Belfast Telegraph

Why we could all follow Mr Wetherspoon's lead by pulling the plug on social media... and head off down the pub instead

By Lindy McDowell

The pub chain JD Wetherspoon has shut down all its social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram because owner Tim Martin has decided it's all a waste of time.

This is either a worrying indicator to the online platforms that big business is beginning to question the commercial worth of all that tweeting, posting and liking, or it's just another publicity stunt on behalf of a business boss who is not averse to getting his name in the papers.

Martin denies the latter is the case.

In an interview with the BBC, he claimed: "You would have to be completely off your rocker to do a publicity stunt ... which banned the medium which is supposed to give you the most publicity."

Tweeting his shutdown decision (irony, no?) he asserted: "We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business.

"I don't believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever, and this is the overwhelming view of our pub managers."

It may have been the overwhelming view of pub managers because it appears they were the ones who had to feed the social media beast, tweeting and posting cheery news of Wetherspoon's offers and menus.

There's only so often you can work up the enthusiasm to find other ways to gush about Fish 'n' Chips and mushy peas.

And it appears there was a lot of traffic the other way with critics posting nasty comments about the pub chain.

This may not have been entirely down to genuine customer review. As a prominent supporter of Brexit, Martin has his haters.

However, he insists it's his belief that social media is a waste of time which prompted his pulling the plug on the chain's various accounts. "On a personal level many of us are fed up with social media and think it has got damaging effects and a lot of people are on it far, far too much," he said.

In a week in which another local female politician, the DUP's Carla Lockhart, bravely spoke out about the abuse she and others have had to endure from online trolls, who could disagree with that?

Commendably one of the first to tweet support was Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill. "Well done to you for speaking out... Abusive, nasty or disrespectful comments towards anyone on social media are totally unacceptable. No one should have to tolerate it. All should be reported to PSNI and to the social media platforms."

Something we can all agree on, then. Well, most of us anyway.

Because amid those comments of Tim Martin's the telling line, I thought, was the one about people who are on it "far, far too much".

And we all know the sort...

There are some sad saps who have very little else in their lives, and certainly no other way to make themselves feel important, than to go online and criticise someone else's looks or tell them to 'eff off'.

People who are on social media far, far too much because, fuelled by a cocktail of self-importance and sarcasm, they have to snipe at just about everything.

In online "debate" they pop up over and over and over again, parroting the same tired line interminably. Screeching, sneering, slagging off.

We talk about trolls, but in some ways that word trivialises their malignancy and the real power of their poison.

These people know very well what they're doing. They're aiming to hurt. They want to hurt.

And the social media giants need to call them to account because it's starting to hurt the platforms they provide.

I know I'm not the only person who can't be bothered anymore wading through the vitriol and the nastiness that now pollutes online "debate".

You want real debate? Look to the mainstream media.

Or just head down the pub.

So much on telly seems fraught with peril

I'm thinking a case could be made these days for an entirely new television station. Pitched exclusively at people of a nervous disposition. What's sparked this idea is the increasing incidence of programmes preceded by a warning about "scenes of a violent nature".

Even early evening soaps now often have Julian warning us that they contain scenes which some viewers may find distressing. The potentially distressed don't appear to have an awful lot of viewing options left anymore. There's a niche in the market, surely.

What a rubbish welcome from Translink

Well, our friends Joy and Vinnie were in town this week for a sort of flying visit. Or, in Joy's case, a partly bussed visit.

She arrived up from Dublin on the airport express that terminates at the Translink centre in Great Victoria Street. Almost her first observation was how taken aback she was with the sight of so many bins and rubbish in the yard into which the buses arrive.

"It's not a great sight to welcome visitors," as she rightly remarked. What's that old line about seeing ourselves as others see us, Translink? All aboard the eyesore express...

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