The dark side of Twitter

twitter dark side
Twitter has a dark side…

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.

1. Exclusion

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…

3. Rudeness

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!

0 thoughts on “The dark side of Twitter

  1. Nice post! Something else I’ve noticed is that those that pay attention to key aspects of social media and follow “the rules” inside of social media realms only. For instance, those that are so friendly on twitter, may not be such the nice person in a private message (DM) etc. I’ve seen it a few times, and it’s such a bizarre behavior by a few.

  2. Another good post Di. Because of the reasons you mentioned, I tend not to get involved in some conversations. Choosing to observe and watch some bad behavior. I am surprised though how some people bare “all” on a platform where they are open to scrutiny. Fascinates me. My policy is don’t say anything you dont want the world to know!

  3. Love this Diane, so true. I have noticed heaps of ‘how it should be done’ information and definitely some exclusion from some who work for large PR firms, but to me, social media should be just that, less contrived and more natural albeit not always so appropriate, but neither is life that perfect. I have found plenty of clique mentality and also feel the pressure to conform to some kind of norms, but to be honesty I enjoy the posts and interactions most from the people who seem more real such as yourself. So thanks this is just what I have needed to hear cos I love twitter too but sometimes wonder if I am doing it all right, buy hey that’s me and I’m just enjoying the ride and interacting on a level that comes natural so…… 🙂

    1. You are a Twitter natural, Mary! You are generous and authentic and lovely… just like you are in real life 😀

      I find when Twitter annoys me (or rather the people on it do), I take a step back for a few days to do a bit of a detox and gain some perspective. I’m lucky that I interact with tweeps from across the globe, which helps to balance things 😀

  4. Just read this one, and I AM SO WITH YOU on point one. I find 95% of tweeps fantastic, but there are 5% that won’t follow or reply no matter how much you engage with them because you aren’t part of the in-crowd. It’s especially noticeable in Canberra, there’s a real political clique that is impossible to break into.

    1. Adelaide is a tad cliquéy too. It’s a little like high school in some respects, with the (self-proclaimed) cool kids, the IT crowd etc. etc. Who can be bothered with that? It was bad enough when we were actually *in* high school!

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