Editor's Notes: It’s always better to argue in person, rather than on Twitter; Paperchase lacks a spine and France wants one-up on Frankfurt

Christian May
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Not everything on Twitter has to be intense (Source: Getty)

Twitter is a strange place. I find it to be in equal parts useful and infuriating. Its main use to me is a self-curated newswire but I’m not isolated from the platform’s more depressing elements – the trolls, the pointless debates, the hostility.

A few weeks ago I had a short, sharp Twitter row with an academic who objected to one of my columns. Like most Twitter arguments it was unedifying, abrasive and unfulfilling. Then something strange happened. My opponent (who I hadn’t met before) got in touch via email, apologised for being rude and invited to me lunch. We met earlier this week and had a fascinating, convivial and most enjoyable conversation.

Why should this surprise me? Free from the confines of bite-sized barbs and incessant sniping, most people are perfectly pleasant and a topic that would reduce us to condensed insults online can be explored and debated with civility and good humour in person. I’m not the most social of social media users. I don’t tend to get into long conversations and I hardly ever reply to people.

Nevertheless, I lob plenty of my own grenades. I enjoy serving a sharp riposte or pointing out when I think someone’s wrong. It’s easy, it’s a habit and it’s what everyone else does. But since my lunch with the academic (and in truth, for some time) I’ve been thinking about what Twitter’s really for.

I have it open on one of the screens on my desk all the time – a steady stream of news from the City, global markets and politics. Lately I’ve been deriving immense satisfaction from unfollowing the more opinionated accounts – especially, it must be said, accounts pushing opinions with which I disagree. I can’t possibly engage with them all, even if I wanted to. So what purpose were they serving, other than to wind me up? My new year resolution will be to use Twitter for news, not arguments. Debate is always better in person – preferably served with wine.

Typos abound

Tory MPs were out in force on Twitter yesterday, hammering home the message of the day on government plans to build “an economy fit for the future”. Typos are perilous, though, and the deputy PM Damian Green pledged to build “an economic fit” – which sounds like something that should be avoided. Minister Matt Hancock also noted that a new tech business is launched every hour and declared “we want this halved” – later clarifying that he meant “doubled.”

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Paperchase lacks a spine

I took a break from our Budget coverage on Wednesday to join Radio 4’s Media Show, where we debated the decision by retailer Paperchase to apologise for running a promotion in the Daily Mail. After a frenzy of whipped-up Twitter outrage, the brand grovelled for partnering with the paper and vowed never to do it again. What a ridiculous decision. The high street faces enough challenges without alienating 2m readers in order to appease a few hundred social media warriors. Brands can be so spineless.

Read more: DEBATE: Was Paperchase right to stop advertising in the Daily Mail?

France wants one-up on Frankfurt

A leading City figure briefed me on a two-hour meeting he recently had with the French Prime Minister. French politicians, my source said, think they can hoover up the City but the country’s regulators and businesses are much more realistic – expecting a modest gain. The difference in attitudes, he explained, is because French politicians have a view that if the state wills it, it will happen. My contact further noted that the main ambition of France is to ensure Frankfurt doesn’t gain.

Read more: Frankfurt favourite to host European Banking Authority after Brexit

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