I am slightly ashamed to admit it, but, until last Friday afternoon, if anyone had asked me who Louis Tomlinson was, I would have looked at them completely blankly. I wouldn't now.
It was just after 4pm, and I had been speaking to a group of Whitehall civil servants about the rather dry subject of opening up public policy making. Having made a couple of disparaging comments about how the civil service needed to do more to communicate in "normal" language on Twitter, I decided to see what (if any) reaction there had been to my remarks. But, when I logged on to my account, I was faced by an unexpected barrage of tweets of an altogether different nature.
There was none – or at least I couldn't find any among the dozens of tweets instructing me to call someone called Louis.
Ring louis tommo mate. u need to ring Louis bbe
Ring louis tomlinson for us please. Ring louis tomlinson now
You should srsly call @Louis_Tomlinson ∫ Thanks hun
It went on and on and on.
At first I thought my Twitter feed had been hacked. I had never heard of "Noodles", "Gemma is the Queen", "Eighteen" or "Never leaving Justin" – just a few of the Twitter profiles telling me to call Louis. All of the messages (about 100 in total) had been sent within seconds of one another in a 15-minute period.
I had also gained nearly 20 new followers – none of whom I'd heard of and who seemed, from their profiles, unlikely to be interested in the musings of a political journalist.
The only element of sanity that suggested that this was indeed my account and not someone else's was the (very) occasional message such as: @oliver_wright says "Civil service needs a style guide and then to use the style guide". Oddly reassuring.
I decided to scroll back through the messages to see if I could find the cause of the madness. It all appeared to originate from a single tweet – from the mysterious Louis Tomlinson himself.
"If anyone knows a little ginger boy called Oli Wright. Please find him and tell him to ring me :)," he'd written.
So I Googled him. And it all became clear. "Louis Tomlinson is an English pop singer-songwriter and actor". Or, more to the point, Louis Tomlinson is a member of ONE DIRECTION. By the by, he also has more than 15 million Twitter followers.
Having phoned a friend who works for Now Magazine and does know about Louis, I decided to join the fray and send a tweet pointing out that I'm not ginger – but joking he'd been causing chaos to my Twitter feed. He didn't respond but it went down well with the One-Directioners who re-tweeted it dozens of times.
Is there a moral to this story? Not really. I've got a few new followers who (may) find out more about politics. I also know a lot more about One-Directioners and their internet power. When GQ put pictures of the boys on five separate covers and tweeted them out, the response was so large that it crashed the magazine's website. The fans operate as a terrifying "collective", ganging up in their hundreds of thousands on anyone who is perceived to "slight" the boys, with victims including The Who (who, it was wrongly suggested, had blamed 1D for plagiarising a song) and the American singer Taylor Swift for apparently saying nasty things about Harry Styles.
The fans are so obsessed with the boys that they will follow anyone linked with the band on Twitter. Harry Styles' student sister has 2.3 million followers, while the band's stylist, Lou Teasdale, has 1.3 million followers.
I seem to have got off lightly. Mind you, the central question is still unresolved: did Louis ever hear from my ginger namesake?