While not being much of a one for resolutions, as the state of my liver, waistline and career will testify, I have, of late, been trying very hard to stick to one promise that I made myself, a fair time ago. I have been trying very hard not to be a reply guy.
You know the ones, the ones who can't see anything without rushing to reply, convinced that what the world needs now is not, as Dionne Warwick would have had it, love, sweet love, but a great steaming bowlful of their opinion.
(and why yes, I am aware of the irony of espousing this position on a blog, the very epitome of an opinion piece, but the crucial difference is that if you're reading this then you're probably doing so through choice)
I'll freely admit to being loudly opinionated, as anyone with even a passing acquaintance with this blog or my various social media will be aware. Stridently so, at times, maybe even obnoxiously so. But what I'm trying, very hard, to do, is keep those opinions off other people's feeds. It's the difference between the public and the personal, a difficult line to draw on social media, particularly Twitter, where the world can follow you, should they wish.
There is one caveat to this: when a politician tweets something crass, it's almost impossible to resist. But I regard that as probably part of the day to day for them. Plus, Matt Hancock's an absolute weapon and pointing out to him that he's announced the same 40 hospitals being built on at least ten separate occasions now is fair game, I reckon. I'm talking more about men (and it's almost always men) rushing onto the threads of women (for it's almost always women) to pick them up on anything from some minor point of spelling to the main thrust of their argument.
A recent favourite example of this was the Sinn Fein adviser Siobhan Fenton tweeting a comment about the Tories trashing the Good Friday Agreement. The first reply was a man loftily saying that she "Obviously hadn't read the GFA"
Ladies and Gentlemen, Siobhan Fenton wrote a BOOK called...wait for it....The Good Friday Agreement.
Hilariously, rather than slink off with his tail between his legs, this pillock attempted to brazen it out, but he was fucked, and he knew it. Personally, I think I'd probably have just walked into the sea. What gives these people the confidence?
Social media, while a wonderful thing in many respects, holds up a mirror to some of the worst aspects of the human psyche. At the darkest and dingiest end are those deliberate trolls who set out only to offend. A curious impulse which I've never truly understood but one which, I imagine, masks a deep-seated unhappiness of some description. I'm not talking about them here, more about the sort of, probably slightly mediocre, bloke who, as soon as they think they've got the chance to one-up a woman, in the manner of the playground kid pulling a girl's hair because he lacks the ability to tell her he likes her, do so with an avidity which is at once hilarious and a little sad.
After years of this crap, I've noticed of late a few sly traps being set for reply guys, indeed, it was nearly falling into one myself which inspired this piece. Someone, I forget who, but I suspect she was a comedy writer, tweeted faux-innocently that she loves the smell of the rain on hot ground and wouldn't it be great if there for a word for it? There is! I thought, reflexively, and thought about replying, before thinking again and realising that she probably knew fine well there was. I checked the thread, hundreds of blokes going "actually there is - it's petrichor". Ah, I thought, well played.
A less subtle, but no less amusing example was the Mancunian comedian Bethany Black tweeting that she "Hates pedant's". Sure enough the very first reply was a bloke going "Actually it's pedants" and walking straight into the fairly well-telegraphed trap. As if this wasn't bad enough, there were many other replies along this line, meaning people hadn't even stopped to check if anyone else had replied before they stuck their oar in with their correction.
Which, when you think about it, is a whole other level of arrogance. Not only are you assuming that you know better than the original person, you are also assuming that you are the first person to have had that thought. This, as an exhibition of self-confidence is really quite something.
So it's not for me. I forbear from commenting critically unless it's someone I know in real life, or something to do with politics (but only ever on the topic). If it's someone I only know tangentially, or know of, then if I do reply it's supportive or sympathetic only. As a rule it seems to be working out so far, because God knows I don't want to end up as one of "those guys".