A long time ago I had a yellow Fiat Punto. It was the exact same colour as my hair at the time, as my best man took great delight in explaining to our wedding guests. The car was what your parents would call a ‘souped-up’ edition with a turbo that propelled it forward like the Starship Enterprise and a suspension system which would do its level best to kill you if you dared attempt any type of corner.
As a result of owning the car and knowing no better, I joined the Punto owners club forum and set about arguing with as many people as possible. For no reason at all.
I was young, full of (incorrect) opinions on everything I didn’t know anything about and, crucially, hidden behind my keyboard, like a soldier crouching behind a sandbag. I was safe and could toss literary grenades at anyone who dared disagree with me.
The most memorable of arguments involved car air conditioning. No, really, stick with me. I argued that turning it on did not affect fuel economy, or engine power. I screamed about it in italics until several keys pinged off my keyboard. I’d used it for years, I said, and had never noticed a drop in either my MPG or less oomph when giving my right foot the beans. I was right and everyone else – including car manufacturers and respected motoring journalists – was totally wrong.
Only, I knew I was talking out of my backside. I was arguing for the sake of it. More worryingly, I was also getting deeper and deeper into a topic I knew literally nothing about. To make matters worse, my opponent did know what he was talking about and, to my horror, began detailing exactly how air conditioning works in cars and why it has adverse effects.
I can’t remember how it ended, but it probably involved lots of expletives and meaningless acronyms followed by a swift closure of Internet Explorer. That’s all I had. I was out of grenades.
It’s been a long time since I got involved in anything similar, but I spotted the following retweet from Chris Moyles earlier today:
I decided to check this BrightNomad chap out. I spotted he’d tweeted over 38,000 times which is pretty heroic in the world of social media. And when I say ‘heroic’ I actually mean catastrophically depressing. Bearing in mind Twitter only started in 2006, if we hypothetically suggest BrightNomad joined back then, he has tweeted, on average, twenty times a day, every day, for five years. That’s a lot of tweets, even for people with not very many friends at all.
His timeline was full of replies to people who had presumably tweeted him after seeing Moyles’ retweet. So, I thought I’d do the same and kindly point out what a terrible waste he was making of the wonderful tool that is Twitter.
What follows is a transcript of our conversation:
Mark Ellis: I suggest you read your timeline, although I’ll warn you – it makes pretty pathetic reading. Is this what social media is for?
Martin: I suggest you fuck off. Try it.
Mark Ellis: brilliant. How old are you, 12? And… Try what? Come on, you can do better with that keyboard. Hit me.
Martin: you have trouble fucking off then? Hardly surprising #MoylesScum really don’t know when to fuck off.
Mark Ellis: I’m just not sure where to go. I’m sat at my desk at work. If I leave, I’ll get sacked. ‘MoylesScum’? Please explain. And before you think I’m being a smart arse, I’m genuinely intrigued. A quick scan of your blog shows you’re a literate chap.
Martin: OK I apologise. You’re clearly not #MoylesScum that was a determined polite question & respect that.
I’ll be honest, I expected a bit more from him. Had this been on the Punto forum we’d be arguing into the early hours. Not so. Perhaps Martin and myself are of a similar age and therefore beyond that type of behaviour, but as far as keyboard duels go, the above is pretty pathetic.
I hereby withdraw my sword. I will not fight another battle.