The Writing Community on Twitter has become the largest, fluffiest blanket of love and communication on Twitter. Ask any writer or creative and all sorts and they will assure you that the community on Twitter has made them a better writer.
With people posting success and losses, times of trial and celebration, there are any number of people to reach out to for help, encouragement and support.
But for such a bunch of talented people, my goodness are some of them completely feral.
Forgetting that there are accounts that are nothing but serial retweeters, follower hoarders, and pedophiles floating around, there are legitimate accounts where if you say the wrong thing to them, you may as well close your account.
With the surplus of people using Twitter as a means to communicate and find other writers, some accounts have gone from a few hundred followers to tens of thousands overnight. That’s good though, people should be posting content that’s engaging and encouraging.
What’s not is when things get messy.
You’ve got 280 characters to express an opinion and if you don’t hit your mark just right you can be torn to shreds.
Time and again I’ve witnessed the owner of a big account (one with LOTS of followers) not agree with something that’s been said by a smaller user on their feed, which is fine, we don’t all agree on a host of subjects. What’s not is then having those said thousands of followers absolutely destroy the offender, even if what they said wasn’t that aggressive to begin with.
What this then devolves down to is targeted harassment.
Not cool, Writing Community.
You know that, and if I asked you, most of you would put up your hand and say; yes, I’ve been bullied, and I’ve been bullied online too.
This blog post, I’m shouting out the #WritingCommunityMum, Emma Lombard, who loves to look after new twitter users, and even has great advice for older ones! (I still don’t know why I should put a dot before I @ someone…)
Emma’s newest blog of her Twitter Tips for Newbies series includes a detailed post on bullying, but we’ve come together to give you a few tips on how you can handle these situations;
- Should I really post that tweet/reply?
Emma: I avoid confrontational situations but even then, I sometimes hesitate when I’m about to send a reply, especially if it’s one that is laced with my own sense of humour. Not everyone will read into that humour, no matter how many emojis I add. I’ve caught a couple of tweets that could be misconstrued before I’ve sent them out, and a couple after the fact – in which case, I have chosen to delete my response and re-word it for clarification.
EJ: If I have even the smallest doubt about what I’m about to post it goes in the delete pile. If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Standing up for yourself shouldn’t be about tearing someone else down. Defending your statements should be about you and what you want to say, not about others and their flaws.
- Someone was rude:
Emma: Despite my very best efforts to be polite to people on line, I still had one snappy belligerent reply of “Whatever!” to one of my comments once. I was about to try and clarify what I had meant and that I had not intended it to come across as rude – and I was about to apologise too, when I stopped myself and realised that I wasn’t going to win that one. My mantra in these cases is no response at all. No explanation. No apology. No like. Just scroll on past and shake it off. How many of us post stuff that we know never gets seen because it is lost in the Twitterverse void without a single like. If you don’t reply to someone, there is no way for them to tell if you are ignoring the comment or if their comment was simply swallowed up, never to see the light of day.
EJ: Ignore it, leave it unliked. You don’t actually have to respond to those tweets you think are going to cause trouble. I’ve had the most random people walk into one of my threads and start shouting for attention. The best way to get rid of them is to not respond at all. Engaging these people validates your acknowledgement of what they are saying.
- They have a big account, but I don’t like what they are saying
Emma: When I was new to the #WritingCommunity (with all 36 of my followers!), I was in awe of the accounts with huge follower numbers! I marvelled at what they must have done to grow like that. As I became more experienced, I realised of course that there are so many ways to gain huge followings, and not all of them are healthy or good for the followers or the followees, like blind following without screening followers and allowing hundreds of bots to follow you. As I now find myself in the supremely fortunate position of having 13k followers, I have realised that having such traction and such a wide reach online actually comes with a weight of responsibility to speak and act appropriately even more than ever. Just because you followed someone with a large following, doesn’t mean you are obligated to stay following them if you see behaviour that makes you uncomfortable. You won’t necessarily be able to get that person to see reason – in fact, I’ve seen too many folks try and get burned in the process, so I don’t recommend it – but you do have the power to quietly remove that person from your feed.
EJ: This isn’t facebook, just because you went to high school with that twit who joke asked you to prom doesn’t mean you HAVE to be friends. Fuck that. Unfollow them, mute them, block them if you want. I have a few dozen accounts I’ve done this to, mostly because I’ve found whatever they are saying offensive which is more about their platform, and their message. This is your platform, you are choosing to spend time on it, spend it with people who validate you.
- I said something that was misconstrued and now I have a whole pack of people after me. What do I do?
EJ: If you did make a mistake, apologise, sincerely. Most people react well to it. Anyone who doesn’t accept and decides to verbally attack with name calling is someone you can and should block. Some of these people are treating the anonymity of social media as mask to cover their poor behaviour. Eleanor Roosevelt once said people don’t remember what you said or did, they remember how you feel. If you don’t feel good, hit that block button.
Emma: If what you said was well meant but was just misunderstood, the best way I’ve seen folks handle this is to give a quick apology for the misunderstanding and then move on, no longer engaging on the thread. It would be wise to mute the conversation so that you are not tempted to be drawn back into the conversation. When that mob mentality sets in, it is near impossible to try and get people to see reason when their blood is up. Depending on how ugly it gets, you might also see a truer reflection of some of the people you are following and this may be the decider for you to unfollow, soft block or hard block a bunch of people. It’s okay to do this in order to keep your feed full of the content and types of folks who you want to see. It’s all part of the continual job of Twitter housekeeping.
- My friend is being attacked online. Should I dive in to defend them?
EJ: Diving is a hasty word, it relies on not taking into consideration what’s going on, or things that fall outside that thread. I saw an agent and writer get into a massive fight, but because they kept retweeting the other’s response with a comment, it got very messy. I was asked via DM to block someone who was racist. In both instances I looked at or round the offending tweets, and decided for myself. If you have a good friend, and they are being attacked, it’s good to come and support them, but you are also making yourself a target. As long as you’re ready for that, and what else comes of it, then you can do it. But sometimes you can’t talk to these people and butting in can make it worse. So don’t dive in. Make a clear and level headed decision, and if you think you should come to their defence THEN cannon ball that shite.
Emma: I’ve seen this happen a couple of times to folks I know online. I personally never dive into the conversation publicly but I rather contact my friend privately via DM (direct message) to offer support. I check that they are okay and then gently suggest they disengage from the toxic conversation.
- This all sounds too hard and not worth it – I think I’m going to give up Twitter.
EJ: Twitter is a great platform, BUT ITS NOT FOR EVERYONE. It takes a lot of time, a lot of tweeting, and vigilance. You’re in a sea with a lot of other boats, some of them are friendly, others are not, no matter how nice you are. Some you’ll run into one by accident, other’s you’ll leave far behind. At the end of the day its still your vessel. How you use it is up to you. People take breaks from it all the time. Consider doing that if you feel harassed, and check in to keep it active but keep a pinned tweet saying your on a break. If you come back and its still not for you then dump it. At the end of the day its an app on a phone. It doesn’t define you as a writer.
Emma: The best way to navigate Twitter is to educate yourself about how it works and what functions you have at your disposal to mould your Twitter account into a place that makes you happy to come to. You can do this by searching online, or asking others in the #WritingCommunity for help to understand a particular aspect that is stumping you. Yes, EJ’s blog covers how to manage the nastier side of Twitter (which is actually super important to know) but there are also so many folks out there brimming with goodness and a desire to support and uplift other writers. Don’t be afraid to take control of your own Twitter feed – it all starts with who you decide to follow, or unfollow, in the case of when it goes wrong.
Ultimately, whatever you put ANY effort into, be it work, career, home, family, friends or a social media app, needs to be worth that time. If you don’t feel good, or are still uncertain, reach out for help. Its not the end of the world to mute or block someone. No one is calling you on your decisions, and if they do, remember that its your account, you can be an ass, or you can make genuine and life changing connections.
The #WritingCommunity has so much to offer, and it’s a shame to lose it for a few people who aren’t being kind. There are enough internal doubts and external negativity to what we writers do, that we don’t need the pressure of a stranger’s inflated ego making us feel bad. Kindness costs nothing, and if someone isn’t kind to you, don’t be afraid to remove them from your life.