It’s my twitterversary. Two years. I’m a toddler. A twittler. I’m now toddling in social media (or is that twittling?). Still uncertain in my footing, certainly. Prone to outbursts, but unsure when committing these feelings to words. Only just formulating a sense of self in this world.
A great many encounters alarm. People’s certainty. The streamlining of timelines to such narrow world views. The spewing of hatred, hatred, hatred. All hard edges. Hazardous, for a toddler.
I try to steer clear of controversy. Only poke the cage a little. It’s dark in there. There’s no way of telling what lurks in the corners.
Besides, there is enough controversy. I don’t feel the need to chime in. I don’t feel the need to one-up, correct or counter. If I were to do these things in any social encounter, I’d expect to solicit some kind of conflict. Why would it be any different here (with the added benefit of anonymity)?
Rather than trolls (so far), I’ve found gracious guides. Kindness and consideration. Generosity. I’ve been awed by people’s bravery, their honesty, their wisdom. The vigilance in how people support one another. Have supported me.
(Yes, that may sound very schmaltzy, but it’s true – so what can you do?)
Amid the black and white squawking, there are vibrant voices in all colours. And people are so funny, and so clever and quick. There’s a lot of good beneath the spats that make the headlines.
I took a long time to come around to social media, for two reasons, mainly, and, Cassandra that I am, both have played out.
Firstly, by nature, I’m a very private person. Cagey, in all honesty. I was always like that, I can’t really say why (or is it that I could, but won’t?). Mistrustful, I suppose. The less you know about me, the less you have to use against me, that train of thought.
Broadcasting yourself to the world, then, seems a pretty counter-intuitive thing to do.
Secondly, I not very good at forming habits. Now, once I have a habit (I write this with a ghastly cancer-stick in hand), I’m not very good at shaking them, so it’s possibly a good thing this is the case, but, when it comes to taking a course of antibiotics or trying to eat three sensible meals a day, I just can’t get into the routine. I can do it for a couple of days running, and then – well, something else always seems to come up.
So there’s no point being on social media if you forget to go out and socialise.
True to form, I’m still a bit cagey. I figure if I respect my privacy others might too. I’m also not sure anyone really wants to know, and definitely doesn’t need to know. My domestic front is something of a final frontier (I’ve known people for years, in the flesh, in ‘real life’, that have never been to my home and I wouldn’t particularly want them to come, peering over my books and scrutinising my knick-knacks).
At the same time, I’m learning that hiding might be a waste of time. The responsibility of being an active citizen, of speaking out. The world-changing opportunity that that is. Something not to be taken for granted, that freedom to formulate your 140 characters, or put out anything else you want into the world on one little link.
It’s big. Use it or lose it.
Also true to form, I’m patchy with it. I’ll have days when I can’t stay off Twitter and days when I forget to even look at it. Something else comes up. Sometimes I have that same sort of lingering guilt I experience when I’ve cancelled a social arrangement. I always think it’s a terrible thing to turn down an invitation when one day you could find yourself longing for an invitation to anywhere, but then, when you’re not in the mood, you’re not in the mood.
And I guess thinking about mood is helpful in the context of social media. What mood am I in when I’m posting? The all important question: will I feel the same in five minutes, an hour, tomorrow, a decade from now – or when someone’s one-upped, corrected or countered my point?
As with controversy, there’s more than enough negativity in the world too. It’s tempting to be sensational. It’s tempting to bleat. My question, more often than not, is does it help?
There are so many fires. As Billy Joel reminded us, we didn’t start them, but does it help to fuel or fan them? Of course, if you think you might be able to have a sensible dialogue…a timeline can certainly help you be the judge of that.
Something else might help though, and this is my idea for Twitter. It’s pretty simple. I think. In fact, it’s so simple, I can’t believe I’m the first person to think of it. It must have already been dismissed as a concept, and for good reason I’m sure. You can tell me if not.
Just as we have the little heart for likes, why can’t we have, alongside, a little skull-and-cross-bones that, anonymously, ranks a tweet as toxic – a dislike. If a tweet, or user, is frequently registered toxic, they get an equivalent of a little blue tick (maybe a ‘red for danger’ one). You follow at peril. And, of course, Twitter can monitor more closely those that are rated toxic. Users should also be able to appeal their toxicity (I can see there could be toxic – ‘FAKE TOXIC’ – trolling, but nothing’s perfect, right?).
Am I missing something? A lot? Okay, so President Trump would probably get a toxic rating, but could appeal and keep his blue tick instead. People could also retweet their own toxic-rated tweets and explain where they were coming from. Clarify their intent. Expand the dialogue.
Would only a toddler think of something so asinine?
There is so much to be gained from participating in social media. Personally. Professionally. Culturally. Commercially (or so a zillion bots tell us). To be fair, I’ve gained something from social media in all of these areas (despite my ‘proceed with caution’ approach – or, possibly, because of it).
Many people are missing out because of the fear of those dark corners and the beasts that may occupy them. Those people shouldn’t be silenced. The haters shouldn’t be silenced either. It’s important to hear what they say, what they think. But if we could just shine a better light on them without people fearing personal retribution, couldn’t that help everybody grow up a little?
I’m sticking with it. Sporadically. Cautiously. I’m a twittling, still wide-eyed with wonder. I just wish, if the playground bullies do decide to single me out, there were more options to consider other than only fight or flight.