Personal Jesus

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I remember when I first saw someone on LiveJournal had joined Twitter. ‘What’s the point?’ I wondered, ‘I can’t write anything worthwhile there.’ It’s coming up for eight years now since that attitude changed, and on the main account, I’m well into six figures of content outputted. I’d love to know how much of that is GIF-related. It’s gonna be a bit. I was doing THAT before the company added the UI functionality.

It’s good to know you’re a trailblazer.

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It’s not healthy to dwell on the negatives in your life, everybody. Down that road only stress and anxiety lie. Except, from time to time, it is worthwhile reminding yourself that other people are the ones who take offence at your attitude and outlook, and that’s not your problem, but theirs. When Internet Dinosaurs smell blood, it’s never going to end well. This week, I have been reminded of one person in particular.

Except, the more I examine what happened, the more it became apparent at just how common this behaviour has become. There was a belief initially it was just guys who’d do this until a woman trumped all the male stupidity in the space of 48 hours. The sexual orientation of your idiot is largely irrelevant. What matters is manner in which you are targeted and person’s aim when doing so.

Control is the key to absolutely everything.

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The particular individual in question was unbelievably smart. He began politely picking me up on typos and grammatical errors in my blogs, and as this was a fairly regular occurrence, I was grateful. Then came the moment when we disagreed about my use of question marks in sentences where he was convinced they shouldn’t exist. I accepted his objection, but began to realise that maybe his interest in my work was a bit excessive.

I decided, for the first time, to go look at his followers list and who else he was interacting with. I can still remember how sick I felt scrolling through hundreds of female accounts and pornbots. When examining his interactions, this was taking place with other women, many of them. The behaviour was identical: polite until someone disagreed with taking his advice at face value.

Then he’d go crazy.

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Blocking on Twitter was pretty basic back then, and reporting harassment close to pointless. I can remember being schooled in victim shaming too at that point, because the assumption was that it was at least in part my own fault for not doing my homework beforehand. A smart person would have checked the person I blindly followed before interacting, so it was clear what I’d be signing up for.

It’s a lesson that I’m still learning, even nearly eight years on. You won’t be friends with everybody, and however hard one might try to be polite and adult, some people can and will wind you up the wrong way. Others will decide that you must be talking about them (because everybody else does) whilst a few will be so spectacularly arrogant as to defy belief. The guy whose apology hinged on ‘I’m sorry I stalked you but I was in mental health counselling at the time’ was a classic.

When you speak your mind, other people can get the right hump.

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I find it increasingly fascinating watching other people talk to those I have blocked and no longer interact with. This isn’t the version of reality that used to exist where people would somehow vanish once you’d ignored them. Sure, you can stop reading and listening to those whose outlooks and attitudes were so toxic, but they don’t go away. Nothing bad ever really goes away, it’s about accommodating personal change to deal with those consequences.

The irony, of course, is that occasionally the people who have serially being attacking and abusing people do get caught, and they do end up in the spotlight. I can think of several occasions where that’s been the case: the rush of amazed indignation from some quarters being staggering. People rarely talk to each other any more on Social media, except in very well established friends groups. If they did, an awful lot of behaviour would be on borrowed time.

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I have a lot of social Twitter followers now: they don’t talk, but use the account to read other stuff. The interactivity portion of online proceedings takes place elsewhere: Slack, Twitch, Discord… but not out in a medium that historically can do far more harm than good. That’s a massive lie, of course, and even after multiple incidents of drama, arrogance and abhorrent behaviour, there’s nowhere else I’d want to hang around in.

Me and Lin-Manuel understand the future of Social media’s only a tweet away.