I had one of the single weirdest online experiences in a long time begin last night on Twitter and extend into today. Let me share the generalities without naming names, for general entertainment and venting value, and perhaps impart some social media wisdom on the rest of you. I’m not perfect, but I think I have some Twitter moral high ground here at least in part.
I hesitate to even bring this up after everything dying down, since the people involved may very well read this, but I think there may be value in this blog post.
So, some background:
One of my tweeps (we’ll call her Scarlet) posted late last night something to the effect of: Oh my god I apparently just broke a cardinal rule of Twitter. Wish there was a handbook.
Me and at least one of her other tweeps asked what had happened.
She told us, without mentioning the name of the other person on Twitter whom she had apparently offended (whom we’ll call MommyBlogger), that she had made what she thought was a light joke, and got scolded heavily for it.
Apparently, MommyBlogger had complimented Scarlet about a blog post or something. Scarlet joked that she assumes all new follower now are ‘bots (a good assumption…most of mine are) and that at first she thought MommyBlogger was a ‘bot. She further joked that “if you’re a ‘bot, at least you’re a very nice ‘bot.”
Most of us, I think, can see clearly that light sarcasm was involved, and it was clear Scarlet knew MommyBlogger wasn’t a ‘bot. After all, ‘bots don’t carry on conversations. However, MommyBlogger got mad and said that Scarlet was inconsiderate and had accused her of being a ‘bot in the open Twitter timeline.
Now, at this point, Scarlet hadn’t named any names; just told us what had happened. I tweeted to her that it’s a shame that happened and if the other person didn’t accept the apology, it might mean she was the inconsiderate one.
At this point, I think I’m done. Tweep in slight emotional distress and virtual hug/commiseration offered.
Then I go to the tab on Twitter for people who have mentioned me and see two tweets from MommyBlogger (whom I do not follow and who doesn’t follow me) who basically tells me, over the course of those tweets, not to trust what Scarlet is saying and that Scarlet accused of her of being a ‘bot publicly and was inconsiderate and unabashed.
OK, so now I’m curious. Because I don’t follow both of them (only Scarlet), their conversation wasn’t in my timeline. But now with my tweep seeming to be embarrassed and confused, and a stranger saying she’s being disingenuous, I go into both of their timelines and scroll way down to find out what they said to each other.
Near as I can see, Scarlet hadn’t been mean, was clearly making a lighthearted joke (not an accusation or anything that could be construed as one) and apologized several times (which she didn’t have to do to this person she’d only just met online if she didn’t take her feelings seriously). MommyBlogger, on the other hand, seems (to my perceptions) to be focused on making Scarlet feel bad and accusing her and telling her the apology is inadequate, instead of accepting any responsibility for overreacting.
Since MommyBlogger has now jumped into my Twitter timeline to make accusations, I send a tweet to her, saying it seemed pretty clear to me that Scarlet was making an obvious joke, not an accusation, and suggested to MommyBlogger that perhaps she’s in a stressful state right now to be seeing things otherwise.
The response I got back was one that, while short, seemed to drip in snark, telling me, essentially. “A mom stressed? Of course moms are stressed”
To which I respond to the effect of: “I know, my wife is often stressed, too, and so am I, being a work-at-home dad with an almost 6-year-old.”
We traded a few tweets. I don’t recall the specifics. It was late, and I’ve since blocked her, so I can’t even see the old messages. But I do recall that she seemed to be very defensive and kind of abusive, actually. I finally told her I thought she was thin-skinned, judgmental and inconsiderate herself, and then blocked her so that I wouldn’t have to see any of her messages in my timeline ever again.
I tell Scarlet to stop worrying, as this woman is clearly off the rails and there’s no reason to lose sleep over someone who’s so petty. Another mutual tweep of ours asks who the person was that Scarlet upset, and I decline to share the name, as I think it would be petty to put her name out publicly. So far, everything has been semi-private, since MommyBlogger and I didn’t share any tweeps, and someone would have to go into our timelines deliberately to even see what words had passed between us.
I think that I’m done. I don’t want a public mess, and to my mind, I’ve prevented one by blocking MommyBlogger and stepping out before she pissed me off more and made me want to publicly shame her.
Oh, no. This morning, I get tweets from someone on MommyBlogger’s side who takes me to task for having called her names. I can only assume that this new person, whom I’ll call ThirdParty, was either contacted by MommyBlogger for defense and support against the cold cruel world, or that ThirdParty reads MommyBlogger’s timeline very thoroughly (I don’t know who would have time for such activity, but I’m sure someone does that).
I spend way too much of my day trying to explain what happened to this new person and, as you can see from the above, the complexities are not easy to fit into 140-character snippets. We never reach agreement. She doesn’t see any of the defensiveness and shallowness that I see in MommyBlogger and thinks that Scarlet and I are the overly defensive ones.
Whatever. The back and forth seems to have stopped (though ThirdParty says some of Scarlet’s friends were bashing MommyBlogger on Twitter. I don’t know if that happened or not, since none of those people are anyone who follows me or whom I follow, as far as I know), and I’m hoping it’s all done for good.
But, that scintillating tale of Twitter soap opera aside, I think I have some advice for people in general, especially people like MommyBlogger:
- If someone says something you think is mean, express that nicely and ask, did you just say what I think you said? (or something to that effect). Then listen to the person’s explanation and/or apology. Chances are, if they apologize at all, even if you don’t think they apologized enough, you should probably let it go. In my experience, total dickheads don’t say “I’m sorry” at all. They certainly don’t do it multiple times as Scarlet did, and then fret to her tweeps that she seems to have violated some kind of Twitter etiquette.
- When people you don’t know on Twitter are consoling the person you seem to think has offended you, don’t go into their timelines to turn them against that person, particularly when they don’t know who the hell you are. By invading my timeline to talk nasty about one of MY tweeps, you then put me in a position of wanting to find out what was going on, and you have essentially invited me in to examine things, and possibly make judgments about you. It’s like meeting someone, deciding you don’t like them, and then waiting outside their workplace to tell co-workers and others who see that person most days, “That person is evil!” The reaction, of course, is probably going to be to treat you like a crazy person.
- But most of all, stop taking this shit so seriously. Even if you think you’ve been insulted online or called something you’re not, block the person. I certainly blocked MommyBlogger after a few tweets illustrated to me that she was probably toxic. I don’t have time for toxic people. If MommyBlogger thought Scarlet was toxic, she should have blocked her, not made a big to-do that drags in innocent bystanders.
In the end, perhaps I called MommyBlogger names that I shouldn’t have. Mea culpa. When someone starts making me uncomfortable, I react. I may have overreacted. But that doesn’t make MommyBlogger blameless in this. There are no saints. There are just people who sinned more than others did, and I have my opinions as to who that would be, which may differ from other people’s opinions.
But damn it, this is social media. You don’t like the company, go away from them. Or deal with them directly. Handle your own shit, and leave the rest of us out of it. Although I should probably at least thank MommyBlogger for giving me a new follower, since ThirdParty has apparently decided to follow me on Twitter despite thinking I’m a nice but totally misguided and possibly rude fellow at times…and I have a blog post for tonight because of all of this.