It would be impossible to match the excellence and eloquence of Stephen Fry when he deactivated his twitter account and described the platform as…
‘A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous, who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and to be offended… It is a stagnant pool. Frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish.’
He was understating the case.
Twitter is a place where people lose their jobs, their dignity, their self-respect and, occasionally, their life.
After almost ten years on Twitter (so long I can’t remember) and with 28,000 followers, I have made my own modest exit.
I haven’t de activated my account and slammed the door, like Stephen Fry, I’ve tried that before. I once described Twitter as a sewer and was amazed to discover, it led the news on Sky TV.
This time I have left the door open, and a note on the mantelpiece with my forwarding address. For those interested in my views on politics, please pop next door to http://blog.dorries.org
If you are a friend or a reader of my books, I’m in the countryside, setting up a totally politics free Facebook account, which will be fully up and running over the Easter holidays.
Having been voted the best MP on twitter on a number of occasions, I have always taken pride in condensing my forthright views and announcing them to the world. After all, twitter was made for gobby scousers like me. But that was back then. When twitter was new and exciting. Before the self-righteous twitter mob arrived and squatted on the platform. Like-minded groups of people who only feel worthy or good if they can bully, deride or reduce others. And then, there are the sociopaths. There are a lot of those on Twitter.
My disenchantment first began when I received a tweet sent to me, which read, ‘I want to see you trapped in a burning car and watch as the flesh melts from your face.’
The author was a student at Oxford University. I decided not to prosecute. Surely, that had to be a one off? Sadly, it was just the beginning.
Twitter has become a place were stalkers mark their prey. They no longer push hand written notes through letterboxes or skulk under lampposts or in telephone boxes. Social media provides the bridge that enables the wavering stalker to cross into the very dark world, he may once have thought twice about before entering.
Two such people, of a different political leaning to me, used Twitter to cold contact pupils at my daughter’s school and asked them to secretly gather nuggets of personal information about her movements.
They wanted to post the information on Twitter to confuse and scare me. To make me mistrust my daughter’s friends and teachers. To make me fear for her safety.
I am an author as well as an MP. As a female politician, the misogynistic twitterati think it is offensive for me to write books in my spare time. It’s ok for the excellent and successful author and Labour MP, Alan Johnson, but not for me.
Apparently, for this crime, my dogs should die in a manner of ways.
Late one Thursday evening, as I left a Question Time studio in a northern location and headed to my hotel, the more deranged Twitter users were wondering how easy it would be to gain access to my room.
People take to Twitter to voice their outrage that as an MP paid for by the taxpayer, I should dare to write books in my free time. That I should be a full time MP.
I am full time MP. In the same way a taxpayer funded doctor, social worker, teacher or nurse is a full time employee. But that doesn’t stop any of us having a life outside of the job.
I can no longer interact on Twitter with my constituents or my readers. Anyone who tweets the mildest support for me finds that they themselves become targets of unprecedented abuse. This is a standard tactic of the Twitter mob, to bully and isolate.
My heart crunched when one of my severely disabled constituents, a young man I visited at his home, told me he cries when he reads some of the abusive comments that regularly pop up on my twitter feed. I told him not to look, but he does and I can’t stop him. But, I can stop tweeting.
He asked me, ‘why are people so unkind?’ They aren’t. It’s just that those who take pleasure in being unkind find easy gratification on Twitter.
There are men who have spent almost ten years of their life obsessed with what I say on Twitter. I say men but, if they don’t have a blue tick against their name we have no idea who they really are.
I imagine they’re sat in a bedroom in their mother’s house, hunched over a computer, tweeting their daily-misinformed comments and abuse. Encouraging others to tweet their own abuse and trying hard to whip up a Twitter storm against me.
The time has flown but the startling fact remains, they are doing today exactly what they were trying to do ten years ago. They are sinister. They are fixated, and that is truly frightening.
Twitter has become a room in which the seriously unwell meet, create an echo chamber, set their own rules and plan attacks. They distort and manipulate and their objective is to destroy people. Not just those in the public eye, but innocent bystanders too. And sometimes they destroy themselves.
Barbara Leyland was by day a perfectly respectable woman. By night, a Twitter troll sending vile messages to the parents of Madeline McCann. Confronted by Sky News reporters, she said she was entitled to behave in such a manner, just before she took her own life.
I’ve been accused on Twitter of buying fake followers, as if I even knew how and then I was informed they had been set up by one of my stalking, Twitter obsessives, in order to create a negative news story and therefore damage my reputation. And it worked.
Last weekend I woke and the sun was shining. The daffodils had burst into bloom in the garden and life felt good. The dogs jumped on the bed, my loved one brought me tea and as I sat up, I reached out my hand for my phone and checked my Twitter account.
Suddenly, the room was filled with the noise of a thousand people screaming their faux outrage and vitriolic abuse at me. I am scum. A thief, cheat and a disguising excuse for a human being. I’m corrupt, ugly and I should resign, from everything.
It was as if one person after another filed past the bedroom door and hurled in their 140 characters of scorn as they went. ‘Don’t look,’ friends comment. But, if you don’t look, what is the point of Twitter?
And that was when I decided to drag the suitcase down from the top of the wardrobe and to leave.
It may be one day that something fires me up so much; I may want to return, but on the basis that I won’t interact, engage or look.
I wonder whom the obsessives who Tweet about me constantly will turn on next? They have had ten years of me. Enough.