Football? Politics? The Corrie tram crash? It seems the average Cantab will engage in Twitter beef about everythingEmily Lawson-Todd / Varsity

The pits of hell are friendlier than Cambridge twitter. Bold statement, I know, but if you ever have the misfortune of creating a Twitter (X) account, you’ll quickly see what I mean. However, if you’re smart enough not to make a Twitter (X) account at my beckon, then I’ll help paint you a picture of what it’s like by telling you about what I’ve dubbed “Footiegate”.

It was a solemn morning in the middle of the long vac, Cambridge students were free from the death spiral of essays and example sheets and so, naturally, felt the need to fill their time by doom-scrolling on Twitter (X). That’s when a certain Twitter (Y) user decided to show off his intellectual prowess by loudly proclaiming that the professional sport of football is nothing more than a net negative for society. Even for someone who’s never really ‘got’ football like myself, it’s quite easy to see the idiocy of this argument. This then devolved into an incredibly tiresome back-and-forth for a few hours, ultimately leading to an in-depth talk about the Corrie tram crash – a more British Godwin’s Law.

“Most of Cambridge Twitter (S) is just a revolving door of idiotic takes dressed up in fancy words which are then ‘debated’ by other Cantabs”

This episode colours the picture quite nicely. Most of Cambridge Twitter (S) is just a revolving door of idiotic takes dressed up in fancy words which are then ‘debated’ by other Cantabs (past and present) who take it as a challenge to see who can write the most esoteric nonsense known to man.

It’s no wonder that they feel moved to be esoteric though. Cambridge has a time-held tradition of boffins going blow for blow at this university – Wittgenstein and Popper, C.S. Lewis and Elizabeth Anscombe, me and the guy at the Anchor that kicks you out at 10pm – but this is a double-edged sword. Sure, it’s cool to know you’re brushing your teeth in the same sink as Bertrand Russell, but some students take this as a sign that they’re part of the same academic lineage and qualifying them to speak as an authority on everything under the sun.

Now, at risk of sounding a bit like a debate purist, I think a certain amount of argument is quite healthy – we ought to be questioned about our views. However, if the only way that you can express this natural propensity for argument is through using big words (like propensity) and positioning yourself as a pseudo-intellectual on Twitter (Z) then you really ought to reevaluate what you think arguments should be.

“the act of debating your essay with a leading academic does help affirm the idea that the best way to argue is through a barrage of academic language.”

A good argument should never force you to do a quick google to work out what something means. Orwell’s old adage that jargon is the enemy of good writing really holds true, and nowhere is this more important to understand than at a place like Cambridge where pseudo-intellectuals will throw names (like I did earlier) and -isms at you to throw you off kilter. Usually, this can be tempered in-person as you can look in their face and tell them how stupid they sound, but over Twitter (G) a thesaurus is always one click away, and what better way is there to feign intelligence than by obfuscating a sentence beyond recognition.

While idiotic tweets (xyzposts?) aren’t much more than a minor annoyance when you’re killing time in between lectures, they become a bigger issue when thinking about why people feel moved to post them. And this issue is one that’s almost entirely localised to Oxbridge – that simply because you’re a student at these universities your opinion matters more than anybody else’s.


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Getting into Oxbridge is obviously a big achievement for anyone – they are some of the most difficult universities to get a place at after all – but simply because you attend a few lectures and scribble down some notes for a supervision doesn’t make you the intellectual powerhouse that you might think you are. While any form of higher education is sure to inflate your own sense of intelligence, our supervisions do this in a much larger way. While supervisions still challenge our thoughts (and often tell us we’re wrong), the act of debating your essay with a leading academic does help affirm the idea that the best way to argue is through a barrage of academic language.

At this point I think it’s important to note that I’m not against the idea of intellectual debate. Far from it. Debate about all the -isms has a time and a place (like a supervision, PhD, or academic journal). It’s just that the place is most certainly not Twitter (Q), and the time to deploy academic gobbledygook is definitely not when talking about the Corrie tram crash on the internet. Tweets are not academic postulations, and neither should they be. So, after all this I want to reaffirm what I said at the beginning of this diatribe – Cambridge twitter is the pits of hell. If, somehow, Elon Musk’s self-sabotage of the company hasn’t already put you off the site forever, then hopefully the prospect of debating a balding Cambridge grad about the political and sociological implications of having a favourite pair of socks is enough to dissuade you. As for me, I’m going to continue watching from the sidelines while occasionally posting a The Thick Of It screenshot.