Let’s get it trending!

I like Twitter.  I like it a lot.  I probably spend more time looking at it than I should.  One of the best things about it is that you only follow those people you want to; there’s no need to listen to the opinions of those that are not of interest, unlike in real life.  Following, un-following, re-following – these are all natural processes, unlike Facebook, where un-friending people is a serious business and is tantamount to phoning someone to let them know that you do not like them any more.  There are many reasons that I begin to follow people and also many reasons why I stop following people.  Top of the second list is when someone informs me of something cute that their child has just done/said; closely following this is the title of this blog: “let’s get it trending”.

Social networking allows us to become activists, albeit in a very minor and totally non-committal manner.  An activist is defined as an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause but Twitter (and to an extent Facebook) mean that we can be activists (just for one day).  There are those that dedicate their lives to a cause, but “Let’s get it trending” (LeGiT) is a the most banal, lowest effort and least likely to sway opinion method of activism.  It usually requires the individual to press one button.  Unfortunately, given the large number of people on Twitter and Facebook, the thoughtless pressing of a single button by numerous individual fingers allows an issue to ‘trend’ for a short time on Twitter, or clog up our Facebook feeds before it dies away, only to be forgotten. 

Just one example: #stopkony became a popular hashtag on Twitter following Jason Russell’s film.  People were falling over themselves to press the retweet button, to do their part to save those ‘invisible children’, to feel better about themselves for becoming part of the movement to rid the world of the evil warlord Joseph Kony.  Has Kony been stopped? No.  Is he in prison? No.  Ironically enough, Jason Russell has ended up in prison (before Kony) after a bout of ‘reactive psychosis’ caused him to strip naked and masturbate in the streets of San Diego.  #stopkony doesn’t trend any more; people have moved on and the Twitter activism has had no effect.  Such is the way of things and no real change can be brought about when, deep down, people don’t really care about an issue.  When large number of people care, change can happen.  When small numbers of people care, or large numbers pretend they do by pressing a retweet button, nothing happens. 

Multiple changes of Facebook statuses represent another form of pointless, low-effort activism.  There was a Facebook campaign recently where we were all encouraged to change our profile pictures to our favourite cartoon character, all in the name of bringing an end to child abuse.  Really?  How exactly was this going to work?  Was the sudden appearance of lots of Droopies, Scooby-Doos and Pink Panthers really going to make child abusers think twice?  Of course not, it was to raise awareness that child abuse is a bad thing; but I suspect that we were all aware of that anyway.  In reality, it was a fun way of getting people to think they were doing something for a cause.

Gary Barlow and his wife recently lost their baby Poppy.  This is horrendous for them.  They should be allowed the privacy to grieve in private.  Instead, we get Louis Walsh demanding that we all retweet his own sympathy “to show respect”.  Twitter glows with the hashtag #rippoppy.  Feels rather tasteless.  I showed my respect by leaving them in peace.

A young person is suffering from terminal cancer.  “Their final wish is to end up trending on twitter” is the quote.  This really happened.  Surely this is more than a little undignified.  No charity link, no suggestions for donations, no page directing you to offer condolences.  Just the retweet button, for the simple sympathiser.

The knee-jerk reaction: most recently to the Olympics.  Michael Vaughan (he should know better) claims that we need 1 hour of sport per day in Schools – “LeGiT”.  Of course we do.  No need to think about the sold-off playing fields, the early finish in many Schools, the lack of competition infrastructure, the existence of sports clubs, the difficulty with employing qualified sports coaches for 60 minutes per day, the cost implications, the equipment implications.  As long as the tweet is written, then retweeted by millions, something must happen, won’t it?  After all, we’ve done our bit for the cause and can rest easy.  We’re all activists now.

Time to post the link to this blog – “LeGiT”.


It’s worth getting one thing straight before I start: children in need is a good thing. Anything that raises nigh on 30 million pounds for various children’s charities cannot be anything other than a good thing. Whether one finds dancing newsreaders a little bit hackneyed and probably best left in the 70s with Angela Rippon and Morecambe and Wise, and whether it’s patently obvious that Sir Terry should have been mothballed along with Sir Bruce years back, that doesn’t make CiN anything other than a good thing. It’s a British institution; it’s proof that we’re not all greedy bankers and we’re willing to give to a good cause; it’s a good thing. Have I protested too much? Probably. Have I made my point? Hopefully.

I’ve just watched ‘teardrop’ by ‘The Collective’, which is the official CiN single. It’s a curious mix of young black British musical talent, Ed Sheerin rapping (well, speaking) in a sort of ‘mock-ghetto public-schoolboy in his bed-sit with pictures of Tupac on the wall’ accent, and an occasional focus on Gary Barlow doing what I presume is the face he would do were he to come across a run-over, though still partially alive, kitten.

It’s a terrible cover of what is a very good song. It’s basically the same music, with a lazy rap done over the top. It’s got some strings in it; you can tell this because of the Gormenghast-relic bearded chap doing some conducting in the middle of the video. But, with CiN being a good thing, even this poor song represents a case of the end justifying the means. And if one sees it as nothing but a bad song making some money for a good cause, well, it’s probably a good thing too, all in all. At least it’s better than ‘The Stonk’.

The mistake I made was to listen to the lyrics. They’re such incredible dross. It takes a while to get going, but it’s as if by the two minute mark, the lyricists decided that it was time to get all insprirational. Thus we have gems like:

1. ‘you can be anything you dream of…’

This is patently untrue. I’d like to be a professional footballer thanks. What’s that? I’m not good enough at football? But Ed Sheerin said…

2. ‘value everything you own, somebody probably dreams of the bed that you sleep on’

Nice guilt trip. As long as I own a bed, that should be enough to make me feel guilty. Unlike the rabble of x-factor types in the video, who have really had to struggle with the instant fame and fortune conferred on them.

3. ‘be anything, it’s your choice’

A similar conundrum to point 1. It may be your ambition, but very rarely is it your choice. You can be a writer, but you still need a publisher to get your words out there. You can be a singer, but you still need a record deal to get your music heard. And you’ll never be an astronaut or a footballer – best just get used to it.

4. ‘always speak your mind’

This is a bad idea. Questions such as ‘do I look fat in this?’ and ‘isn’t he such a cute baby?’ may get you into a awful lot of trouble for speaking your mind. There are times when speaking your mind is a good idea, and no-one’s trying to suggest you should be a wall-flower at all times, but there will be times when the advice is plain irresponsible.

5. ‘you can turn silver into gold with 4 coins’

A mathematical question. With one 50p coin, two 20p coins and a 10p, you can indeed turn silver into gold (a pound coin) though I’m pretty sure that they’re not made of gold. Then again, the ‘silver’ coins mentioned above are mostly nickel-alloy; nevertheless, it works mathematically, despite the confusion between colour and value of coin. Having said it, this is probably the only true part of the song, though I doubt many people will be inspired by the basic metric system of currency.

Maybe I’ve looked into things in too much depth. In fact, I know I have. But sometimes things aren’t glamorous, they don’t represent instant gratification and they don’t always end with the success you’ve worked towards or the success you deserve. Sometimes things only come with hard slog, and even then, you’re not going to be famous doing them. But you should be happy with your own achievements, even though you have to realise that you can’t do anything you want, or be anything you wish. Better to hear the truth now.

If you’re after inspiration, eschew Barlow, and head to another great man, Marcus Aurelius:

‘Be like the Rocky headland on which the waves constantly break. It stands firm, and round it the seething waters are laid to rest’