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January 9, 2012

The Dark Side of Twitter

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/the_dark_side_of_twitter_20120109/

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Twitter is an interesting thing.  In theory it’s quite remarkable, but in actuality it might be the meanest form of social media in the world.  The amount of hate that is shared on Twitter is mind boggling and you cannot spend any time on there and not wonder how it has become so mean, and why the people at Twitter don’t try to do something about it.

My Twitter account is @ilanaangel.  I tweet pretty regularly.  I share my blog in addition to random things.  I don’t tell people what I had for dinner or my every movement throughout the day, but I do share things and it’s fun. The people who follow me read my blogs and it’s nice that they are curious about my opinions and my life.  I’m curious about them also.

There are a lot of great people on Twitter and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s full of just mean people, but in my experience, many are mean.  I find that the ones I am most comfortable with are those who use their real names.  There is an honesty there that feels safe.  They are not afraid to admit this is me, this is my opinion, and I own it.

Some use fun names, but use their real pictures.  I like those people too.  A cute name is fun, but adding their real pictures again shows a level of maturity that is not about pretending to be something you’re not.  Important to note that if you tweet with a cute name, and no real picture, it does not mean I think you are mean.  In fact, it could be that you are smart.

There is something brilliant about using a fake name and a fake picture.  You can be invisible which allows you to say whatever you want with no accountability.  That is where Twitter gets ugly.  People are horrific to each other and it is upsetting when you watch an attack happen.  Twitter is like going on safari and watching a brutal animal killing in the wild.

I have been attacked on Twitter and it is an emotionally draining experience. By writing my personal opinion, which did not match others, I was sent death threats, have had a certain lady from wall street use my picture as her own, and a fellow blogger encourage her readers to attack me by using a fake account.  It is cowardly when people hide on Twitter.

I have had my faith questioned, my employer has been contacted and asked to fire me, sexually horrific things have been written about my child and me.  My safety, reputation, and livelihood have all been compromised by people on Twitter who are not honest enough to show or share their face or name.  The saddest part about this is that Twitter does not seem to care

When you contact Twitter about someone stealing your picture, or sending threatening tweets, they advise you to block that person so they cannot see you.  That’s lame, offers no comfort, and we are forced to seek help by law enforcement.  I appreciate that there are millions of people on Twitter but they see the IP addresses and they have the power to help.

If they have the ability to allow people from around the world to instantly connect in 140 characters or less, can they not control the same IP address having dozens of accounts, all of which are hurtful to others?  That Twitter turns a blind eye to the bullying, and dangerous behavior of some of their users, says a lot about the world we live in. Namely that people don’t care.

There is no accountability at Twitter.  There are inherently kind people who use Twitter as a tool to connect and stay connected, and others who spend their time using Twitter to hurt people that they don’t know, just because their opinions do not match.  For every wonderful person on Twitter, there are two who are unable to behave with any level of decency.

I have blocked many people on Twitter and while it made me angry in the beginning, I now actually get a kick out of blocking crazy people.  If anyone says something mean spirited, or if they follow and engage with those who are trying to hurt me, I block them.  It makes for a better Twitter experience to be sure, but I know there is garbage continuing to happen.

To those who follow me on Twitter know that I appreciate it.  If I have blocked you please understand that it’s not personal, it’s just personal.  To the people who operate Twitter, it’s time for you to do the right thing and put your power to good use.  To those who attack me, my family, and those who support me, I’ll take you seriously when you admit who you are.

To clarify, this blog was not written to bash Twitter.  I like Twitter and truly enjoy myself on there.  Some would argue I myself have been mean by calling a politician or two douchelords, or a certain talentless reality family fame whores, but there is a difference between snarky and sarcasm and cyber bullying and threats.  Twitter should know the difference.

It’s also important to note that I’m not just talking about me and my account.  I have seen people that I follow be ripped to pieces.  You never know when you’ll see an attack, and it’s impossible to avoid, because the reasons they happen are so random.  a difference in opinion on the most mundane of topics can send someone into a frenzy and it’s all over.

I’m not going to quit Twitter.  Especially now that I’m finally getting the hang of it! I will do my thing, be grateful for those who have an interest in my work, engage those who make it fun, and block those that try to suck the joy out if it for me.  At the end of the day it’s only Twitter so who even cares about what people say or think about you there? 

Well, I do.  I am a tough girl and I can shake it off pretty easily, but for a homemaker in middle America who is attacked because she shared her opinion, it’s shocking, scary, and embarrassing.  Twitter needs to take a look at what is happening because their great idea has a dark side. Until they figure that out we’ll tweet carefully and keep the faith.

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