The dark side of Twitter
I will shout it from the rooftops to all and sundry about how much I love Twitter. I have found friends, information and entertainment because I am there. Looking for thought leadership in your field or profession? Check Twitter. Lonely and need a chat? Twitter again. Want to know what’s going on news-wise? Hop onto Twitter. Want more readers for your blog? Twitter. It really is a hub of activity and information.
But it does have a dark side, and I have seen it on more than one occasion, particularly over the last few months. I do have to keep reminding myself, though, that it’s not Twitter per sé that’s to blame; rather, it’s the human beings who misuse it that need to take the credit for its more unsavoury aspects.
The wonderful thing about Twitter is how friendly an environment it is. You can jump into any conversation you like and this is considered not only appropriate, but necessary. Connections and friendships are formed in this way. Conversely, though, people can be excluded, and on purpose. I have mentioned in other posts how very much like high school Twitter can be, particularly in the way cliques form. And these cliques determine who’s in and who’s out. According to them, of course.
The way this happens on Twitter is with the reply function. On more than one occasion, I have seen people to whom an original tweet was directed completely ignored in the ensuing conversation because they weren’t considered part of the clique. This is especially noticeable at a local Twitter level with meet-ups and the like. At its base, it’s a passive aggressive act, intended to ensure the elitism and status of the clique by being exclusive about who’s involved – or not – in the conversation.
2. Intimidation and harassment
Another Twitter plus is its ability to mobilise crowds around a common cause. For example, last year when the tsunami hit Japan, earthquakes rocked New Zealand, and floods swallowed parts of Queensland, communities of volunteers were connected and organised via Twitter. People helping people was a common theme.
The dark side of Twitter also has people mobilising others to intimidate and harass those whose opinions, views, politics or sexuality, for example, are considered different to their own, and therefore attack-worthy. I have seen prolonged verbal attacks – sometimes for days – on other tweeps for “infringements” ranging from being a fan of Justin Bieber, to supporting refugees, to having a different diet, to writing a blog post that wasn’t popular (that one happened to me a couple of years ago). This intimidation and harassment can be vile and intense.
Luckily, Twitter has the block and report facility. It doesn’t make the intimidation and harassment any easier to handle when it’s happening though, because the attacks can get really personal. And one often worries that the harassment could continue offline…
Twitter is generally a wonderfully warm and engaging community, populated with generous people. That has certainly been my experience. My experience has also, unfortunately, included the rudeness of other people. Whether it’s you providing a tweep with information, for which you receive no thanks, to adding to a conversation and being ignored (see Point 1 above), to being abused for a comment you make by someone you don’t know (linked to Point 2 above), to organising an offline event, only to have people bail – on Twitter – at the last minute.
Aaaaarrrggghhhhh! No wonder I sometimes feel like I need a Twitter detox!