News reports yesterday say Stephen Fry has deactivated his Twitter account, claiming it has become ‘stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous’. The decision came after a joke he made at the BAFTAs about his friend and costume designer, Jenny Beavan coming to the award ceremony dressed as a ‘bag lady’. It seems he is less than impressed with the stream of commentary on the social media platform which followed his remarks.
Fry was one of Twitter’s earliest celebrity adopters, cultivating a ‘follow back’ approach to his profile which in turn helped boost its credibility. After all, he is not just any celebrity, he’s a national treasure, a wit, an academic. But it seems the humourless haters and trolls have gotten to him. Which is a desperate shame.
— Stephen Fryopotamus (@jesuisturnip) February 15, 2016
It’s at this point I hope Twitter somehow intervenes and speaks up for their community. The issue many celebrities and large brands face with Twitter is the two-way communication and unlike Facebook the inability to hide critical comments. If someone tags a profile, you are linked. Reputation management has taken a whole new direction with PR experts still grappling with social media and understanding the voices which drive the trends.
With traditional forms of media, these major voices in our society weren’t used to dealing with direct comments from the general public. And in such volume. It’s very true that dealing with a large amount of followers on Twitter comes with it’s own set of problems. I happen to think Fry’s joke was misguided and the term ‘bag lady’ in this current economic climate is an inappropriate choice of words. Maybe the backlash to his comments feels disproportionate and with social media, there will be a number of ‘hanger-ons’ to the message, RT-ing and using hashtags just to get noticed.
This is why it’s disappointing to see Mr Fry give up so quickly. His very public action to storm off the platform gives more weight to those who drive those over-the-top self-righteous rampages. There is decent and measured debate to be had on Twitter, the kind which informs and raises awareness of issues and causes.
In my view, Twitter is not becoming stagnant, just tricker for those with major accounts to navigate. They need to figure out vocal trends in social media and strategies to manage them. I’m not dismissing the very real problem of the haters, trolls and abusers on this platform. But headlines like these only feed the trolls. And the golden rule of social media is never feed the trolls.
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