The danger of tweeting in enclosed spaces

I could probably devote a whole series of blogposts to the theme of ‘ridiculous situations in which Twitter has landed me’ (though it would probably need a shorter and catchier tagline), and most of them would be entirely my own fault. Generally though, they don’t involve people who could be termed Twitter Celebrities.

Some people set a lot of store by celebrity tweeters – deriving glory from retweets; lusting after a mention or even reply; screen capturing fleeting moments of fame…it’s all rather sad, but it’s one of the major ways in which the Twitter world keeps turning. The closest I’d got to such behaviour was screen-grabbing a reply from a Christian Celebrity Tweeter (a somewhat niche band of tweeters) who shall now remain anonymous because it would be mortifyingly embarrassing to share. [I just did it to gloat at a friend, how Christian of me…] Oh, and texting a friend when I’d reached the glorious heights of a Twitter conversation with Hadley Freeman, Guardian columnist and my Dad’s favourite fashion writer.

As I’ve pondered before, celebrity is a very curious aspect of our culture and it’s one that I try not to succumb to. However, there are moments in one’s life where you just get a little over-excited by events…

Last Thursday, I had a late lunch in a branch of Leon at the less manic end of Regent Street. I sat in the window, eating Hungarian goulash and wading through a rather dry theological tome on the nature of The Land. As I people-watched, I pondered the fact that, with the BBC’s new Broadcasting House now open and the Radio 1 building closing down, there would now be a lot more interesting people passing through this part of town – radio guests popping into cafes for drinks or DJ’s acquiring lunch before their shows, and suchlike. Within minutes of this thought passing through my mind, I looked up to see Radio 2 DJ, Wittertainment co-host and ‘Christian celeb’ Simon Mayo walking past my seat and into the cafe.

Out came my phone and a tweet was composed. For a while, I dithered over whether I should @ Simon Mayo, or simply mention the name. [The difference, non-Twitter readers, is that he would never have known about the latter.] I waited while he paid for what I assumed would be a take away and looked out for him to leave (I had my back to the counter and wasn’t about to turn around and watch like a saddo). But he didn’t leave, so I sent the tweet, concluding that an @ was ok, and he probably wouldn’t see it anyway.

Why did I feel the need to tweet in the first place? Well, it had amused me and I knew it would amuse at least three of my Twitter friends who are fellow Wittertainment fanatics. There were also quite a few other people who might be mildly amused because of Mayo’s status in Christian (particularly Greenbelt) circles. Thus, the following tweet was broadcast:

I got on with my reading, awaiting a moderately excited response from one of the three people I predicted would be amused by it. Fifteen minutes later, my phone beeped with a response, but it wasn’t from anyone I knew, instead, the DJ sat at the table behind me, enjoying their lunch and free wifi, had replied:

Simon Mayo tweets

I chuckled, and then realised that the cafe was quite quiet and therefore my laughter was probably rather noticeable. I still didn’t turn around, thinking that I was likely only to remain witty and together via social media. Instead, I returned to the theology, simultaneously trying to absorb Old Testament prophecy while composing an amusing response – well aware that I was the only person present seemingly engrossed in what might look like dry theology. After a suitable amount of time had lapsed, a reply was sent:

And with that, I got on with my work, ignored the presence of interesting people, and continued to wait for my friends to notice what had occurred. Soon enough, the book was done with and I had no reason to tarry, so I got my things together and prepared to leave, all the while contemplating whether or not I should greet the Tweeter in question. In the end, I decided to continue playing it cool and left without a backward glance.

Within seconds of my departure, my phone began beeping with tweets from friends who had finally noticed the exchange. One in particular was from someone who I knew would understand my precise state of emotion (i.e. just a little giggly and over-excited), who I then texted to say I’d just left but hadn’t dared say hello. Her response? “But he replied!!!!!” 

Here’s the thing. I am quite happy making a twit out of myself on Twitter, but make a fool of myself in the flesh? No way. [Ok, I do frequently, but usually not intentionally.]On reflection, I think I would also feel a need to way too over-familiar with the likes of Mayo or Kermode (the other Wittertainment co-host) because I have their voices in my head for approximately 105 minutes every week, as I pound the pavements of London listening to their weekly podcast. That’s more time than I spend talking to my parents, sister and potentially other assorted friends combined over the phone! I think part of my brain genuinely believes that these people are my friends and that once a week, we meet up in a pub to discuss films over a pint. [How I wish that were true.]

The moral(s) of this story?
1. Frequent establishments near TV/Radio studios to add a frisson of excitement to your study session/quiet lunch.
2. Be careful when tweeting ‘celebrities’ in geographical proximity to you.
3. Consider simply texting those you want to share news with, rather than broadcasting it to the world.

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