No Shave November

According to Cancer Research UK, men are in general, at a significantly greater risk than women from nearly all of the common cancers that occur in both genders, with the exception of breast cancer.

The joint report, The Excess Burden of Cancer in Men in the UK (2009), published by National Cancer Intelligence Network, Cancer Research UK, Leeds Metropolitan University and Men’s Health Forum 2009), reveals that when rate ratios were calculated by excluding breast cancer, and cancers which are unique to either men or women only, 60% more men in the 15–64 year age range are dying from cancers that should be affecting men and women equally. Thus, a greater effect seems to be predominately because the cancer deaths that occur in younger women are those related to the breast and genital organs (37.1% overall of cancer deaths in those aged 15–64; and around 50% in the 35–44 years age group). From the rate ratios of male to female deaths it is evident that there is a significantly higher rate of death for men over all ages. This ratio is lower in the 15–64 age range but rises substantially over the age of 65 years.

The mortality rate for lung cancer is substantially higher in men than women due to differing smoking patterns over the previous 60 years, despite there being more men who have reportedly given up smoking, relative to the number of females smokers. When rate ratios are calculated after excluding lung cancer to examine the influence on the burden of cancer in the two sexes after excluding the major cancer caused by smoking, then the ratio for all ages drops slightly to 1.31, with corresponding falls to 0.98 for 15-64 year olds and 1.51 for those aged 65 and over. This could suggest that younger males also have higher overall cancer mortality because of their excess rate of lung cancer.

There has also been a rapid increase in the incidence of prostate cancer, with rates rising from 32.5 per 100,000 in 1975 to 97.2 per 100,000 in 2006 in Great Britain. Although statistics by Cancer Research reveal that more women averagely die of breast cancer, than men of prostate cancer, there are fewer campaigns targeted at men and the importance of early detection. Prostate cancer mortality combined with the male mortality rates for common non-gender specific cancers, means that more awareness campaigns are necessary for male cancer.

It is interesting that despite September being Prostate Cancer month, blue ribbons and blue coloured merchandise did not engulf the country in any manner similar to the flurry of pink ribbons that emerged in the subsequent month of October. Perhaps it is no coincidence that November has now become a month for male cancer fundraising, with the “Movember” challenge.

“Movember”, a portmanteau of the word “mo” (from moustache) and “November”, is an event involving the growing of moustaches during the entire month of November, to raise awareness and raise funds for more effective detection, diagnosis, treatments, and to reduce the number of preventable deaths from male cancers. The Movember Foundation has run Movember events since 2004 in Australia and New Zealand, and since 2007 in Ireland, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, the United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa, Taiwan and the United States. The foundation’s goal being to “change the face of men’s health.”

As I believe in equality and, therefore, believe that male cancer deserves the same attention and awareness as that generated by female cancer campaigns, such as the ‘Pink Ribbon Campaign’ and ‘Race for Life’, I would join in with the moustache growing… If I had enough facial hair to grow one! Therefore, I have instead decided to join in by going razor and wax-free with regards legs, arms, and…etc! My fundraising page can be found HERE.

No doubt many will turn their noses up at my challenge, and I must admit that I will find it difficult to walk around unshaven. On the continent, many women are reported to grow their body hair, but it is very much a faux pas in Britain. Women whose body hair falls outside aesthetic standards may experience social acceptance problems. The exposure of body hair on women other than head hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, is generally considered to be unaesthetic, unladylike, undesirable and embarrassing. People will usually point and laugh at a “hairy lady”, just like Julia Roberts caused a stir at the film premiere of Notting Hill, when she raised her arm and revealed a hairy armpit.

Julia Roberts at the premiere of ‘Notting Hill’ in 1999.

Yet, it would appear that in casting aside the razor, she is in good company. Drew Barrymore, Elizabeth Jagger, even fashionista, Trinny Woodall, have all had a hairy moment:

Elizabeth Jagger


Drew Barrymore


Fashionista, Trinny Woodall


Beyonce Knowles


Anne Robinson is the “weakest link” after all!


Jessica Biel

Even the ever-so-sophisticated Sophia Loren has been known to fashion a bush!

Women participating in the “No Shave Novemeber” challenge have also been causing some revolt on Twitter.

I confess to also finding body hair most unsightly. But, is that really my own opinion, or is it one that has been indoctrinated into all of us all by society? Hair removal has, after all, been an integral part of grooming since prehistoric times, when men used flint to remove unwanted hair as early as 30,000 B.C, and historical accounts of women’s hair removal have been linked to ancient Greece, the Trobriand Islands, Uganda, South America and Turkey. The rise of hair removal can certainly be closely linked with fashion – as most of society’s ideals are. In ancient cultures, the absence of body hair often indicated class. Only the lower classes let their hair grow. In the Middle Ages, women even removed all of their hair, including the hair on their head, in the name of fashion. The first commercial for a female hair removal product was in 1915 when Harpers Bazaar printed an advert which showed a woman in a sleeveless evening gown which exposed her perfectly shaven armpits.

In the 1970s, feminists put their razors aside as a form of political statement, but today even women who object on principle, are still under pressure to remove body hair. Merran Toerien, who has researched gender and body hair, believes that bodies are seen as needing disciplining into an ideal:

“Hair is seen as masculine…Historically, medically and in the media, it is nearly always associated with men. Shaving female body hair is seen as a way to differentiate between the sexes.”

Women with body hair are even perceived by men and women to be more aggressive and immoral, according to a study by US psychologist Dr Susan Basow, who asserts that non-hairy women are generally seen in a positive light. Indeed, a UK study found that 99% of modern day women removed some hair, most commonly from the underarms, legs, pubic area and eyebrows. Shaving and plucking being the most common removal methods.

Professor Stevi Jackson, Director of the Centre for Women’s Studies at York University stated:

“Over the years body hair on women has been viewed more and more as a monstrosity and dealing with it has become more and more draconian,” she says. “It is about conforming to standard and if you don’t you are viewed as unattractive and ungroomed… It is not about being seen as beautiful; it is about conforming, not standing out.”

The removal of female body hair has become such a social requirement that little 12 year old girls are being subjected to a Brazilian wax, as this anonymous article titled “The Bare Truth”, published in the Economist reveals:

“An Irish beautician called Genevieve is explaining what a ‘Brazilian’ is a she practices the art on your correspondent. … Between each excruciating rip, she explains that she is going to remove nearly all my pubic hair, except for a narrow vertical strip of hairs the width of a couple of fingers. This is known colloquially as the ‘landing strip.’ … In only a few years, this form of waxing has gone from the esoteric to the everyday and is starting to rival the ordinary bikini wax in popularity. At the same time the bikini wax is becoming a normal procedure for women of all ages: the youngest person Genevieve has waxed is a 12-year-old girl”

It is socially acceptable for men walk around with beards, hairy chests, backs, legs, etc., and is even considered an expression of manliness. Ironically, if a man shaves his legs (which may be required for a sport such as rugby or swimming), he will often be ridiculed. In fact, thick hair is associated with strength and masculinity, and so much so, we often find many men going to great lengths to prevent male pattern baldness on their heads. Femininity demands a hair-free body, and a hairy woman is not considered sexually attractive, whilst body hair on men is associated with masculine virility. Whilst I accept the physical differences between men and women on a biological level, society’s dictation of body hair is surely yet another example of ironic hypocrisy, which affects both genders.

When society faces a serious health issue such as cancer – a cruel disease that takes so many lives away from us on a daily basis, surely this is a time to set aside such social and cultural expectations. If ditching the razor and wax strips for a month, and joining the Movember campaign is a social faux pas, then so be it. I like to think I have the strength of character to stand up to what is, essentially, a rather pointless social ideal, in order to raise much needed money for cancer research – an important cause that might help save lives.

It would be nice to see other women who are also brave enough to “stand by her man”, and ditch the razor for a month (or at least sponsor my endeavour), instead of trying to adhere to narrow-minded social norms. It is, after all, for a good cause. I would also like to to remind all the chaps out there: Please remember to have an annual health check up, and a PSA Test if you are over 40. Furthermore, young men should regularly check their testes for any abnormalities, as testicular cancer is most common in young men.

Please remember to donate to my “No Shave November” page at Cancer Research UK. It does not matter if you can only donate as little as £1, for as long as everyone donates something, all the small donations will add up to something bigger. Although it is a UK cancer charity, with which readers from other parts of the world may not feel is relevant to them, one must remember that as long as money is donated to cancer research, it is irrelevant as to where in the world the money is donated for research. What is most important is that valuable research can be conducted, to ensure a cure is ultimately found, instead of focusing upon where in the world the cure was found.

Please donate. Thank you.

Advertisements

Page 3 of The Sun – Are Naked Breasts Really So Bad?

Image

There is much media attention surrounding the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign launched by Lucy-Anne Holmes, aimed at banning topless models featuring on page 3 of the The Sun newspaper.

The petition is a hot-topic on Mumsnet, and supporters include Eliza Doolittle, Jennifer Saunders, Frances Barber, Lauren Laverne Frances Barber, Tony Hawks, Chris Addison, and Graham Linehan. Caitlin Moran has tweeted: “Teenage tits aren’t news OR a feature.”, and Janet Street-Porter wrote in The Independent: “Page 3 girls started in the 1970s as part of a tabloid circulation war. They seem so old-fashioned today… it’s hard to see how a pair of nipples can sell a paper in 2012.”

At the time of writing, the ‘No More Page Three’ petition had reached 45,376 supporters. Yet, despite 45,376 signatories, recent figures published by the National Readership Survey suggests that that “a pair of nipples” do not deter a person from buying a paper, as The Sun is the most read newspaper (both in print and online) in the UK, reaching an audience of approximately 13.6-million per week. Based upon these figures, it would appear that the majority of the UK population do not have that much of an issue with Page 3.

This latest campaign to abolish page 3 as we know it, is nothing new. In 1986, Labour MP, Clare Short, was branded “fat, jealous Clare” by the newspaper when she launched her campaign against page 3. Last year the feminist campaign groups, ‘Object’ and ‘Turn Your Back on Page 3’, made a joint submission about “the hyper-sexualisation of women in the press” to the Leveson inquiry. MP Evan Harris also backed the campaign, stating: “Why should it be considered acceptable and mainstream in hypocritical family newspapers to portray women in this way? It’s just wrong in my view that this should be seen as normalised.” Dr Harris added, “These images can be available for adults if they want to access them, but they should have to reach up to a higher shelf than what is at the general view for young people.”

Why are we so offended by the human body, and is page 3 really as degrading as the protesters claim?

Lucy Holmes felt the necessity to launch the latest campaign after reading a copy of The Sun during the Olympics. Despite the extensive coverage given to the victorious achievements of British female athletes such as Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton, Holmes stated the dominant female image in the paper was “a massive picture of a girl in her pants”.

Journalist, Deborah Orr wrote in The Guardian that “The Sun’s Page 3 is the highly visible tip of misogyny’s iceberg”. Orr claims:

‘A lot of women feel the people who want an end to Page 3 are uptight harridans, envious, bitter, prudish and prescriptive. They would love to be glamour models themselves, given half a chance. They want it for their daughters. You can see them in any city on a Friday night, hobbled by their Lycra dresses and towering heels, so keen to be viewed as “empowered” that they can barely walk…. They are on Team Katie Price, those women, not Team Lucy-Anne Holmes.’

Being neither in support or condemnation of Page 3, I would like to believe my view is a little more objective. I am not at all enamoured by the “busty-babe” look, and I am most certainly not a woman who is on “Team Katie Price”. In fact, when spending time at a friend’s house during my childhood, we would sometimes spend our afternoons giggling at the nonsense printed in The Sun, which her father would leave lying around on the kitchen table we used to do our homework. We would draw moustaches on the face and a bra on the breasts of topless page 3 models, etc., and draw big breasts, fangs, and long hair on John Major and William Hague, whilst (supposedly) working on algebraic equations. “Dear Deidre” – The Sun’s Agony Aunt page, was also a hoot. Yet, I do not pretend to understand the minds of those who buy The Sun because, to be perfectly honest, I am now educated and middle-class. However, I do possess a keen sense of humour, and this has ensured that I have never taken frivolous tabloid stories, or Page 3, too seriously. In my view, The Sun is little more than an adult comic bought by the working-class, and is not really a “family newspaper”. It is only deemed a “family paper” because it happens to be stumbled upon by the rest of the family, as they lounge around on the sofa watching daytime TV, or happen to find it lying on the kitchen table when grabbing a snack, or perhaps whilst the children do their homework – which, of course, was my first encounter with the paper.

Not every person shares my permissive perspective, however. Deborah Orr seems to believe that glamour models affect a woman’s sense of self worth, stating: 

‘I remember, as a teenager, studying the breasts of the women who appeared in the tabloids, and fretting about the dismal fact – to me, then – that mine weren’t “like that”.’

Contrary to Deborah Orr’s belief, not every woman wishes to have large breasts, or to look like a glamour model. Not once have I ever looked at a Page 3 model and compared my body to hers, nor have I ever aspired to look like a glamour model. Every person has a different take on what they believe to be attractive. Furthermore, if Page 3 were to be abolished, and more “positive” body images were featured by the media, such as pictures of victorious Olympic athletes like Jessica Ennis, the new body comparison will subsequently become, “My abs don’t look like that”, or “I’m not that muscular”. The subsequent trend could, thus, become a cocktail of steroid abuse, over training, and eating disorders; instead of the breast augmentation and eating disorder combination that society is familiar with at present.

Women will always be of the belief that her outward appearance is dependent and related to her personal worth. No matter how confident one particular woman is, she will always compare herself to other women. As psychologist A. Schopenhauer has stated: 

‘ … women are all in the same profession (competitors for the attentions of men), they all stand much closer to one another than men do, and consequently strive to emphasize differences in rank.’

In many cases, this is unfortunately, true. An interesting study can be found in this psychological article: R. Joseph, Competition Between Women (1985), (Psychology, 22, 1-11, 1985).

Ironically, the misogyny Orr suggests, appears to lie not in the media’s sexualisation of women, but in womens’ hatred of sexualised women and their naked bodies. If that were not the issue, one must question why this campaign is so focused upon naked breasts on page 3, and not the unpleasant, opportunistic, civilisation-eroding content, and the blatant lies that so regularly appears on other pages of The Sun. This is, after-all, the newspaper that invented the phrase ‘gay plague’, and ironically, if anything is at all misogynistic in the paper, it is some of the text and headlines featured on pages 1,2,4,5, etc. Why is Page 3 such an issue, and why are the campaigns not drawing attention to Mail Online and its “sidebar of shame“? It would appear that the petition is rather distastefully using the subject of misogyny merely as an attempt to rally support. Let us remember that the term ‘misogyny’ means a hatred or dislike of women. Surely, those who enjoy looking at the women on Page 3, are more philogynistic and misogynistic, because if they hated women, why would they wish to ogle at their breasts? Does a woman with a hatred of men enjoy looking at a penis? – No.

Nevertheless, the politician Lynne Featherstone has felt it necessary to focus her argument on a different aspect of misogyny, by specifically linking page 3 to domestic violence – an assertion made without any evidence whatsoever. In her “farticle” ‘Page 3 pictures cause domestic violence’ against women‘, Featherstone claims: 

‘When you know that one in four women experience domestic violence in their life, two women are killed each week by their partner or husband, there is a very long way to go. While a lot of blokes say ‘You are mean, sour-faced, whatever – it’s harmless’, actually it’s not harmless at all.’

Perhaps Lynne Featherstone would be interested to learn that despite her absurd assertion that Page 3 pictures somehow drives men to kill their partners, the National Centre of Domestic Violence statistics suggest that 1 man dies every 3 weeks as a result of Domestic Violence perpetrated against them. However, due to factors such as shame and embarrassment, most men will not seek help to get out of the abusive relationship. Approximately 4 million men are affected every year by domestic violence, and practically the same percentage of men as women are victims of severe acts of Domestic Violence. Bearing in mind the large amount of non-reporting, official Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09. Yet, men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, have far fewer refuges to flee to than women, and usually see their female attackers get away with their crimes.

I think this goes some way in invalidating Featherstone’s unsubstantiated assertion that page 3 is the cause of domestic violence. This is, of course, assuming the victim is female, and not the man – for, ironically, looking at page 3 pictures.

If the mere sight of naked breasts really are too offensive to have a place in a ‘family newspaper’, as the protesters claim, I must also question why it is considered acceptable for women to openly take her breasts out in the middle of Starbucks to breastfeed her child in public, whilst in front of a number of families with young children. Consider the vast number of “Breast is Best” pictures published and broadcast on daytime television, in order to promote breastfeeding, not to mention the large-scale breast cancer campaigns featuring photos of naked breasts, and topless women on daytime television shows, such as ‘This Morning’ – a program broadcast before approximately 11 hours before the watershed, and viewable by young children. Last year, the family TV show, ‘This Morning’, featured a woman with the largest breasts in the world (ironically, this link is to the Daily Mail – another “family newspaper”), and most recently a feature on a man with the world’s largest penis. Yet, there was no furore over either. There are also the vast number of breast photos published in school encyclopedias and anatomy books, used for so-called educational purposes, and are uncensored. The Guardian also features this picture:

Image
Reproduced from article ‘The wonder of breasts’, featured in The Guardian newspaper.

If it is the sexualisation of breasts that is the problem, rather than the image of breasts per se, why are there no protests against adverts such as that for Herbal Essences Shampoo? This is, after all, an advert that sexualises both the hair and product, whilst portraying the man as useless and humiliated. The Western world condemn Islam for oppressing women and forcing them to wear a hijab, which essentially prevents the sexual objectification of hair in the same way as wearing a sweater does for a woman’s breasts. Yet, if we find the objectification of hair to be acceptable, when we condemn Islamic countries’ condemnation of oppressing women with a hijab for the equivalent reason the Western countries revolt the revealing breasts, is this not further hypocrisy?

Image

Herbal Essences is, by far, not the only example of sexual objectification. Just take a look at some of these examples, and furthermore, women are not the only ones subject to it. Take into consideration how the Lindt advert with Roger Federer and the adverts for Emporio Armani and H&M featuring David Beckham, and the infamous Diet Coke advert, all objectify men just as much as women. Yet, if this objectification were reversed and instead featured female objectification, there would be the same ever-so-familiar heated debate on the subject.

Image

Also consider that naked breasts are not the only form of sexualisation in the media, which again discredits the argument against page 3. Bear in mind that for a foot fetishist, a photo of bare feet can be just as provocative as a page 3 photograph for a man who likes large breasts; and for a hair fetishist, the sexualisation of hair in a Herbal Essences advert, may also be provocative. Furthermore, there are a number of websites for those with a breast feeding fetish. Consider how a person with such a fetish will sexualise a woman who chooses to breast-feed openly in Starbucks (which is her right), in a similar way that women, who autonomously model for page 3, are sexualised by another.

One of the signatories of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign has stated: “How are women meant to be taken seriously in the workplace when this is how they are seen?”. I argue that abolishing page 3 pictures will not change the perception of glamour models, as long as pornographic sites exist. In fact, page 3 is far less obscene than pornographic sites, which so often reveal women and men performing a number of lewd acts, which I shall not mention here. Whilst glamour models may, perhaps, degrade themselves, it is their autonomous choice to do so. Just because some women like to be objectified, does not make it wrong, and as long as the objectified person consents to being objectified by others, where is the problem? Live and let live.

If the answer is to reject any form of glamour modeling in order to prevent women from degrading themselves, it would not only infringe their right to autonomy, but it would drive the industry underground where it cannot be regulated. It would also result in the loss of newspaper sales, and less work for models, photographers, and publishers. At a time of economic downturn, this is surely not advantageous.

It is important to remember that sexual taste is incredibly diverse and complex. Not every man is attracted to the sight of breasts: Some may be sexually attracted to bare feet, just as some women may be sexually attracted to the sight of a “beer-belly” – because being with an overweight man makes some women feel less self-conscious about their own “imperfections”. It would appear that any photo could potentially be subject to sexual objectification depending upon the viewer and their sexual preferences. Perhaps the campaigners should review their protest, and call for a ban on all photos – or just airbrush out all people, just as Ikea removed women from the Saudi Arabian Ikea Catalogue. 

I am sure that even the ‘No More Page 3’ supporters would find this a ludicrous proposition.

Image
A photo from the Swedish Ikea catalogue (left), next to the modified picture in the Saudi Arabian catalogue. (Image reproduced courtesy of BBC)

The name’s Bond… A Battered Bond.

20120915-095117 AM.jpg

Since writing an article about male rape victims and female perpetrators, it has just emerged that Sir Roger Moore has also been a victim of domestic violence. In an interview with Piers Morgan, the 84-year-old actor, Sir Roger Moore, spoke of the violence he experienced at the hands of both of his first two wives.

Despite the well-published statistics on the domestic abuse of women, it is slowly emerging that a significant proportion of men will also experience some form of domestic abuse in their lives. The revelation by Sir Roger Moore reflects how just about anyone could potentially be a victim of domestic abuse. It will be interesting to discover over the coming years, how many other male celebrities will slowly start coming forward, to reveal a few bruised truths that nobody wants to hear: women are not the only victims in society, but are also deviants, capable of untold violence. Hopefully, as more men become brave enough to speak out, any stigma and shame attached to male victimisation, will be banished once and for all.

Sir Roger Moore is by no means the first celebrity male victim. The famous American Western Actor, John Wayne, despite his macho image, was a victim of domestic abuse by his wife Esperanza Baur, a former Mexican actress. In a drunken rage she is reported to have also attempted to shoot him as he walked through the front door of their home, after returning from a post-filming party of the movie Angel and the Badman (1947). Humphrey Bogart was also stabbed in the back with a butcher’s knife by his wife Mayo Methot in 1938. Historians report that Abraham Lincoln was severely beaten and abused by his wife Mary Todd. The one thing these men and many others have in common is that they never spoke about it in public. The late Whitney Houston also admitted that it was she, not Bobby Brown, who was physically violent in their notoriously destructive relationship.

No man should feel ashamed of disclosing the truth. Violence should never be excused or accepted. Hopefully Sir Roger Moore’s story will help to break some of the stigma and shame associated with being a male victim.

Do “Too Many Tweets Make A Tw*t”?

Public opinion of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has just about reached an all-time low, but it appears that our dear Mr CamWrong may have been “right” about one thing …

Twitter.

During an interview on Absolute Radio, back in 2009, David Cameron was asked by presenter Christian O’Connell whether he used Twitter.

“Politicians do have to think about what we say,” Mr Cameron stated, seemingly without irony, before bestowing the following howler upon us: “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.”

Despite the absurd irony of Mr Cameron’s ineptness, his statement is made all the more ironic by the fact the Conservative Party had a twitter account, and not to mention that Mr Cameron now also has a Twitter account for No. 10 Downing Street. Therefore, it would seem that one “twit” in particular, really can “make a tw*t”.

As a user of Twitter, my opinion about the site is somewhat mixed. I am often bemused by the sheer ludicrousness that some people manage to incorporate into just 140 characters. Because of the 140 character limit, one can often be subjected to a long list of multiple tweets from the same person(s); full of ridiculously abbreviated words, and depending on who one is following, may result in a trail of absolute nonsense trawling up the newsfeed.

Whilst I like to think I am a little more selective about who I follow, one does come across some real “gems” retweeted by others, sometimes retweeted purely for comedy value.

Just take a look at some of these examples:

Let us not forget the way Twitter was used to incite the London Riots, whilst bystanders tweeted their riot “observations”, or riot warnings to others. Quite often, it emerged that a ridiculous number of tweets provided nothing other than false information. Yet, the false information spread like wildfire, such as rumours about the streets of a West London borough apparently being set in flames, only for nervous residents to later discover that the worst event to have actually occurred in that particular area, was a brick thrown through a shop window! What a kick in the teeth to the people who genuinely were affected by the Riots, and who lost their homes in the fires in Croydon, Tottenham, Hackney, etc. However, it must also be pointed out that Twitter also played an important role in the post-riots clean-up, which gave the police a means of tracing those who incited and recruited other rioters.

One disturbing aspect of Twitter is that regulating the site is virtually impossible because of the massive volume of messages and tweets that are sent every second. On the subject of immediacy, as also mentioned by Mr. Cameron, it can only take so much as one misinformed tweet for a false rumour to become a worldwide trend in minutes, as we have seen in the past, ranging from the apparent “death” of a celebrity, down to their so-called sordid affairs. There is a great deal of misinformation and sometimes sheer nastiness. But none of this is a special feature of Twitter, as it is a feature of people generally. Furthermore, it is very difficult to pick up on humour and sarcasm via Twitter (and, indeed, other social media sites), leading to many misunderstandings and quarrels. One careless or false tweet has the potential of giving information capable of ruining lives and relationships. But, on a more positive note, celebrities and high-profile people have utilised  Twitter’s immediacy as a way of “setting the record straight” about a rumour,  and to engage with their fans, and even form more of a following.

I must confess that I do love Twitter as a means of keeping up-to-date with current affairs. Twitter is a fantastic forum for learning of any errors in news reporting and for academics to promote general public understanding of their research. It is also a wonderful forum for lawyers, politicians, and and journalists to share information such as links, viewpoints, and to receive instant feedback. It is now becoming common for interesting legal trials to be live-tweeted and debated by legal scholars, and for the mainstream media to subsequently try and catch-up! Whilst one may have to sift through some rather trivial tweets, there are so many high-profile academics who are happy to share a fresh insight and engage in very interesting topical debates. As a result of instant tweeting and academic blogging, newspaper reports are now becoming old news that contribute little additional value to what one has already learned “straight from the horses’ mouths” on Twitter.

Some university departments are also increasingly using Twitter as a teaching resource, and whilst it may seen that nothing of value could possibly be written in only 140 characters; for all the bizarre tweets full of abbreviations that I sometimes think only the person who tweeted it could possibly understand,  I have also very often been pleasantly surprised. The restriction in communicating with just 140 characters can be a very useful learning method: It teaches one how to be more succinct by forcing one to stick with the facts, and not swaying off topic, which would result in a long series of multiple tweets. That, after all, might lead to a mass exodus of followers, as they become increasingly more frustrated with having to sift through the vast number of irrelevant tweets on their news-feed.

Taking the latter into account, maybe too many tweets really do make a “twat”. However, too many tweets might actually rid you of some, too!

Cheerio, chaps!