Why no one is a winner on Twitter

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It was Jack who advised me to get a Twitter to help share my blog articles with a wider audience, and it was also Jack who advised me that Twitter was one of the darkest places on the internet. I took his advice and set up the account, but I didn’t really listen to his warning.

It took me all of about five minutes to realise that he was right.

On paper, Twitter sounds great. You can connect with the world, write short but sweet messages, contact your favourite celebrities, engage with authors, follow hashtags you’re interested in, get the news as it is happening… you can also be trolled or read vile comments sent to people. You can see people set up fake accounts purely to spout hatred to another person. You can report sick, twisted comments and be told that they don’t violate the terms and conditions. People will shout you down, tell you you are wrong, insult you and belittle you just for having a belief that is different to their own. You see how much people like the sound of their own voice and to disagree with others purely for the sake of disagreeing. You can see the best of humanity, sure, but a hell of a lot of the time you see the worst.

My own personal experience of Twitter has been mixed. I mostly find that we are all just shouting at the top of our voices, hoping that someone will pick up on what we say and run with it.

I did get a bit of negative Twitter action, though. I shared an article that I wrote on the abortion bans in America (click here to read it if you missed it) and got my first ‘hate’. I was called sexist for writing about womens health (?!?!?!) and, after commenting on a tweet about Busy Phillips opening up about having an abortion when she was 15, became embroiled in an exchange with a woman who said that women having an abortion is a way to express their ‘irresponsibility and immaturity’. I counter argued and her response to me was to say that if a woman has sex then she alone must carry any consequence forever.

I typed out a response. I wrote that the woman was basically saying that women who got pregnant should be forced to have the child and raise a child as a form of punishment for having sex. What a happy life for that child. I also wanted to point out that there was no mention of men owning up to their actions in her response, but that’s another argument altogether.

I was going to send my reply, to engage, to spend my day furiously counter arguing every point this stranger made… but I didn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to get into a ‘Twitter war’ with someone who was never going to agree with me and who would never change my mind, who was just going to keep going on and on and leave us going around in circles. Neither of us would sway, so what was the point? I was going away for the weekend for my anniversary and I felt a rage simmering away inside that would never let me switch off and just enjoy myself. I was letting a message on a computer from a faceless stranger dictate my real life.

So I ignored it, went away for the weekend and had a wonderful time. I barely picked up my phone and I didn’t look at Twitter until I got home. The compulsion to reply, to engage in a war of words that would get nowhere was gone. It simply was better for my wellbeing to just let it go.

Letting it go isn’t always weakness. To some people not replying is giving up, but giving up on what? A Twitter battle with a stranger I would never meet, whose life and opinion had no bearing on my own and who was as powerless to change things as I was? It wasn’t a debate we were having – her mind was set, I was wrong, I was to take the shots. My mindset was also set – I think women should be allowed access to abortions. I understand that sometimes birth control fails, sometimes you get ill and your birth control doesn’t work as effectively, that sometimes you might not be on birth control at all and get pregnant at a time of the month you didn’t think you could and then not be in a position to raise a child. My opinion was more liberal than hers and would never become less than that. If I was fighting against someone who could make a difference or someone who was willing to hear me out then I’d have stood my ground, but we were two fixed positions. Arguing with a brick wall won’t get anyone anywhere.

My counter arguer was entitled to her opinion just as much as I am entitled to say ‘we will never agree, let’s just leave it at that’. I’m 25. I know when to pick my battles. I know my article was liked and retweeted way more times than it was picked apart by people with a different opinion. I also know that the people who want to argue with you on Twitter are people you will never change. Their opinion is fixed – why else would they purposely take time from their day to call someone a famous a dickhead for disagreeing with them or send them threats? You only go in for a fight if you think you’re right, think you will win or think there is no responsibility or repercussion that could come from what you say. Engaging with people determined to disagree with you only adds fuel to the fire and makes them think they’re more important in your life than they are.

I know that abortions bans are a topical issue right now and I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinion. Twitter is great for allowing people with different ideas to express their side of the story, but it is also an arena where no one wins. If anything, it just creates a bigger gulf between both sides. No one listens to each other anymore. They just tweet, angrier and more aggressively each time until one of them feels like they have silenced the other.

I’m not silenced, though. I’ll engage when I need to, when I want to. Maybe doing a Ricky Gervais and learning to pick your battles, when to reply to someone’s negativity like it’s a sport and to spend most of your time engaging with the positive is how we should all use Twitter.

Twitter should not be a platform for hate or to argue on. If you don’t like that Love Island contestant or that footballer who missed a vital goal, don’t send them abuse. Walk away. Stay silent. Engage with someone you do like. Surely there’s enough negativity in the world without you adding a little more to it?

9 Comments

  1. Social media can be such a terrible place. It has never once occurred to me to behave in a troll like manor but it’s seems to be the norm.

    It’s such a shame because at the root of it, twitter and Facebook etc have a real place in society and a great sense of community comes from that.

    Knowing when to step away though is something you learn as an adult, my worry is that younger children don’t have this skill and take this social media world for real and don’t see that what they read or in fact type on SM is not often as real as they think.

    1. I fully agree – I can’t imagine typing something with the purpose to upset and offend someone. It’s sad to think how many people use social media for that purpose. Twitter should be so wonderful but the reality is often so toxic, and it is scary how it effects our day to day life. I felt myself shaking when I received negative comments, even though I knew to step away. I can’t imagine how I’d have reacted as a teenager, but I know it would have affected me so much more than it did now. Thank you for reading and for commenting 💕

  2. It is always so difficult to take a step back before reacting to someones opinions of your opinions. They don’t know you and so you feel like giving them an explanation they don’t really deserve. Sometimes we have to understand that its wasted words and energy! Great post!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment 💕 I definitely think it’s something I’ve got better with as an adult but it is so hard, as well as remembering not to take it personally as these people don’t know you and don’t have any real impact on your life. Definitely wasted words and energy!

  3. If it helps you, I took a leap into the twitter sphere or as I call it “The land of hate” a few months ago when I attended a workshop on how to push a blog and had much the same experience as you. I lasted 3 weeks before I pulled the plug. I have no issue with differences of opinion, I love that, but I felt that Twitter has a become a platform that weaponizes free speech, demonizes differences and profits off hate. It cultivates the worst in humanity and encourages us to fight one another for likes and tweets. Every time I was on it, I had this vision of a bunch of men smoking cigars in some dark back room, looking at their computer screens and laughing as the comments scroll by, words of hate, venom, getting darker and darker and darker. “Look at these yahoos and how they snark at each other…we are gonna be rich!” In the end, it was stealing my joy as a writer and taking away from my “why” I started PositivelyAnne and that was a non-negotiable with me. So I ended it and haven’t looked back. It may take a bit longer to cultivate my audience, but I’m o.k. with that. I enjoy your blog very much and encourage you to continue to speak your truth whatever the platform.

    1. Yes! I know we can’t all have the same opinion and I like that we don’t – it makes for interesting conversation, but Twitter isn’t a conversation. It’s like a boxing match where you’re blindfolded and people come at you from all sides. I am debating deleting my account, I’ve said to myself I will see at the end of next month if the growth my blog gets is worth it. Like you, I feel it is stealing my joy and taking over my personal life a bit more as I seem to take opinions or negative comments I see, even if they aren’t directed at myself, to heart. Thanks so much for your lovely words about my blog – it’s so nice to connect with people who use the internet to be positive and understand your writing intentions

  4. I’m not sure why people feel empowered dragging others down. Being hurt is a sign of sensitivity. I wish it didn’t hurt when people abuse you, but if losing your sensitivity is the price then I will live with the hurt.
    It is sadder for the trolls than us who only want to make life better. Ultimately we will win, so keep your voice and believe there is more good than bad.

    1. I don’t understand it either. I can’t imagine sending messages of hatred to people I don’t know or people who get so incredibly angry about things. It’s nice to meet more people who are using the internet for the opposite of that and spreading good in the world 😊

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