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The Twitter Index


Tracking the soaring stocks and junk bonds of social media, helping you to invest carefully and speculate wisely. (By Rhodri Marsden)

March 25th, 2014

Rising: #happydays

I won't lie, I'm in a foul mood today. Life events have conspired to overload my brain with emotional distress, fill my in-tray as high as an elephants eye and present me with stress so unimaginably colossal that if I let it float out of my front door it would cause an eclipse in much of the western hemisphere.

Social media is no place to be during such times. When you're feeling low, everyone else is having a better time than you are, and it seems as if the bastards are rubbing your nose in it. You draw direct comparisons between your life and other people's, you see their achievements as your missed opportunities, their gains as your losses, their beautiful wives, husbands or children as monumental pains in the arse. You start thinking of happiness as a finite resource: if it's used excessively by other people you'll surely be left crying in some alleyway with no bus fare home and suffering the ignominy of having beetroot stains on your shirt.

These are not #happydays for me, so all these people can, to put it politely, get knotted:

But hang on. I should get some perspective. I may be experiencing an existential crisis related to my failure to achieve rather grand and completely arbitrary life targets I've set myself, but it's still possible to have #happydays. I just have to take pleasure in the more mundane, to appreciate the smaller things in life and delight in them. Just like these people:

The moral of this story: if you click on the hashtag #happydays with the express intention of railing against the people who currently have it better than you, like some kind of misanthropic arsehole, you will in fact end up laughing at someone who's utterly delighted that they've not done a danger fart for the last hour. We should all learn from this. I certainly will. Happy days.

March 21st, 2014

Falling: The Beatles are overrated

2.3 billion records sold worldwide. 17 number one singles in the UK, staying there for a total of 69 weeks. People still banging on about them reverentially 50 years later. It's safe to say that The Beatles were high achievers. But there are dissenters on social media with whom these facts do not very easily sit. They think that there's something suspicious about these figures. It doesn't stack up. They, of course, don't like The Beatles – which is all fine and dandy – but what they've done is to make the elementary mistake of extrapolating their own opinions to form a wider cultural theory. Here's a few choice examples:

What they're saying is that if you like The Beatles then you don't like them as much as you think you do. You may have taken a moment to rate The Beatles, but you've done it wrong. You've maybe rated them as an 8, but they're perhaps a 6, or at best a 6.5. Your brain has played a trick on you. You've been swayed by the sheer weight of public opinion and made incorrect assessments as a result. You are merely the unwilling participants in a 50 year-long thought experiment. The popularity of the loveable Scouser mop-tops is merely a consequence of some kind of mass psychosis. It's the same with Mount Everest. It's overrated.

There are so many examples on Twitter of people saying that The Beatles are overrated that a statement like this is laughable:

– but there are different ways of doing it. First up, we have the people who for months, if not years, have been exasperated by the fact that humans have quietly gone about their Beatles-loving business and refused to accept the supremely obvious. But now it is time. It is time for a bold soldier of truth to "take to Twitter" and lead a movement which will restore some kind of sanity among the population. ARE YOU READY, EARTH?

Then we have those who have not yet been asked if they think that the Beatles are overrated. That moment is probably not far off, however, and it is time to prepare us for what might happen should that eventuality occur. Brace. Brace.

There are those who whizz in and then whizz out, without punctuation but with a mumbled apology, clearly unconfident in their own opinion but gently dipping their toe in the water of Beatles overratedness before coming back stronger next time.

Others believe it to be a secret, to be passed around in hushed tones, barely audible, lest the plan to correct decades of misguided thought somehow falters, but they need to be careful, because whispering can be hard to hear and it's not impossible that people will assume that Beadle's ovulated.

There are insistent, flag-waving proclaimers, their feet cemented into concrete on this issue, refusing to budge even in the face of gently sarcastic blog posts like this one:

And then there's this, based upon extensive polling conducted internationally:


March 19th, 2014

Flatlining: @PeterMerrickUK

Let's look for a moment at the curious world of Peter Merrick. According to his bio, Peter lives in Sussex in what appears to be a pleasant semi-detached house. He's been posting on Twitter since 2011, and in that time has posted over 24,000 tweets. Many of them look like this:

Peter's been knocking around for a while, and you forget that he exists. But then someone will remember that there's this bloke down in Sussex who, whenever you retweet one of his tweets, will ask you who you are and why you're retweeting one of his tweets. They then retweet one of his tweets, and he asks them who they are and why they are retweeting his tweets. That then gets retweeted by someone else, and Peter immediately asks them who they are and why they're retweeting one of his tweets. And so it goes on. It reminds me of one of those games you'd play on residential school trips when there'd be a bunch of you sleeping in a dormitory, and someone would make a silly noise, and then everyone would laugh, and then someone else would do it, and everyone would laugh, and then it would happen again, and again, with fewer people laughing, and more people getting exasperated, but then the exasperated people would join in too, and other people would laugh, and on it goes, deep into the night, silly noises and laughing, until suddenly it's 7am and it's time to get up.
But it's still not time to get up.

Peter's social media output is, even by the standards of Twitter, monumentally dull. It generally consists of links to Wikipedia articles and BBC News stories, with the odd reference to his personal life:

But there's more to Peter than meets the eye. The more you read his tweets, the more you suspect that there's a savvy social media operator behind this account, screaming with laughter has he or she spends 12 hours posting things like this:

I used to think that retweeting Peter Merrick was almost a form of online bullying, prodding someone with a stick and forcing them to react against their will. But I think Peter's a willing participant in all this. It's been going on for too long now to be anything other than the most elaborately dull spoof account ever created. What Peter has done, here, is to create the gentlest suburban satire imaginable. It's Ever Decreasing Circles, homoeopathically diluted to the point where no jokes remain. Only the memory of jokes. Peter Merrick will land no book deal; this is all it will ever be.

Peter's bio leads us over to his Facebook page. Here, in a different online landscape, Peter gently alters his catchphrases. "Who are you and why are you retweeting my tweets" becomes "who are you and why are you liking my posts" and "thanks for liking that":

And, perhaps most gloriously, "let us chat on chat":

"Let us chat on chat" is making tears run down my face with glee. But hang on. Maybe it's not an art-prank. Maybe Peter is a real person. Oh god. I just don't know anymore. Hm. Anyway, when the link to this Twitter Index is posted on Twitter, we'll link to @PeterMerrickUK. I don't know how he's going to react, but I'll be watching. Peter, I salute you. Let us chat on chat.


March 18th, 2014

Rising: "If I won the lottery..."

The sight of south London mechanic Neil Trotter posing for cameras with a Euromillions cheque so large that it requires his wife to help him hold it has prompted people to ponder the perennial question of what they would do if they were in his position. It's hard for any of us to envisage a sudden windfall of precisely £107,932,603.20 and the prospect of billionarehood, but that hasn't stopped people trying to do precisely that over the last few hours.
Let's get the generous people out of the way quickly:

That was easy. Now down to business:

Charitable, non? Holidays figure quite prominently in people's plans, as if they haven't quite twigged that the rest of their life is going to be spent on holiday, that it's a given, and they might as well say "The first thing I'd do if I won the lottery is have lots of money."

Some people would mark their departure from work in more imaginative ways:

While others would make big purchases, spending untold sums on the things they've always dreamed of:

Some people set their sights on more mundane, achievable things:

(Before, presumably, going on a veritable orgy of construction.)
Others would relish the freedom that the money afforded them to just get up to crazy larks:

Which might seem like a funny observation of Andy's, but it's actually been doing the rounds on Twitter for about a year and a half:

Other far-fetched fantasies:

Some people aren't sure what to buy:

While others aren't sure of anything, but they're gonna let you know about it regardless:


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