Coren's brief disappearance leads to a very interesting question: how should one react on Twitter when insulted?
It seemed as if, following a mild reproach by fellow food critic Marina O'Loughlin, that Giles Coren had flounced off Twitter last night after O'Loughline called him a 'numpty' for criticising Italian food.
He was back on this morning, saying that he had tried to change his profile photo but had accidentally deleted his account, which account you will find more or less credible. His brief disappearance leads to a very interesting question: how should one react on Twitter when insulted?
The flounce is the worst of all options. Tweeters piled onto the space where Giles used to be: 'he seems a prick and he'll no doubt be back tomorrow' (he was); 'he can't take criticism' (while being a professional critic); 'what a fucking drama queen he is'; 'Is there anyone anywhere who actually likes Giles Coren?' And so on, with the instant outpouring of bile that the internet beautifully facilitates.
Coren knew it as well, as he acknowledged in his return tweet: 'people seemed so glad i'd left, i was shy to come back'. The Twittersphere took great joy in disregarding the maxim about the (electronically) dead and speaking ill, which is a good reason not to flounce: people will say what they really think because they think you can't see it *and* because they think that you've acted like a diva, compounding the error.
Some people shout back, and this is almost as bad a course of action: you look angry, out of control even. Giles Coren has a pugnacious personality (to put it mildly), and he did respond initially by telling Marina O'Loughlin where she could stick her tweet, but evidently this was insufficient to assuage his anger. The corollary of this, of course, is that ignoring the offenders may be the best method.
A good example of someone who receives frequent hostile tweets is Jonty Olliff-Cooper, who works at A4E, the controversial outsourcing firm which ran into trouble when its founder took an £8.4 million bonus effectively out of public funds. People on Twitter accuse A4E of all manner of crimes, but Jonty responds to the less frothing ones evenly and helpfully. (Disclosure: Jonty and I were at university together.)
Milder action is possible: you can block offensive tweeters, as I have done when people have been excessively rude. This has the benefit of preventing further communication from them while allowing you to carry on without making a fuss.
The anonymity of the internet allows people to say some very harsh things, and even on Twitter, where people often use their own names or photos, cruel words are still uttered. If one is not to descend to that level or be driven from the public square, a thick skin is all.
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