His frequent posts have been interesting, amusing, deeply personal and sometimes the stuff that made me envious. All those exotic trips in luxurious transport; any one would be a “once in a lifetime” experience for most of us, but Stephen crammed several into every month.
I am a Fry fan. I have met him several times. The first time I wondered who was this tall man who turned up with Ben Elton in Belfast for an interview about the first Red Nose Day. We have several friends in common. When he was making a name for himself on Loose Ends, the then Saturday morning show on Radio 4, my office was a few doors away on London BH’s 6th floor. We met at several awards events – and he presented one to me at an event in the Natural History Museum. He even replied to one of my Twitter @messages to him early on a cold Boxing Day morning. Neither my message nor his reply was droll, Wildean, wit. It was just a greeting between two people.
Celebrities control their public profile jealously. They employ people to carry out that function with zeal and efficiency. The image they wish to project is the one you (usually) receive. They are protected from audience feedback unless it is exactly what their “people” want them to hear. Life on Twitter is not like that. We all project the image we want through Twitter and other social media. When people talk to us and about us we are not protected. Fry follows or followed 53,000 people. This Twitter feed has almost 2 million followers. @Oprah has twice the number of followers and follows 20 people. Fry was – like us – not really protected by “people”.
To be famous brings many blessings and several curses. And one curses is cruel criticism. Fry says he gave a “humorous interview” which was then “mis-quoted” and the “mis-quote” was reported. Widely, as it turns out. Fry can provide his own defence – that’s not my role or intention. But it will be a loss to Twitter if he decides to become a recluse from social networks and begin to control his media profile as other celebs do.
How we treat each other on the web and in social media is desperately important as is the degree of privacy we wish to command.
People are advised to control their “digital foot-print” and their “digital shadow”. But we also need to learn to protect other’s foot-prints and shadows. It is almost impossible not to have a digital presence. Even without an account with any online media – either as a consumer or producer – others can add you to their’s by – for example – naming or tagging someone else in a photo. That might not seem like a big deal but privacy and in particularly online/digital privacy already is one of the most important issues of these times. And it will become more important.
You don’t need to be Stephen Fry, don’t need to travel to exotic places in luxurious transport and visit world class restaurants and hotels, don’t need the talent, articulacy and charm to attract ugly attacks. Fry might now be reconsidering his level of privacy.