Richard Baker: No twitter, just the sound of silence
NEVER in the field of human conflict has so much been said by so many about so little.
That, my friends, is the only true story about social media and rolling news.
And human conflict does appear to be a fair and reasonable way to characterise the way people behave when they, um, "interact" via news and social media.
I sit here penning this little missive having had the dubious pleasure of watching a bobble-hatted Bieber leap out of a blacked-out executive bus and engage in a robust exchange of opinion with a member of the paparazzi.
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Because this is a family newspaper, we'll gloss over the fine, Anglo-Saxon terminology which the "photographer" in question employed after one of Mr Bieber's assistants vigorously interposed his bulk between lens and subject.
In fact, I'm beginning to wonder why I haven't glossed over the entire exchange since its relevance to the advancement of civilisation lies somewhere in the depths of life's Hoover bag.
Yet these meaningless specks of dust are what pass for the stuff of life these days. A couple of weeks ago we had a renowned novelist hauled in front of the headlines for apparently insulting the Duchess of Cambridge. That her lecture was about tabloid distortions of the Royal family didn't make it into the final edit.
The practice of what may be known in the trade as Phil Space journalism (geddit?) is part of a long and endearing tradition of humdrum events expanding in significance in relation to the lack of anything meaningful happening.
Social media and rolling news have turned an activity once confined to summer and Christmas into a tedious 24-hour, all-year-round sport. If you've got the opinion, we've got the microphone...
While I'm sure it resembles one, this isn't meant to be a grumpy old rant about change and technology; I enjoy Twitter as much as the next self-important person. What makes me want to reach for the Mogadon is seeing my feed polluted with Tweets or re-tweets which amount to little more than manufactured rage.
The symbiotic relationship between journalists and politicians (they fear and loathe each other, but can't live apart) has made it worse. Show me a new policy initiative and I'll show you a series of tweets from other parties which start in a press office, get repeated by MPs, party hacks and commentators, and then become an issue in themselves. He said this, she said that, an inquiry is called and – hey presto – some points have been scored.
I shudder to think how much time, effort and public money is being consumed by this futile tail-chasing. It over-analyses short-term change and places far too much emphasis on the inevitable imperfections of big government, while failing miserably to shed any real light on the issues that matter.
And yet politicians still have the effrontery to accuse business of being short-termist.
I go online as much as the next person. But I know that if I ignored Twitter, Facebook and blogs, my life would not descend into a silent, uninformed hell. It might instead be peace, truth and beauty.
The really big news this week? It'll be wet and cold.
That is all...