I was hard at work going to the girls’ loos, getting a can of Sprite from the vending machine and then visiting the kitchen to see if anyone wanted a chat, and when I got back to my desk I thought I’d have a quick Facebook break… “IS TWITTER DOWN?” read a Facebook status. What does that mean “DOWN”? “DOWN” like Will Smith was “DOWN” in 1998? Or “DOWN” as in “upset”… as in, Who’s died now? There’s such phenomenal outpouring of grief when people die on Twitter and it makes me feel “DOWN” for the rest of the day because nobody can make cheap LOLs out of mundane situations because, you know, SOMEONE’S PROPERLY DEAD.
ANYWAY, I just clicked on my Twitter tab and it hasn’t updated in 26 minutes. The last tweet I have is from @HuffPostUKPolitics as retweeted by… *narcoleptic episode*. I ignore all the tweets from umbrella accounts. Can’t stand them. People like @MusicWeek are alright cos they have a sense of humour and don’t just bang on about what’s in Music Week this week which I know about anyway. I’m following you on Twitter for EXTRA kernels of info, not just links to your website, you knobbers. I was reading all that in the first place.
Ooooh work are playing the new album by obscure indie artist. (Sorry forgot, I can’t say because of embargo and I’m under strict instructions by work – no tweeting about that one, Eve! NO TWEETING, EVE!)
Back to Twitter. It’s actually broken. I keep clicking on refresh. F5! F5! Nothing… we’re stuck on @HuffPostUKPolitics. I think, If this is Twitter’s final word, then SHIT A BRICK what a tragic way to go. What an amazing career Twitter’s had and here it’s gone so sudden, without warning, mid-conversation, on the verge of something brilliant but it just couldn’t get it out fast enough before it was run over smack bam in the middle of the Internet. As Joni Mitchell says on Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope album, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” *Deep exhale*.
I click on http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/and it’s the same it was an hour ago. Nothing has changed. The “LATEST:…” tab on the top of the page is reporting flooding at Isle Of Wight Festival. I mean, Twitter was talking about that about 90 minutes ago. Where am I going to get my news from right now? As in THIS second? More to the point, as pointed out by my mate @chris_mandle commenting on Facebook where I’d updated my status to "OHMYGODTWITTERISBROKEN" – Where is DIGITAL SPY going to get its news stories from, eh? I (AND DIGITAL SPY) WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. Even if it’s just in @MooseAllain’s head or @planetjedward’s hotel, I must be informed of what is going on. 24/7. Need desperately to know.
I return to the Twitter page. It’s serious. There isn’t even a FAILWHALE. I miss FAILWHALE. At least FAILWHALE reassures you that everything is going to resume to normal (not sure about that weird robot with all the hands though, she can fuck right off back to… wherever RoboCop comes from).
I can’t help but wonder about things like Carrie Bradshaw: what happens to all the people I talk to on a daily basis who I’m really fond of but who I don’t know “IRL”? My self-made community of loveable mentalists? It’s not like I have their numbers, or even know their full names. I can’t find them on Facebook. If I walked past them in the street I wouldn’t know it was them. Nice knowing all you guys. No, really. We should have maybe met for that lunch or drink rather than joked about it. Or not. I don’t know. Sometimes meeting people IRL is downright awkward. Erase and rewind.
Then I thought, Maybe this is a reality check. I was at a gig in Dingwalls on Monday night (Haim - tweeted about it loads so won’t mention @haimtheband again #ff). I met a guy there who thought we’d met somewhere before. We couldn’t work out any common ground. Then I casually said (OHGODKILLMENOW), "Do I know you on Twitter?" He laughed: "You’re … what… is that a joke? You’re not being… serious? Oh. You are. Wow." Fuck. What a weirdo I’ve become. Or have I? Does he just “not get it”? What has Twitter turned me in to? I think I should go back to how I was before. Without Twitter. If I take anything away from Monday night (besides WOW HAIM - AMAZING), it should be, Check yourself, Barlow. Stop with the… Oh hang on a minute… Twitter’s working again. Twitter’s not dead! Rejoice! It was just another stupid Twitter death hoax! Yipedeedoodah!
So, this blog is what I’ve done since Twitter’s been down. In case you were worried you missed something. Imagine missing something.
I don’t make a habit of blogging when a famous dies. The internet is always awash with a million obituaries, the televisions sigh relief that they finally get to air that too often pre-prepared VT on loop for 12 hours; the grief becomes overwhelmingly public. From the “Whitney was my hero” and the “I listened to Whitney growing up” to the “what a waste of a unique talent” and the hysterical “WHY OH WHY”, all many want to do is offer an autobiographical anecdote as a tribute to the deceased.
For Whitney Houston, there will be many an autobiographical anecdote. There is absolutely no way on this Earth any one of us could have missed out on Whitney. From the ‘80s, Whitney’s voice has soundtracked our lives; school discos, Friday night clubs, karaoke bars, Tesco, car trips on the way to Tesco, dinners for two, airport lounges, bar mitzvahs, marriages, deaths… Whitney Houston was there. Within an hour of the news last night, Jedward clearly saddened by the loss had tweeted, “Whitney Houston Rocks She sang for us on our 18th Birthday Much Love from John and Edward”. Not to burst your hyperbubble, Jedward but… Whitney Houston sang at all of our 18th birthdays. And she nailed it every time.
Unfortunately with all celebrity death situations, other people less aclimatised to this thing we call “life” were abusing Twitter’s 140 characters to spread banal, pointless cowpat along the lines of “Houston, we have a problem.” It will never not be too soon to make that joke, but (CHRIST ALIVE) I’m guessing that 30 seconds after the announcement came from TMZ definitely forms part of a brutally obvious grace period of, well, showing some fricking GRACE. Perhaps that’s just me struggling to see the LOLs in the story of how Whitney Houston’s talent has been wasted, though…
On the other end of the enormoknob scale came the one and only Dan Wootton, who tweeted “Whitney Houston death is CONFIRMED. This is NOT a Twitter hoax. Only 49-years-old” and immediately updated his Twitter profile picture to an image of Me And My Mate Whitney. Well, indeed. Except if she was your friend, Mr Wootton, perhaps you would have been up to speed with her birthdays and not got her age wrong. Whoops. “My job as a showbiz reporter involves reporting and providing tributes at these very sad times. I hope people can understand that,” Dan tweeted after his live feed on Sky. Loud and clear, Dan. Let’s just report accurately, yeah?
Not before long did Dan Wootton receive competition and a battle of Who Can Make Whitney’s Death More About Me ensued. Katie Price got busy. Catching Wootton’s live feed on Sky News while being “soooooo shocked soooooo upset” on Twitter a minute previously, Price took this opportunity to air some old grudges: “Dan wooton on sky fuck you! you slate me sooo much you don’t even no me how dare you make out you know what it is like you big loser”. Handbags at actual dawn.
Unlike many incredible, joyous inventions in life, Twitter doesn’t suffer from that problem of the “ones who ruin it for the rest of us”. The ones who are ruining it for me simply get unfollowed. All I wanted to do last night was play My Love Is Your Love (which I bought in 1998 in Woolworths), while getting a second midnight snack’s crumbs on my bed; it’s what Whitney would have wanted. What a towering late-’90s R&B album of killer soul hooks and defiant lyrics that was (“If tomorrow is judgement day/And I’m standing on the front line…”, “It’s not right but it’s okay.I’m gonna make it anyway” and “Baby I learned the way to break a heart/I learned from the best, I learned from you”).
Whitney’s voice was so unwavering and empowered it made the 12 year-old me feel more badass just listening to it. I remember the first time I heard Whitney’s duet with Mariah Carey on that album (When You Believe) I considered it a gladiatorial vocal duel, for which I batted for Team Whitney – the paced, strong, modest pro to Mariah’s hysterical peacocking. My dad, of course, would wind me up by merging Britney Spears – another obsessionat the time – and Whitney together to create one indestructible “Britney Houston” and then… OH GAWD WAIT I’M DOING IT. Here I go making Whitney’s death about me and my silly dad. What a stupid, soppy, irrelevant autobiographical anecdote that nobody cares about and that doesn’t say anything at all. Sorry, Whitney. Sorry, World.
I’m sure there will be a prolific number of far more authoritative tributes tonight at the Grammys – an event Whitney dominated for years. I’m sure many more artists will continue to learn how to sing while listening to Whitney and be living tributes to her. I’m sure many Valentines couples will get all I Will Always Love You’d on Tuesday night and continue to eat chocolates together to Whitney. I pray that Simon Cowell out of respect might cease to search for a Whitney replacement; Whitney Houston was proof that there is an x factor and very few people have it. And as for all you HYSTERICAL jokers out there, I’m sure that Whitney’s death, like Winehouse’s months earlier, was predictable. But beware. When it’s time for you to depart the world and take your lame gags with you, Whitney – as promised – will be waiting for you on judgement day.
If arguing with people on the internet was an Olympic sport, I might make the b-team of a regional side made of slightly aggrieved John Lewis customers complaining on Facebook and a man who once got upset about a misplaced apostrophe (long before the whole Waterstones/Waterstone’s thing made it…