Simon Kelner: Tweeting isn't always wise, unless you're Stephen Fry

Kelner's view

Share

I assume we're all in favour of openness, accountability and free exchange of information, but do you ever secretly long for a time when we didn't know quite so much about people's lives, whether they be public figures or not?

This was, of course, the days before Twitter, an age when people kept their feelings to themselves, or at least didn't have such easy access to a medium on which they could express their every thought. I have said previously that I regard Twitter as the most powerful new medium of my lifetime, and that we're only now just grappling with its possibilities as a frighteningly efficient means of disseminating news and opinions, as well as its use as a publicity tool.

Stephen Fry, for instance, has an astounding 4.4 million followers. Just imagine what that means for the efficacy in getting across any message he chooses.

If he wanted to stand for parliament, or be chosen as the people's head of state, he'd have quite a start. No need to do a round of tiresome interviews when the new box set of QI comes out, he can recline on his sofa in his dressing gown (I don't know why, but this mental image just surfaced) and a few key strokes on his iPhone will suffice.

But it is the very convenience and simplicity of Twitter that gets people into trouble, and we have seen an outstanding example of this during the past few days with the disintegration of the marriage of Ben Goldsmith and Kate Rothschild, above.

As scions of two of Britain's most notoriously rich families, it stands to reason that even this most private of catastrophes would attract public attention and comment. And in the past, various PR flunkies would have tried to put their client's side of the story. Now, however, there's no need for the dark arts to be employed: the principals spill every emotion within the confines of 140 characters.

So he calls her "appalling" and says she should pay more consideration to the children, and she seemed to suggest her husband had in the past been cheating on her. So far, so undignified.

Then wiser counsel prevailed, and the couple issued a joint declaration that they would tweet no more. But when you're feeling angry, grief-stricken, betrayed or misunderstood, the temptation to have one more hit of the narcotic that is Twitter may be too powerful to resist.

So when, in a newspaper article, Janet Street-Porter took the couple to task for "letting it all hang out", Mrs Goldsmith was back, angrily punching those keys. I wish I didn't know as much as I do about the Goldsmiths' marital problems, but I do think a very powerful point about the appeal of Twitter as an unmediated court of opinion emerged from this sad affair.

Mrs Goldsmith tweeted that she wanted to avoid her opinions being "twisted and magimixed by the press". She added: "Twitter is the only recourse for most." Alternatively, she could have a word with Stephen Fry: much more effective that way.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam