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Live Tweeting and Accidental Narratives

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Live feeds are great, there are the last refuge of a sports fan with no Sky contract and a moral aversion to illegal streaming. They can condense big news events into a dedicated, rapid-fire information hub and they can provide an amusing side-dish to a particularly dramatic episode of Game of Thrones. The thing is though, Twitter has created a world where anyone can broadcast a live feed. If you were minded to, you could throw out a bite-by-bite live feed of the muffin you're eating, or a minute-to-minute documentation of a traffic jam.

Those are both pretty far fetched, but also almost definitely exist. Given the right circumstances, people will create live-feeds of almost anything, from the hospital that live tweeted a heart operation to the fateful evening when Shia Labeouf decided to chronicle his acid trip. Much more interesting though are the live feeds which result from somebody eavesdropping. These 'accidental narratives' form the frame of a phenomenon that simply could not exist without Twitter. The kind of talk that in days past would have been reserved for break rooms and after-hours trips to the pub is now out there in the world, and it's trending.

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In a recent example Anne Thériault, a popular Canadian journalist, found herself sat next to a couple on an extremely awkward first date and decided that her followers needed to hear about it. It was a riveting tale, the increasingly tragic male party compared himself to James Franco, whinged about the coffee and told the girl that non-profits usually fail (she worked in one). Eventually, in an enthralling - if predictable - climax, the girl cut a swift exit, because her mother left the stove on. No, really, that's what she said.

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As questionable as it is to listen in on other people's conversations (much less transcribe them on the internet), it does add an interesting extra layer to the voyeurism that fuels so much of modern media. In another example, comedian Kyle Ayers spent just under an hour detailing the events of a rather messy sounding break-up on a Brooklyn rooftop, start to finish.

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This one walks a finer line between funny and tragic and it makes me wonder just how many times this has really happened. I once had a very unpleasant breakup in a very busy restaurant, fully aware that the couple sat less than two feet from us could hear every gory detail. I'm sure that the story made it out of the building, but it wouldn't have surprised me if it turned up on Twitter too, having seen this.

It's kind of an odd psychological phenomenon that if someone overheard a particularly awkward or otherwise objectively amusing conversation they'd never dream of going home and writing a blog entry about it, but are perfectly happy to tweet it there and then. For my money, it's the combination of needing to be looking at a screen and listening to something which is really none of your business. The phone is an appropriate subterfuge and Twitter enables you to react without making noise or moving your face, it just also happens to be an extremely public way of reacting. Still, perhaps if people think someone might be tweeting their every word, they'll be less inclined to air out their dirty laundry in public.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Live Tweeting and Accidental Narratives Reviewed by Callum Davies on Friday, July 10, 2015 Rating: 5

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