Abuse me if you must, but I'm not the Big I Am


I suffered another random outbreak of online abuse last week. It was my own fault. I'd already announced in this column that I was going to go offline while my current comedy series was on the telly. Too much time spent in the back of cabs broke my Luddite resolve however. Sometimes, when you're on your own, potential access to the whole world is a tantalising thing.

The latest spat came after I mentioned that, in my view, there was a strong correlation between the number of tweets someone had posted and their mental state. I'm bad enough; over the past five years I have posted 20,000 or so tweets but, in my defence, I have a lot of followers and many of my tweets have been in response to multifarious enquiries.

The tweeters I am fascinated by are those with numbers like 130,000 tweets to their name (that's a lot of time spent online) but with very few followers. It often feels like they're shouting into a void and, in my experience it is these deluded types who are the most vociferous and unpleasant online. I got caught up in a tussle with a bunch of these online vegetables and was soon getting loads of abuse from what appeared to be a very angry dungeons and dragons club.

My favourite one was from someone who tweeted to anyone who cared to listen that I was a very unpleasant man. She knew this from a reliable source. Her "friend" supposedly worked in my local cinema and had told her that I had gone in there and swaggered about giving it the big "do you know who I am?"

I'm not sure that anybody (except maybe the late Michael Winner) actually does this. If I spot someone inquiring of strangers "do you know who I am?" my first thought is possible dementia, not an attempt to assert celebrity status. The fatal flaw in this celebrity myth is that, if you have to tell people who you are then you are clearly not "famous" and therefore would surely be loath to draw attention to the fact?

Nevertheless, I was intrigued and wanted to know more details about how I had behaved at my local Cineworld. Had I arrived and demanded a private screening? Had I insisted on free tickets in return for an autograph? Maybe I'd stood up in the middle of the film and told the other cinema-goers that they were in my hallowed presence? I asked but, as always with these sort of stories, the moment actual details or facts are required everything tends to crumble away.

I racked my brain and did remember a time when, having been faced with a quite extortionate bill for a couple of soft drinks, some popcorn and a packet of sweets I mentioned out loud that cinema "food" must be the most overpriced commodity on the planet. I assumed, perhaps incorrectly that everyone must do this unless they had too much money. That evening I was, once again, at my local cinema and tried my hardest not to be an arse.

Sadly, I watched Sunshine on Leith and couldn't help having a couple of sly teary moments. I hope nobody noticed.

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