I really didn’t have this post planned at all, but the past few days have seen Twitter making headlines for all the wrong reasons. We all know the Troll bit, but the bits of this whole affair that has stood out for me are the timelines of columnists Caitlin Moran and India Knight (whose account at the last look had been deleted*). I think it rather shows that yes, you do have to mind what you say in any public forum, and there isn’t really a great deal of freedom on Twitter at all if you never want to be called out on what you say. Whether you *should* have to mind what you say is a wider debate (and if we are going down the freedom of speech thought, then it may equally apply to Trolling, although exclude threats of rape, bombs and other violence which hurtle their authors into a whole other realm), but the bottom line is that Tweeting should be done as carefully as writing a letter or a blog post. You need to be damn sure you are prepared for the consequences if you’re being very free with what you are saying on certain subjects.
If you have a lot of followers or are in the public eye this is exacerbated because there’s pretty much nothing the media loves more than Tweets that go wrong. If you’re a regular user the Caitlin story is typical and something we’ve all (us non-celebs) seen in non-celeb world. It happens within Twitter communities all the time and is nothing new. Tweets are taken out of context and added up to much more than they originally were; one ill-thought out comment can spiral out of control leading to chaos while the original Tweeter painfully tries to explain, after due course of defiance, and eventually capitulates and apologises (Caitlin) or deletes their account (India).
Caitlin Moran and India Knight are there to challenge (although I have far more time for Caitlin than India) popular opinion. That’s what they do. However, having a shed load of followers does give some the god-complex – great while the going is good and absolutely dreadful when the tide turns. The reality is that being snide about having ‘a column’ when a fellow Tweeter ‘only has a blog’ (India) is the kind of thing that people who sit on a self-imposed pedestal say and nobody loves a condescending bragger. It’s exactly that kind of Tweet that turns a friendly tide, never mind the Trolls.
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Trolling is vile and so are the dreadful rape threat, misogynistic Tweets. But in the middle of these awful degrees of Tweeting lie the columnists who pretty much will only condescend to Tweet each other but allow hundreds of thousands of people to view the conversations. (Just send a text!) They want to be seen but not to have to play nicely with the rest of us. I’m so proud to have the followers that I do but while it is almost irresistibly easy to Tweet out fury into the ether, I genuinely try to Tweet responsibly and certainly without a superior attitude. There are things, sometimes, I want to say on Twitter that I have to button my lip on. On a very rare occasion, my patience was pushed. But I’m aware that that’s pretty much there for ever (especially as a student started a blog and posted the entire conversation on it – as part of a thesis.. whatever) but I’d go to long lengths to ensure it doesn’t happen again (although I could never say never).
Understanding Twitter is understanding that it’s more about what you don’t say than what you do. Try and think of that friendly little bird logo as something that can sh*t on you from a great height rather than placidly take crumbs from your hand.
* At the time of writing India Knight’s Twitter feed was ‘not found’ on searches and thought to have closed down. She is now tweeting again.
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