It’s not all anti-social media

The blame for some of society’s ills has been laid at the feet of social media. Cyber-bullying, Brexit, the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the dissemination of nudie photographs; it’s easy to be sucked into its dark side. But social media can also be a power for good; showcasing hilarious cat videos, highlighting political misdemeanors, and exhibiting pictures of my dinner.

They say that Facebook is for connecting with the people that you know but don’t like and Twitter is for connecting with people you like but don’t know. Just like real life, connecting with anyone, familiar or not, has its risks and rewards. Personally I have found Twitter a great way to find new people to play with and some of my Twitter pals have stepped out of my smartphone to become friends in real life.

One thing that the local Twitter users – or ‘Twighters’ as we are colloquially known – have in common is our love of the Isle of Wight. We celebrate its idiosyncratic landmarks, like the life-size statue of The Terminator that used to be on Sandown Road, the Knife and Fork trees in Monkton Village – and Monkton Village itself. That little enclave at the northern end of Ryde’s Monkton Street was cheekily renamed Monkton Village during a twitter conversation and the name has stuck. So much so that the local newspaper had a ‘Welcome to Monkton Village’ supplement, promoting the area’s small but thriving independent businesses.

Locally, Twitter also has its Tweet of the Week competition. This traditionally shambolic affair sees tweets with the vaguest of Island connection tagged #IWTOTW and then judged by the previous week’s winner. The competition has delivered satire aimed at the county’s previous MP, an escalating war of words with the Isle of Man, and a winning view of the Isle of Wight taken by space station astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield.

Nominated tweets include a quote from comedian Mark Steel, on Blackgang Chine: “It’s not a theme park, it’s the visions of a junkie.” And this gem from @P_K_Tips, right out of the 1980s joke book: “Can you get Lionel Richie for next year’s Isle of Wight Festival please? I’d like to see him Dancing On The Sealink.” A photo of anything shaped like the Isle of Wight – however imprecisely – is a likely contender for tweet of the week.

It’s easy to exist in our own little bubble online and living on the Isle of Wight can further contract our world. An Island-centric internet could turn you into a raging CAPS LOCK commenter on local news sites, or someone celebrating those tiny joyous aspects of life on the Island.

Personally, I’m always looking for things to share with my Twitter community. Local food, lost gloves, misspelled signs, charity shop treasure, a person wearing a jaunty hat. And you can celebrate too with Isle of Wight Tweet of the Week #IWTOTW.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 9 March 2018.

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