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My name is debbidoo, and I am a Twitterholic

As a confirmed Twitterholic, I’ve been very interested to learn about the recent explosion in Twitter traffic. Not so long ago, the microblogging service was mainly used by techies, social media experts and marketers. But in the past couple of months Twitter has seen a massive surge in popularity – due, in part, to the number of celebrity endorsements the site has had in the UK of late.

There’s something quite amusing about the number of people that have joined Twitter purely because that’s where their celebrity idols hang out. It’s the online equivalent of lurking outside a stage door with an autograph book, or hanging around the Hawley Arms in Camden Town because you’ve heard that that’s where Amy Winehouse drinks.

Funny, yes, but it’s a tad irritating too. I asked my Twitter friends what they thought about the recent surge of Twitter users, lured to the site by the prospect of interacting with celebrities. While there were some positive replies, one friend – a techie, who has used the site for about two years – complained: “It’s making a farce out of it – it should be about conversations between equals and peers, not about following celebrities.”

Mind you, it’s all quite entertaining. I’ve had a fair few giggles when I’ve stumbled across Twitterers whose entire contribution to Twitter’s timeline has consisted of @ replies to celebrities, and exclamations of “OMG this is like sooo addictive” (and it is, too; Twitter’s search area has pages and pages of tweets about how addictive Twitter is, and as a confirmed Twitterholic I’m not going to argue with that).

And in fairness, some of these celebrity followers are pretty good at unmasking the inevitable fake celebrity accounts set up by pranksters who have a huge amount of fun duping Twitter’s hordes of celeb-spotters. These impostors create paranoia in the Twitter community, sometimes with amusing consequences; John Cleese, for example, made a film to confirm his Twitter account’s authenticity, while other celebrity Tweeters must be sick and tired of constant demands from followers to prove that they’re genuine by posting photos of themselves to Twitpic.

Within hours of Jonathan Ross revealing Russell Brand’s Twitter ID, a tricky trickster had set up an account with an almost identically spelled username and started following all of Brand’s followers. He almost fooled me. Almost. And then it was left to poor Wossy to repeatedly reassure his followers that Russell Brand’s username is definitely rustyrockets, plural – not rustyrocket, singular.

But the most successful fake celebrity on Twitter, as far as I’m concerned, is “Dean Gaffney”.

His friendliness and humility are so convincing that for a week or so I had no reason to think he wasn’t genuine. It was only when I started looking at the photos he’d posted to prove he was Dean Gaffney – and the comments pointing out that the Photoshopping of said photos was hilariously rubbish – that I realised I’d been duped. And then laughed and laughed and laughed at my own gullibility.

I was intrigued. What makes someone go to the trouble of setting up a fake Twitter account in the name of a celebrity – and a not-very-high-profile one, at that? So I conducted a very short interview with Gojira (not his real name), a 22 year old SEO/Internet marketer in the North West of England, via a series of direct messages on Twitter.

“[It’s a] social experiment conjured up by two mates after a drinking session and a debate about how stupid the average person on social networks are,” he says, “and to see how far we could get it.”

And are people stupid?

“People are… haha… People being unsure about how genuine the account is has added to its popularity.”

Followers of the fake Dean Gaffney have asked to see proof of his identity. How will Gojira get around that?

“The real Dean is now aware of it and is going to be sending me a photo of himself holding the day’s newspaper, which I’m going to post.”

I’ve had my suspicions that “Scott Mills” isn’t genuine… are you behind that too?

“No, I’m not Scott Mills, but a real “famous” person got in touch with me and asked me to set them up an account etc, which I did.”

And how much longer do you plan to keep up the subterfuge?

“[We’ve] been on the TV (The Wright Stuff) and on the radio. [We only] need a newspaper appearance now and we will quit.”

All this celebrity hoo-ha aside – and to be honest, while some celebrity Tweeters are genuinely interesting and interested, there are disappointing ones too – Twitter is a truly special place. These little scandals and excitements rippling through the Twitter community add a warmth and genuine feeling of connectivity to an online society which, in my opinion at least, knocks spots off the big boys of social networking. Facebook, with its pokes and pointless apps, can occasionally be fun in a “forgetting you’re an adult for five minutes” way; and MySpace is great for discovering new music, although users are quickly swamped with “friend bulletins” and spammy profile comments. But it’s only on Twitter that you can wonder aloud about the best way to tweet from your mobile phone and within minutes have dozens of suggestions from people who are only too happy to help.

Is Twitter addiction such a terrible thing? I don’t think so. I’m barely embarrassed at all about the fact that, when my cat stole a defrosting salmon fillet from my draining board, instead of getting upset I took a photo and tweeted it. Yes, it’s a little sad. But if Stephen Fry can tweet from a broken down lift, there’s no reason I can’t tweet from my kitchen floor.

Without my Twitter addiction, I wouldn’t know so many interesting and lovely people, all over the world. I talk to people in Australia at the same time as I’m talking to people in Switzerland. Without Twitter I wouldn’t know about T-Enterprise, who make excellent Flash games that you can embed on your website for free (I’ll be giving that a try soon – cheers guys). I wouldn’t have connected with Williams Holidays, who have kindly agreed to help me with ideas for a holiday website I’m building. I wouldn’t have ‘met’ the lovely Daniele at Busting Diva, with whom I’m planning a fun project to get revenge on all the porn sites that hijack our websites’ contact forms several times a day. And I wouldn’t have discussed Welsh history with Ant in Sydney, or pagan philosophy with Nicola in Nottinghamshire.

I’m thoroughly addicted to Twitter, and that’s fine by me. Thank you Suw, for nagging me to join. You were right, and I’m only too happy to admit it.

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6 Responses to My name is debbidoo, and I am a Twitterholic

  1. judecalverttoulmin 17th February 2009 at 8:50 am #

    Hi Debs, this is a great post and a good roundup of the recent history of the spread of Twitter.

    I used to be addicted to a large forum, where I met my partner of 7 years, and have used the experience as inspiration for my novel My Adventures In Cyberspace, due out at the end of Feb 09.

    The experience did teach me one very important thing about social networking and how we choose to spend our time. I think one of the dangers of social networking addiction is that it’s easy to kid ourselves that it’s just a mild diversion from the main thing we do in our life, but once it *defines* what we are doing in our life, and *becomes* the main thing we are doing in our life, then we are truly addicted.

    The way I see it is, your passion defines you.

    If you write, you’re a writer.
    If you’re a businessman, you conduct your business.
    If you go on a large forum all day, you’re a forum contributor.
    If you Tweet all day, you’re a Twitterer.

    Unless you sit down and seriously plan how you want to get the best out of your day, it’s perilously easy to end up becoming what you don’t necessarily want to be.

    I’ve got four Twitter accounts, fleurdelyspub, for posting updates about my business Fleur De Lys Publishing once every few days, jcalverttoulmin for posting once a day personal updates, and MILSIL and MAIC_book for posting daily lines from selected chapters of my books, which I take 10 minutes a week to schedule for the following week. I feel as though it’s all under my control, and isn’t distracting me from my main goal, which is writing and publishing.

    My overall verdict on Twitter though is that in some ways it’s The Emporer’s New Clothes and the most ineffective way of having a personal conversation ever. However it provides a great channel for instant global news reporting, it’s bringing a lot of joy to a lot of people, and like you say, you’ve met loads of new friends through it. If it makes people happy, you can’t knock it.

    You can buy my novel Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law on Amazon here:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0956029809/ref=noism?/tag=fledelyspub-21

    and my novel My Adventures In Cyberspace on Amazon here:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0956029809/ref=noism?/tag=fledelyspub-21

    (they’re the .co.uk links, also available at .com)

  2. Maxxy 26th March 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Hey Debs,
    Just popped by to say enjoyed reading this article and great to get an insight into how Twitter is being used
    Cheers,
    Max

  3. debbidoo 26th March 2009 at 10:51 am #

    Thanks Max :) Hope you’re enjoying using Twitter as much as I do!

    Nikki Pilkington has an excellent blog about using Twitter for business – highly recommended. Here: http://businessontwitter.co.uk/

    D x

  4. Maxxy 26th March 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    Brill. Thanks.
    I have just linked to your blog from mine as I think some of my chums would be interested in reading your stuff (saves them asking me about things I know nothing about!)

  5. debbidoo 26th March 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    Cheers Max, appreciated :) Let me know your blog URL and I’ll add it to my blogroll :)

    D x

  6. Maxxy 4th April 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    its http://maxxyuk.wordpress.com
    TTUS :)

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