How do you politely dispense with the people you have invited into your life in our social networking age? It’s a tough one.
At the start of every New Year, I worry not about resolutions, but about whether I will survive the Simon Cowell MPC (Mobile Phone Cull). At the start of January, my friend of 15 years’ standing changes his number, and every year I wait to see whether I have won a SIFTA (Simon Internet & Fone Telecommunications Award). Apparently, it is as difficult a judging process as anything you would ever see on the X Factor, and I live in terror of being dumped.
Did I send too many texts? Did I offer too much advice? Was I too critical? Does he still like me? Did he ever like me? Did he just want good reviews? Oh, dear, lord, just let me know if I have made the final.
I cracked open a bottle of champagne when the text came through. “This is my new number XXXXXXXXXXX. Simon”. I know dozens of Simons, but in the first week of January, there is only one that matters.
“Simon Cowell is now following you on Twitter”. That was the next step. All my New Years rolled into one. I cannot tell you how absurdly excited I was about this (well, not since Stephen Fry followed me on Twitter, and that’s a whole other glorious story). It was like Jesus choosing to oil the feet of Mary whose humble house he visited (well, okay – a bit OTT, but you get my drift).
This is a man who has changed the face not only of British entertainment, but British television, and I have been a fan and supported him in print and as a friend since day one. He has also cracked it in America – no mean feat. He has also been one of the kindest people not only to me but my family and friends – and all off camera. Not a lot of people know that.
This week, I had some very nasty Tweets after what was, to me the Follow of All Follows. And I decided to cull the people I follow on Twitter. Not because any of them have done anything particularly wrong, but because for me, there is a danger of Twitter is becoming a bullying playground, and the whole point of social networking was, and is, to be social. That means nice.
But setting about my cull was difficult. I have over 3500 followers but was also following close on 3000. That meant that at least half my working day was spent on Twitter, catching up with people whom I would never meet, never wanted to meet and (incredibly! I know - I find it hard to believe, too) never wanted to meet me.
The mystery was how I came to be following some of them in the first place. At what point did I think that Asian weddings were worth a follow? Or gay men’s style magazines?
I decided to dispense with most of the actors, apart from a few friends. Most of them only ever Tweeted about getting drunk, anyway, and the best actors aren’t even on there (Sir Ian, you survived – it might not even be you, but I wasn’t going to take the risk).
Most of the social networking companies who are rivals to my own (SoShall Network Ltd, should you be interested) were out, too.
And, I am afraid, so was anyone who said they were, first and foremost, a mother/father/brother/sister/pet lover. Great. Good for you. Then bugger off and do your family stuff and leave Twitter to those of us who are trying to get work.
Illness was a tough one. I have followed lots of people who have asked for Retweets about loved ones in need of support. Would I feel guilty about culling them? These went into my virtual “pending” file.
For me, social networking is much more than social now: it is a means by which I make connections that might enable me to get work and in which I might enable others to further their careers. I don’t have time to join virtual cafes or Mafia clans, such as we were all so keen (well, some of us) to do in the early days of Facebook.
I want to follow people who have thousands of followers, not three people in the butcher’s shop and pub in Rhyl. And I want someone with well over 6 million followers like Simon Cowell to follow me.
Call me shallow, if you like.
I call it social networking growing up and coming of age.