'The large part of me hates myself for even being on Twitter'

The Scoop

In this week's Notebook Mark Townsend explains the humbling and humiliating process of 'optimising' an interview with a tour star

I’m slightly concerned that this modern-day phenomenon is going to be a part of my life until I take my final breath.

Six years ago at the Open at Sandwich a group of journalists gathered at a media party on the eve of the Championship and embarked on a variety of conversations, none of which I had any idea about which they were talking. So many things seemed to be going on in the world and I didn’t have the slightest clue about any of them.

So-and-so this had just been on holiday to Portugal, so-and-so that’s car had just broken down and did you see that two people had, get this, had a little fall-out.

I should have known back then, from these banal exchanges, that I wasn’t missing out on a thing here but, a week later, I started following this inner circle’s every move.

Two years later I joined Twitter myself and I’m still going strong.

The large part of me hates myself for even being on Twitter. There is a purpose to it and, only 10 months ago, I laid (or is it lain?) to rest my ‘personal account’ which, I’ll be honest was just a weekly musing on Strictly Come Dancing, and started up a work one.

I now have 555 followers which a) I’m relatively satisfied about given the account’s short life span, averaging over 50 a month from pretty much a standing start; b) makes me more than a little bit sad that I have an opinion at all on this; and c) takes me back to my original point of just hating myself for being on there in the first place.

I’d like to think I have a fair bit of dignity about myself in the real world, the one where I have spoken conversations. On Twitter I have next to none, maybe none at all.

This is how my mind operates when I have an interview that I’d like to ‘optimise’ on this form of social media.

For the words on the tweet there will be some sort of catchy teaser, something that is going to get people to hopefully read it. All fair enough, that’s what you do, give enough away but not too much. Hatred levels: 3/10.

Then include a nice picture that adds another layer of interest. You should always have a picture, the experts tell us, it decorates things. But this is where my mask slips and I begin to show myself as a bit of a wrong’un. I will generally include four photos which will then, with my next move, allow me to then sell my soul to the devil. Hatred levels: 6/10.

Here we go, the inner chimp is pleading with me to just post it, have a bit of faith in the masses and trust that the fascinating and ‘exclusive’ interview will be able to get out there under its own steam.But I don’t do that, I then turn into a person that I don’t really recognise and truly detest.

‘Who’s in this photo?’ Twitter asks me.

By the time I’ve finished it’s more a case of who isn’t in this photo. I quickly take advantage of the 10 open goals and include the person who is actually in the photo, which is fair enough, but then also list someone I have tenuously included in the fourth photo just so I can link him into this charade, plus the original player’s management company, his equipment people, his psychologist, a couple of people/close friends/wives who are guaranteed to give it the Holy Grail of a retweet (RT) and maybe another unrelated tour pro who either has a large following or I might catch at a low ebb and they might also RT.

I do all this while telling myself that is all far more palatable than clumsily @ing all and sundry in the main text which makes for a very clunky tweet. No no, I’ll just drag anyone and everyone into things in a very slightly more dignified manner despite the fact that nine out of 10 of them have no idea who I am or what I’m on about.

And still there’s room for three more? My inner chimp is screaming at me to just evacuate the area. The scene is now like a Butch Cassidy bank job in Venezuela where notes are fluttering all over the place but I just can’t help myself.

I look up to see which celebrities they’ve partnered in the Dunhill Links in recent years and tag them in too. Ten spots all full. Hatred levels: 10/10.

To complete the pantomime I prompt our social media guru that the piece is ‘now live’ which is simply parlance for ‘be a love and retweet it will you from the work account?’ As, while I have the might of my 555 disciples behind me, there are, at the time of writing, more than 56,000 here. And this where the real power lies.Twitter

And if he’s not about I’ll just go native, switch accounts and just do it myself. Hatred levels: 13/10.

While this is all fairly mentally exhausting we’ve only really just begun. Now we’re in the ‘hope zone’ that, for the next 24 hours, my phone is going to repeatedly beep as my followers all show their appreciation by immediately retweeting it to spread the love a little.

The shoo-in should be to get a retweet from the interviewee himself, the golden ticket is when his peers on tour all follow suit. From this position of strength you’d like to think that the hierarchy of hangers-on – people like me – will also do likewise and then we have ourselves a Twitter party and my phone becomes an extended limb.

A few notifications here, another couple there. It’s all so exciting.

But if the said player simply just ‘likes’ it then you’re dead in the water. Thanks for the interaction and all that but what is the point of that? Even the mighty Brandel Chamblee, a member of golf’s Twitterati, ‘liked’ something last week and, while it was much appreciated and will likely lead to me tagging him in this piece, it changed nothing in the overall scheme of things.

One day there might be a world without Twitter and middle-aged cretins like myself will be all the better off for it.

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