Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How to Lose Friends on Twitter

I came relatively late to Twitter; couldn't see the point, just one more "thing" to have to keep up with, etc. etc. I must admit, although I don't go on every day, and don't usually have it up (if you'll pardon the expression) all the time, it is quite amusing, and occasionally there are interesting links to be found. As usual however, I always miss the big Tweet fights, even though I follow some of the people involved.

I relish a good debate, but there's something about "online fights" that really repulses me. We all know that the written word (especially when limited to 140 characters or so) is not a reliable form of communication. It's all too easy to read between lines that aren't there at all, or to attribute meaness/agression etc. when it isn't intended. I have seen a few fighs erupt in a matter of seconds over something that was totally misconstrued. It's very hard to go back once you've added insult to your counter-argument, which is what many people do. Not satisfied with pointing out that the other person didn't read the original tweet correctly, some people feel obliged to add the inveitable hashtag -#imbecile, #moron #learntoread or worse. (And if social media has made bullies out of people, the hashtag has added the passive aggressive element, in my opinion.)

Anyway, this morning I got into my own little Twitter bitch fest. Or rather, I didn't because I immediately unfollowed her, even though she apologised for what she'd said. (Don't worry - there's no way she'd be reading this, so this isn't my personal piece of passive aggression thinly described as a blog post.)

We both have blogs on the same web site, kind of like Brit Mums, but not (before anyone starts trying to guess). I haven't met her and only recently started following her, as we do over there, as a sign of support for each other. She tweeted something about the upcoming payroll tax hikes in the USA, saying that $40 per year increase is a gym membership to some people, that they would have to forego this, and that this would add to obesity levels in the USA. (Not verbatim obviously, I was way over the allowed character numbers there.)  Now, it always surprises me that gym memberships are seen as a necessity over here, when those same people eat portions that should last them two days and never walk if they can sit in a car or, in Chicago, get on a bus.  So I Tweeted back "Have to get off the bus and walk a few stops" #obesity.

Her reply? And I quote - Apparently you did not get that I was referring to America and not myself. So suck on your insults. #ApparentlyyouareaRepulican

Can you believe that? She half knows me yet chooses to address me like that. She assumes that I can't read a tweet that says "Americans" in the sentence. She assumes that my manners are as base as hers and that I would dare tell an individual to get off the bus and walk, then call her obese in the hashtag. I don't even know what she looks like.

I replied thus - "It was obvious you were speaking of the nation as a whole, as was I. I am not like that. Shall now unfollow." She had the grace (?) to respond with - "Sorry but thought that was directed at me".

Too little too late, mate. Even if you did think it was directed at you, leave the insults until you know for sure, if you  must descend to that level at all.

So I have unfollowed her. I always Tweet with the intention of talking to others the way I would if they were standing in front of me. Likewise, if someone were to insult me to my face, I would walk away and keep well away in the future. I don't mix with that type in real life and I make no exceptions on the web.

And d'you know what pee'd me off the most?

She called me a Republican.



  1. A Republican? Ouch.

    I've also seen plenty of arguments erupt on Twitter, and I've been lucky not to be involved in any of them. I do use it, but not as much as a lot of people seem to - and a lot of my time on twitter is spent reading and following other conversations.

    Email has always been a difficult form of communication because there is no nuance and words can be misinterpreted so easily, so it's no surprise that twitter is the same. Trying to get everything into 140 characters can be hard.

  2. Well, I'd be fuming if someone called me a Republican! x

  3. Thankfully it doesn't happen too much but when it does it's very hurtful isn't it. I applaud you for being civil and then dropping her.
    Some people can be nasty on FB or twitter or even on blogs. A friend of mine had a FB post this week about Penn State footballers fighting at a practice and he said something like "it's just getting worse" and then some guy came on there and just blasted him time and again about the Sandusky issue and he was so nasty. I wondered why my friend didn't just delete the comments and un-friend him - that's what I would have done. Life is too short to have to deal with those people.

  4. It reads like she might be the new one to Twitter. She totally miss-read your tweet. On the other hand, I do think some people are just chomping at the bit waiting to be offended or have someone take offense to their tweets. She may be one of them and didn't take the time to read your tweet a second time, as she should have done before responding.

    I now spend very little time on Twitter. I have found that it's way too easy for someone to say something very hurtful and rude to another with absolutely no accountability. At least on Facebook there is a real name attached to the account and you have to approve them as a follower. It's a little harder for them to crap on your day and then make a run for it.

  5. That is a horrible thing to call someone! I'd never do that! Bit like calling someone in the UK a Tory! When I have mentioned anything even slightly political on my FB it erupts into a slanging match and people fall out. Always the same people who start it so I now have to block them from seeing the updates.

  6. The fact that she Tweeted about "Americans" and then assumed I was talking about only her in my response sort of gives the game away when it comes to her IQ I suppose. There's no arguing with her type, now do I want to.
    It's a real shame that people can't simply have a political discussion these days without it becoming a slagging match. How are we ever going to reach understanding and/or compromise if everyone sticks their fingers in their ears and tells you you "suck" or words to that effect? Sigh.

  7. Could have been worse - she could have called you a champagne socialist... although judging by her knee jerk reaction, I doubt she knows what the term means.

    LCM x

  8. People are too often looking for excuses to get offended and it's so easy to sound off anon on things like's the perfect playground for confrontational types. Good on you for the unfollow

  9. It sounds a lot like automobile mentality, where people feel that their behavior behind the wheel of a car is somehow anonymous. On a completely cultural level (speaking as an American) I find it depressing and alarming that we have lost the ability to engage in genuine discourse or an exchange of opinions without the whole thing deteriorating into name-calling. As a high school and college instructor, I observed this often in my students: if someone disagrees with you, they are automatically wrong/evil/your enemy/insert ugly word here. This is evident on Twitter, chat boards, etc. Simply expressing a dissenting opinion leads to immediate attack. One of the discussions we always had in class (I teach German) was to explain that Germans state their opinions without sugar-coating, but that just because they disagree with you on a subject doesn't mean they hate you. This was something I had to explicitly spell out for my young (American) students, because they simply didn't get the concept. It is very evident in any political discussion in the US today, even amongst congresspersons: disagree with me? You want to skin puppies and euthanize little old ladies. There can be no meeting in the middle. You agree with me, or you are wrong. Sigh.

  10. I think I live in a bubble. I always hear/read about these things and to be honest can't quite get my head round them. There's no need for people to be so abusive.

  11. Ms. Caroline - I hate to say it but I think Americans are more at fault here than other cultures. I have witnessed parties (ie. social getherings) shut down because of an inter-change along political or religious lines, whereas in England we would have bantered and discussed the topic with intelligence and understanding.
    I genuinely think that Bush 2 set the current tone when he basically said that all who weren't with him were against him and the USA. I also don't think that enough people here (USA) know enough about their topic to have a decent debate. Too many sound bites swallowed by too many people. They really don't know the meaning of half the slogans they regurgitate and the minute they are questioned, the questioner becomes a Commmie/Socialist/ heathen etc.

  12. Before the Internet, you required a car if you wanted to be an anonymous bully, now anyone with a ISP can insult strangers. ("Hey! Where did you get your driving license, a$$hole, Montgomery Wards?") #yesthatdatesme

  13. EM- I don't usually comment on comments, but I did want you to know that I read yours and I completely agree with you. I'm not sure why I'm so sensitive to this - maybe because I've lived outside of the US for so long; maybe because I spend so much time with non-American friends or because I teach German; maybe because my mum's Canadian. I also think the tendency of Americans to get their news from inherently biased and (imho) insular sources prevents them from getting clear views of situations; it's even more unusual for Americans to have a sense of how their actions are perceived internationally. Your reference to Bush made me, of course, think of the debacle after 9/11 when the French were suddenly demonized for not going along with the Bush agenda. It reminded me very much of playground politics: I'm cross with so-and-so, and if you're not cross with him, too, you're not my friend anymore. I think I already said this, but *sigh*...

  14. I blame the cloak of anonymity for the decay in online discourse. People forget there's a human being with feelings on the other side of their comment. I get the occasional nasty comment on my blog and they come from all over the world, so its not just coming from Americans, although I do agree that Americans in general can be frustratingly uninformed about politics as well as dogmatic and unyielding on certain positions.

    And hey, not every Republican is an idiot. Just sayin' ... ;-)

  15. Diana - I know...some of my best friends are Republicans. Well, actually they aren't but I wouldn't not be their friend if they were!

  16. Well, you're not exactly encouraging me to put a toe in the Twitter water...

  17. I think in this case a lot of it was what you touched on in one of your comments here--there's a cultural difference happening. I remember talking to Iota about this sort of thing too (convo subjects at dinner parties, for example) and how one can be much more opinionated and political and whatever in the UK than the US without fear of insulting someone.

    I never see the big tweet-fights either. I hear about them from time to time. The closest I ever got was telling one very nice blogger that she was a horrible woman for showing a twit pic of a Christmas tree she found in a shop in October. She replied clearly a bit hurt and I swiftly apologised saying I didn't mean it literally and she forgave me by LOL-ing and we then got into a pleasant discussion about shops displaying Christmas too early. I realised I had to be more careful with my wording, especially 'joking'. It's a new language ANd way of communicating all in one! At least she didn't hashtag flame me #lessonlearned

  18. ooh I feel your pain! No one wants to be called the R word. Wierdly enough I have not gotten into that many arguments in the USA apart from about religion where I might say to some bible sort 'well the bible is a made up book so it's like believing in fairytales' which invariably goes over like a cup of cold sick. I have learnt to keep my trap shut on twitter and out and about !!

  19. Yes, without meaning any disrespect, I once asked a very religious family member why it was OOK to Poo-poo astrology when there is more proof of planetary intervention on the Earth than there is of God and miracles. No answer - but the head shaking and complete incredulity at the question was very interesting.

  20. It amazes me that is said on Twitter with so little thought. But you are NOT A REPUBLICAN. Really.

  21. See, I don't even know what a republican is!

    Twitter can be so difficult, things are easily taken out of context.

    Mich x


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