I was waiting by the pool last week for someone to show – or at least, I think it was last week, my memory’s so shot these days – when a notification popped up on my phone. “Your tweet has been retweeted!” it exclaimed in that usual shrill Twitter voice. Funny, I thought, I haven’t used Twitter for well over a year so wondered what the algorhythm had done on my behalf.
True enough, a silly little tweet about the state of the launderette I had made eighteen months ago had been reposted by someone in Alaska. Have they nothing better to do than to respond to eighteen month old tweets I wondered. And ignored it, trying to concentrate on the poolside activity that was misbehaving that early morning.
But not for long. A few minutes later another notification popped its head over the parapet. Someone had commented about the launderette, this time from Russia. The story’s nearly two years old I muttered. How come it’s still running?
That’s the problem with Twitter it occurred to me. The damn stories don’t stop coming, they just go around and around cyberspace, like a spiral within a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel I mused (rather poetically I thought at the time until I realised I had just remembered some lines from a corny Noel Harrison song.) In the meantime, we have to deal with retweets of retweets, old themes which refuse to die and even older story lines which will never go away.
Luckily, some time later that morning I was able to prise myself away from responding to the tweets, the quotes and the trivia which had preoccupied me and get down to work for a change. Not that that lasted long. The five year old launderette saga had reminded me that I’d left a pair of socks there last time I visited and never got them back. It was about time I tweeted them to see if they had found them recently and to hang on to them until I got back from the Algarve.
Sharing – that ancient tradition of passing something onto someone which may be of mutual interest – has taken on a new dimension recently with the advent of social networks and the desire of many commercial operations to generate compelling content which can will be transferred painlessly from customer to customer in a mimetic act of contagion.
Marketeers – and we’re all marketeers now apparently, even if its a simple matter of telling others about our pet dogs foibles – are sighing a huge sigh of relief now that bloated advertising budgets have been replaced by viral videos, popular posts and contagious copy. It costs them a fraction of what it used to and the happy conduits of their marketing message are now the rest of us and we’ve taken on this mantle of the surrogate marketeer through our adoption of the concept of sharing.
In the old days, per-social networks, sharing as a young boy used to mean pretty much one thing. I have something – a dead hedgehog – I think you’d be interested in. I’d like you to experience it in order to strengthen the bond between us. Usually this act was reciprocated. You had something – a frog in a bucket – which you thought I might like to see. We swapped hedgehog and frog, back and forth in acts of unconditional sharing. There was no other agenda and pretty soon we moved onto other objects of our desire and affection- axolotls were big in those days.
Post social networks however, sharing has come to mean something else. Not only do I have a dead hedgehog which you are interested in, but I also have an old copy of The Beano I’m trying to get shot of. I give this to you in an act of sharing, even though you’ve read it a thousand times and have moved onto 21st Century Schizoid Man. Likewise, your frog in a bucket eventually loses its interest to me and I’d rather you share your mountain bike with me, even though I haven’t passed my cycling proficiency test yet and you have no desire whatsoever to ssee me wreck your shiny new acquisition. In social network protocols, I will continue to bombard you with requests to share my Beano in return for you sharing your mountain bike with me for a week.
Coca Cola, in their recent campaign which thanks us for sharing our summer with them know this meaning of sharing only too well. I had no intention of sharing my summer with them and would have much rather banned their empire for a month than have negotiated their sales camps set up in the local supermarket. And whilst they were after my hard earned cash in the spirit of sharing, I would have much rather dumped a shed load of dead frogs in buckets on their door step in return for knocked down bottles of black fizzy nastiness which rots your guts, social networks and moral fibre. Coca Cola – I didn’t share my summer with you and I will not be sharing anything with you any time soon. Not even my Beano.