They're vain, inane and attention seeking, and they're more famous than you'll ever be.
While scouring the spiky undergrowth of Twitter the other day, I noticed a vicious, but unheralded fight going on between two of its rising young stars. This wasn't a battle between Piers Morgan and Bradley Wiggins, RTing its way through Twitter's adult mainstream, this was a fight watched only by the youngest tweeters. It was the online equivalent of punch up in a playground.
The two famous tweeters both had well in excess of 50,000 followers and shared the same surname. This was Riley vs Riley; famous Tom Daley troll @Rileyy_69 and celebrity Twitter heart-throb @_OllyRiley going at it in a dispute to basically see: "Who's the bigger prick?"
The two are both definitely "Twitter famous", but it's only Mr 69 whose antics have attracted any interest from grown ups. In truth, Olly Riley (I'm gonna drop the @s and _s now, because otherwise they'll drive us all insane) is just as disturbing an online presence as Team GB's least favourite social commentator. He's also something of a leader of men. He has acolytes. While Rileyy 69 is Travis Bickle, Olly Riley is Charles Manson.
But who is he? And what does he want? And just who are the angry young men basking in his reflected anti-glory? I dipped my toe into the murky world of the Teenybopper Trolls to find out.
Name: Olly Riley (@_OllyRiley)
Olly Riley is the bête noire of tween Twitter, the closest thing it has to a troll and a bastard. His online persona is akin to a fading rapper or a paranoid reality TV star, as he starts provocative hashtags and posts pictures of himself with his sexual conquests. He's notorious for getting girls to send pictures to him of themselves wearing knee high socks, and because his appeal is limited to the pre-GCSE crowd, the results were the kind of thing you'd get your laptop impounded for if you had them in your hard drive. But why so many followers? You see, Olly's popularity is similar to that of serial killers deluged with love letters. Teenage girls and fellow trolls are enamoured by his cruelty.
His aggressive misogyny is the strange counterpoint to his claim of being the Don Juan of NW9. He seems to be constantly angry with women, accusing them of being sluts and then telling them how much he loves them. Looking through his tweets, it's easy to conclude that Olly Riley is troubled by the very existence of an opposite sex. Obviously at his young age (I'm not entirely sure what it is, but pre-twenties) nobody has a particularly mature relationship with the people they want to have sex with, but Olly's attitude is a little bit more Andrew Dice Clay than Adrian Mole.
But he also feels the need to announce things that people already know. Poor Olly, he's torn between his need to be controversial enough to get the hits and his desire to be an objective news source. It's what we in journalism call "the Sky News conundrum".
To be honest, there's a whole sociological thesis to be written on the phenomenon of Olly Riley, but what's just as interesting are those copycats and hangers-on that he has spawned.
Name: Jamie Smith (@J4MIESMITH)
Jamie Smith is one of Riley's closest allies, his trolling consigliore if you will. He's more sensitive than Riley, but also far more unhinged, with a sideline in Drake-esque "I miss you girl, suck my dick" heart pouring. Whereas Riley portrays himself as a Jack The Lad, Jamie's steez veers more towards Basketball Diaries than Football Factory.
Fantastically, he decided to pen a mini autobiography, which is part justification and part apology for him being a dick on Twitter. You can read the whole thing here, but my favourite part has to be: "And now ever since I posted a photo of my penis on the internet it's got to the point where I can't go out, Because if I do I just get looks, people walking past me saying stuff." Marcel Proust he is not, but then you would never expect him to be, because he's just an average kid on Twitter who happens to have an audience of 25,000 for his strange and half-formed thoughts.
His Twitter game ranges from bland declarations (and possible sponsor jobs) like this:
To self-serving internet philanthropy:
And an endless succession of hater management:
See, Jamie loves to play the victim, he constantly talks about how his entire city (Derby, in case you were wondering) is out to get him, and that the internet is his only refuge from this region-wide bullying. Yet, he also tweets about what cinema he's going to be at. It's a worrying delusion of our times, a man who isn't famous at all pretending to be hounded like the late Diana. The constant retweeting of praise and 24/7 availability suggest that Jamie is a young man who isn't doing much with his life, I suppose in its own, twisted way Twitter is his sanctuary, but it's not a sanctuary from unwanted attention, it's a sanctuary from anonymity and normality.
Name: Cunt (@RiverCrowson)
See that forehead graffiti above? That's not a cruel sleepover prank or a vicious piece of photoshop by a rival, River really has just elected the English language's Most Offensive Word™ as his unofficial moniker. Because, as you'll see, River is clearly a young man with some issues with humanity.
River's a Twitter comedian of sorts, but not the kind of comedian who actually tells jokes. More like the kind who tells blatantly falsified masturbation anecdotes. You probably aren't going to see him on Live At The Apollo any time soon. But maybe he's an anti-comedy genius with a Meta streak? Let's look through his pictures to get a better idea of the man behind the wank stories.
Looking through the people that retweet River's scatological haikus, one of the most surprising things you notice is that it's not just his lesser equivalents that share his work. There are a lot of seemingly otherwise decent people who feel the need to share somebody else's story about "wanking in my belly button" or whatever it is today.
River's no comedy provocateur, but he tells us something about the popularity of out and out stupidity. Perhaps his fame is symptomatic of a reaction against the Cambridge wordplay of the Grown Up Twitterati and their ilk. While everybody else on Twitter is desperately trying to find new ways to say they dislike David Cameron, River's throwing out shit like this:
River Crowson, ladies and gentlemen. A man who clearly has no time for the Gallagher brothers.
Name: Willow (@_WillowProwse)
Nope, "Willow Prowse" is not the name of a minor Tolkien character with a fan-made Twitter page, but a real-life boy who's become somewhat "Twitter famous". Even more so than other teen celebrities, Willow's fame lies in his hair. To be fair to him, his hair is great, it permanently looks as though he's mid-way through the part of a haircut when the barber asks if you'd like any wax or gel. Like the vainest of Hollywood actors, Willow's favourite thing to do is make himself look ugly, as if saying to the world: "Me at my worst is better than you at your best".
He has a YouTube channel in which a series of funny faces, anecdotes and Nicki Minaj impressions seem to exist as an excuse to run his fingers through his perfect mane. Watch this video with the sound down and it starts to look like a L'Oreal advert filmed on a CCTV camera.
But of course, Willow's preferred medium is Twitter, and the sheer inanity of his work in the field makes Olly Riley look like Chomsky. He's a man who speaks purely in the most basic terms, yet his fans seem to find a profundity in the things he says:
Whereas Olly Riley and Jamie Smith trade on aggression and pubescent laddiness, Willow Prowse is a more delicate proposition, but one whose endgame is basically the same. He's still self-obsessed and demands attention, he just uses emoticons rather than pictures of his dick to get it. He's Aaron Carter to their Marky Mark.
There's a wealth of guys like this out there, from the world famous to the ones with 12 followers. But the reason I focused on these four, is that Twitter is not just the means to an end for them, it's their only medium. You see, most people who try to get favourited tweets on trends are aspiring Huffington Post small-timers or mixtape rappers, but these four are just themselves. They are the small-town disco dancers of Twitter, having to come to terms with the idea that the rest of their life will have very little relevance to their passion. Which is being dicks on the internet.
I understand that essentially these are just teenagers who've been given access to a lot of sympathisers and admirers at an age most of us should be dropping bottles off bridges, but there's something actually quite troubling at work here. Without wanting to get all Freakonomics on you, I think guys like this represent the natural conclusion of the internet-bound isolationism so many children are brought up with these days. They're the hazardous by-product of a generation that was told it was better off staying in and taking photos of itself rather than going out to eat mud-pies.
Our culture has transformed boys from being snotty rascals to sickening narcissists. We've turned them into arrogant, attention seeking, preening morons who think the world owes them a drink. To be honest, I'd rather my kids played with fire than played with Wella Shock Waves products and then sat around waiting to be told they are brilliant.
So next time you complain about the negative stereotypes perpetuated by Amy Childs, spare a thought for what Mark Wright is doing to the boys.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
More human zoology from Clive: