Do you remember the popular kids at school? They smoked, they wore their ties a little bit shorter than everyone else, and they were as thick as pigshit? Do you remember the respect they garnered, simply for being a touch more intimidating than everyone else? They wore the most recent trainers, but hadn’t read a book in their lives. They beat up the weak kids, but probably got beaten up by their parents. Now, do you remember the understanding you developed when your brain began to mature, when you got a bit wiser, when you realised that the only reason these kids were popular was based on reputation, and reputation alone? The realisation that their popularity was manufactured through word-of-mouth because nobody knew any better, and nobody had the foresight to rally against it, because nobody knew any differently. Do you remember?
Fast forward a few years from my time at school, and it feels like a completely different world, especially on the internet. MySpace is dead and buried, with new friend requests scattered in the virtual desert, along with MSN messenger and Panic! At The Disco. In less than half a decade, we have never been closer together, but also never further apart. Social networking has changed the world we live in, some in good ways – an easy route in for positive protests, every single WWE Royal Rumble match on YouTube, Gus The Fox, and some for bad – live-blogging, terrible amateur journalism, and the sainthood of Stephen Fry.
And then there is twitter. The online behemoth, with the little blue bird, a constant reminder that we are never alone, and never original. Forget secondlife, twitter is the true virtual reality we have on this planet. You can be anybody you want to be in 140 characters, you just have to play the game. Every thought you have ever had, has already been tweeted in one succinct post. Every celebrity you thought was a unique superstar has been shown as the toast-eating, reality TV watching humanoid they really are. Every event ruined by thousands of people all trying to make the same joke, trying to get noticed, trying to be somebody, in a world full of nobodies.
Okay, okay – I’m being harsh to twitter. There are some wonderful things to be found on the website. Networking is a joy, being able to instantly connect and communicate with somebody is a joy. It enables us to sidestep bureaucracy and puts everybody on an even playing field. Information can travel much quicker, without the spin put onto it via media outlets. And let us all, be honest, a well-timed retweet can give you a much-needed ego boost in distressing times of need.
So, like anything in life, twitter has its ups, and its downs. However, there is darkness lingering on the outskirts of this people-led paradise. There is a dirty little secret that people are trying to exploit for their own devious gains. An act that is as pathetic as it is cynical, and one which makes me lose an awful lot of respect for anybody involved. Yes, ladies and gentlemen – I am talking about the dark art of buying twitter followers.
I’m being serious. There are people on this earth, who are so self-conscious about themselves, and their industries, that they feel the need to spend actual cash money on fake people to boost their follower count on twitter. A cursory google of ‘buy twitter followers’, takes me to a website such as intertwitter.com who can offer the following:
Yes, for just under £100 you can boost your follower count by 20,000 people. Of course, when I say ‘people’, I of course mean 20,000 profiles created by someone in his bedroom, but that doesn’t sound quite so sexy does it? The idea of 20,000 new people being alerted to you or your product must be an incredibly enticing proposition for some people, but 20,000 names that aren’t even real? How can you associate any real sense of worth to you, or your product when you’re basically admitting that you’re not good enough for reality? I thought twitter was a place where you could be honest, where you could admit that Save Tonight by Eagle-Eye Cherry was probably the best song of the 90s, that football can sometimes be a little bit boring, that Lauren from TOWIE is a guilty pleasure. Twitter is the refuge of truthfulness, of being able to try to be yourself among a crowd of thousands. Why tarnish that by buying words?
I’ve been aware of the act of buying followers on twitter for a while, but over the last couple of days, and thanks to some great detective work by some people on the website, it looks like there is an ideal of example of what I’m talking about. The twitter account in question belongs to Whoa! TV, a group who make, admittedly excellent, videos involved in the world of MMA. They do a lot of good for the sport which is crucial, especially in this country where disappointment and false prophets seem to be around a lot concerning MMA. However, it has to be pointed out, that there seems to be some shenanigans involved with their account. Here is a screenshot showing a tweet from them posted on July 5th, 2012.
As can be clearly read in the tweet, the account has yet to reach 3,000 followers, having posted over 12,000 tweets. Fast forward just three days, and this is how many followers they now have on July 8th, 2012.
Now look, is there a chance they gained more than 26,000 followers in three days? Of course there is. There’s also a chance that Elvis Presley is still alive, that Ed Sheeran makes meaningful music, that Damien Hirst is still relevant, but if you think about it with just a degree of common sense, it’s very likely that some sort of deal has been struck up. It’s especially more apparent when you have a look through their recent followers, and you notice that the majority of say, the latest 26,000 followers have about 15 tweets between them. Like I said, of course it’s possible that they may have just gotten incredibly lucky with spammers, but the likelihood looks decidedly slim.
You have to wonder what is in it for people like this to take a vault in their follower count? Perhaps they would look more popular than they are to potential advertisers, perhaps the caliber of clients and interviews would be easier to obtain because they would look more established, but the trouble is, this is all just temporary gain, with the proof of it working pretty much non-existent. A sport like MMA, which is still being established, especially in this country, relies so much on trust, especially because there seems to be a lot of people running around without really knowing what they’re doing. Perhaps this is why I’m so disappointed – Whoa! TV really seemed like they had their groove and their niche sorted out, but if the insecurities are such that this has happened, you have to think about whether everything is a rosy as is perceived.
Has this cheapened my opinion of Whoa! TV? Perhaps a touch. I am a fan of their output, but life isn’t a popularity contest, and you have to be judged on what you do, rather than anything else. Think back to those kids at school, chewing pencils and kicking shins. You thought these people were the kings and queens of the playground, because of the illusion of legitimacy. This is no different – you should be rewarded and respected for hard work and dedication, rather than loopholes and deceit. The kids at school woke up at aged 16, with nothing to show for their lives except posh wanks and a linger of regret that would deepen with every subsequent year of their lives.
Don’t be sucked into pseudo-reality just because the internet gives us all an excuse to make us out to be a little bit more sensational than we think we are, because you know what, if we actually use our brains for positiveness, truth and knowledge, then we’re pr0bably even greater than any of us could possibly contemplate.