Boom Bang A Bang: How Twitter Saved Eurovision (for me, anyway)

So, here we are again. The day after Eurovision. We’re all feeling a little grainy, a little dull around the edges, perhaps a trifle embarrassed at how much time we spent on Twitter last night.

Twitter has transformed Eurovision for me. It turns the show into a community pastime. I wouldn’t be caught dead at a Eurovision party, but I’m more than happy to sit at home, drink copiously and rant on the webs about the silly minutiae of Moldovan headwear or the relationship status of the Azerbaijani pair. And I know full well that there are hundreds, thousands of people out there all doing the same. I’ve bitched about the show in the past, but I simply couldn’t resist, despite fair warning from Twitterpal Selcaby:

(I missed out a couple. I was cooking dinner at the time.)

It can seem that the whole thing devolves into a scrum where everyone is shouting at the telly at once, and you do sometimes wonder whether the songs are getting the fair judgement that they deserve. But then there were some genuine clunkers and deranged decisions at the Dusseldorf Arena that needed commentary. And more and more celebs seemed to be joining in this year. Charlie Brooker, Chris Addison and Caitlin Moran all added a welcome dose of acid to the event.

Eurovision has become, despite (or perhaps because of) the obviously partisan voting a genuinely exciting and unpredictable contest. I was certain, to the point of nearly putting money down, that the Hungarian entry would romp away with the prize. She never got out of the bottom eight.

Ireland’s blatant attempt to make sure that they didn’t winning by fielding sugared-up quiffbots Jedward looked as if it could backfire, and at one point midway through voting they were looking dangerous. Well, as dangerous as a pair of ADHD-twitchy bubbleheads in red leather can look, anyway. Which just goes to show that Eurovision is as much about the performance as the song, and a dose of surrealism can actually catch you some mileage.

As for the UK, well, at least we’d moved away from the talent-show method of picking an act, and for that managed the best result we’ve had in years. Untouched by partisan voting (six points? THANKS, Ireland) we stayed resolutely mid-table, but with none of the embarrassment of the nul points years. The song was a bit of a clunker, but the back-to-business approach worked. It’s something to build on for Azerbaijan. A proper, honest-to-goodness pop band doing a proper, honest-to-goodness pop song, with none of the amateurism that’s marred our recent entries.

In short, this was the year when I learned to relax and enjoy Eurovision. Saturday night saw TLC and I both curled on the sofa, hammering away on laptops and cackling like loons. It was my FA Cup final, with an end result that had a certain poetry and ironic charm. Especially when the winners couldn’t stay in tune for their second performance.

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Less Is Sometimes Too Much

I loves me the Twitter. It keeps me in touch with the world, with friends and with interesting strangers. It gives me cool stuff to read, and fun things to watch and listen. It gives me solutions to problems, and answers to questions (and sometimes questions to answers). It allows me to vent, rant, enthuse and generally jump on the furniture and misbehave. It’s the freest vector of free speech – and as we all know, free speech can be troublesome.

In this article for Slate, Jack Shafer notes a few celebrity examples of tweets gone wrong – people in the public eye saying things that they perhaps should have kept to themselves. It’s US-centric, but the point is universal. There are moments in every day when you say things that can be easily taken out of context or simply misunderstood. It’s easy for the wrong end of the stick to be firmly grasped in an email or text conversation (gods know, I’ve run into a few of those brick walls in my time) and Twitter is no different. Or, as Jack put it, that a reaction was sought by the celebs in question – just not the one that they got.

I think part of the issue is that tweeting is both intimate and public. It’s you, at your rawest and least edited, railing at the latest idiotic politician or delayed train. You vent, and although you’re dimly aware that it’s going out to your followers, it feels more like a tiny catharsis. I tweet because I can, because in some small way swearing at First Great Western makes me feel a little better about being stuck on a train. With a small audience or group of followers, there’s never likely to be a problem. When your reach extends to hundreds and thousands of people, then the likelihood of saying something that one of that group finds offensive goes up stratospherically.

Of course, you don’t need to be a celeb to get into trouble on Twitter. Paul Chambers sent out a frustrated missive when he realised that the flight to see his new girlfriend out of Nottingham’s Robin Hood airport was badly delayed. End result? He was hauled up on criminal charges. Although he’s had a ton of support from some heavy hitters including top Tweeter Stephen Fry, the general consensus is that it wad a silly thing to do, and he was a dope to do it. I disagree. He was frustrated and angry, and said what was on his mind. It was no different to you or I saying “I could kill *annoying person* sometimes. The events that followed afterwards were an expensive, pointless over-reaction.

I guess the lesson, tweaked for the 21st century is “tweet in haste, repent at leisure”. And I have to admit that there are times when I’ve spat out an angry reply or grump, looked again at it, and then quietly deleted it. Sometimes, the act is enough, and you don’t have to publish at all. Contradictory, I know. But then in 140 characters, it’s often difficult to say what you mean. I have enough problems with 500 word blog posts.

Protest In Your Pocket

It’s looking more and more likely that Libya will be the latest of the domino nations to shrug off an oppressive regime, and hopefully find a better alternative. The power of social networking will be heavily cited as a prime factor in the destabilisation of hitherto unbudgeable despots like Mubarak and Gaddafi. Or, if you’re Malcolm Gladwell, nothing whatever to do with it.

Continue reading Protest In Your Pocket