone looking for a #job is scrolling through every tweet hashtagged #job is beyond absurd. The time that a recruitment specialist spends adding #job to their #job advert would be better spent putting their feet in some food and going "Woo woo woo". You might think that looking through ill-suited #job vacancies at a Jobcentre Plus is bad, but looking for jobs on Twitter using #job is like looking for a needle in The Large Magellanic Cloud, which according to Wikipedia contains over 30 billion stars and orbits the Milky Way. Additionally, you run substantial risk of encountering motivational arsebilge like this, that is guaranteed not to motivate:
So, there you go. #job. A deeply popular hashtag, but one that's almost universally ignored, and about as much use for job seekers as #nob
Mayor Of London Boris Johnson's regular audiences with the Twittersphere are presumably meant to serve some political purpose, like door-to-door canvassing, but they don't really serve much political purpose at all, like taramasalata. His social media advisors would presumably point excitedly at the fact that #AskBoris was trending in the UK this afternoon, but if you were sufficiently bored to follow the hashtag you'd discover that the breakdown of question topics is roughly as follows (NB – not statistically rigorous).
The only thing that makes #AskBoris worth vaguely following is that thin purple wedge of "good jokes" – which aren't particularly good jokes, they're just questions with sufficient mundanity or surreality to transform a political consultation exercise into something more akin to a toddler's birthday party after too much Sunny Delight has been chugged back.
#AskBoris have u ever melted 4 kitkat chunkies together into the shape of a traditional kitkat so that u could pretend you're really small?— Asher Wren (@asherwren) April 26, 2013
If you were a giant would you use The Shard to shank your mortal enemy, Gordon Ramsay? #AskBoris— Meredith Modzelewski (@meredithmo) April 26, 2013
Do you just take individual bites of a Wagon Wheel, or have a specific eating pattern when it comes to ere-mentioned biscuit? #askBoris— rebekahwho (@rebekahwho) April 26, 2013
#AskBoris Do you think Lurpak Spreadable is an accurate description of the product?— Withniall & I (@NiallBaxter) April 26, 2013
#askboris who would win a fight between a badger and an otter?— マドレーヌ (@y0maddie) April 26, 2013
#askboris Why is it called a TV set when there's only one?— Andy Twigden (@AndyTwigden) April 26, 2013
Would you eat your own hair? #AskBoris— The Lord of Bored (@N8FYB) April 26, 2013
#AskBoris Are you my real dad?— samuelpanther (@iamsammypanther) April 26, 2013
Have you ever swung from a chandelier at an Abba concert whilst eating a peasants shoe? #AskBoris— Rhiannon (@Rhiannon__Rose) April 26, 2013
Boris very brave to do a tweet up. #AskBoris Usually they end in tears with no end of nonsense questions— Gail H (@gail_h) April 26, 2013
If you've got a couple of hundred Twitter followers, you tend to fret unduly over whether each tweet you post will gain you followers, lose you followers or slip past unnoticed like a biscuit on a conveyor belt rammed with biscuits in a massive biscuit factory. But when you've got 1.5m Twitter followers and your mantelpiece has an Oscar, a Grammy and an Emmy standing on it, you really couldn't give a monkeys. A few thousand followers here and there – whatever. You don't really care what people say back to you because you don't bother reading the replies. And the content of your tweets is immaterial; even if you accidentally posted a picture of a bit of skirting board that you accidentally took when you accidentally tripped over the cat, it would provoke a fevered, enthusiastic response from almost everyone.
This morning, in a moment of touching candour, Cher decided to communicate intimately with her loyal band of disciples, treating them as not just Twitter followers, but companions, confidantes – almost family.
This warm, affecting, heart-warming digital embrace did not go unappreciated. Reciprocal affection immediately flooded back in the opposite direction, a stream of tweets imbued with love, with friendship, with a heightened sense of emotion. This, dear reader, is what it must be like to be a celebrity.
@cher Hi, how are you doing?— H∞LIGAN Jessica B. (@HOOLIGAN_GIRL01) April 25, 2013
@cher evening beautiful— Adam Magee (@AdamMagee8803) April 25, 2013
@cher why bother Cher never replies!— Sandy B (@jindy56) April 25, 2013
.@cher hi Cher will u send me a tweet to my doggey— shayna smith (@im_uranus) April 25, 2013
@cher cher i'm really thirsty— Gabe (@gabeAlfassy) April 25, 2013
@cher you're drunk cher go home.— Greg Breeden (@GregIsGo) April 25, 2013
@cher pee on meeeee!— Luis A. Bravo (@LuisBravo_) April 25, 2013
@cher do you still masturbate?— X C X (@abesuxx) April 25, 2013
@cher kill urself— Rihannabelle (@MOMMABEY) April 25, 2013
@cher hi I want you to fart in my mouth— Alien ऐलियन् آليين (@JUDAaAaAaAaAaAS) April 25, 2013
@cher HI WHAT DO YOU THINK OF BEYONCES H&M COMMERCIAL YOU OLD HAG— HORACE B (@HeByHorace) April 25, 2013
Twitter is a broad church. It's easy to forget this, because your experience of Twitter is defined by the people that you follow; one day you might think to yourself "Blimey, Twitter's rammed to the gunnels with well-argued feminist theory," forgetting that this is because you follow a lot of intelligent, lucid feminists, and actually, well-argued feminist theory accounts for approximately 0.00023% of Twitter's daily content while the majority of people keep wanging on about burgers or something.
So when I saw the news on Twitter that uninspiring pop quadrangle JLS have split, it was refracted through a prism of ironic comment and good jokes, e.g.
JLS have gone out of business resulting in the loss of three jobs.— Peter Aglingtons (@JargArmani) April 24, 2013
JLS came and performed at my school once and we got to miss maths to watch them. I'd have rather stayed in maths.— Harry Cavéy (@Cavey_) April 24, 2013
But if you dare to venture beyond your own social media garden fence, it starts to become eerie and unfamiliar, like wandering through Gosport at 3am. You encounter feelings of sadness:
Fortunately @jlssupportgroup has been formed (56 followers at time of writing) in order to help these people, in order to "unite fans in their loss" – although the support mechanism, such as it is, seems to consist of retweeting things like this:
– and not much else. I dunno whether pointing at people and saying "look, they're sad" is an effective counselling strategy – but if it is, it's certainly cheap, and a new, slimmed-down NHS might want to take note.