Caution necessary when communicating on Twitter


Nothing, If Not Critical


When I first began doing freelance writing in 2013, I always knew networking was the life blood of my career. In order to get published, you need to build professional relationships with potential employers. So, even if writing is largely an introverted activity, budding freelance writers always need to be on top of their social networking skills.

However, if you asked me one year ago, “What is the best service for networking with others,” I would not have said Twitter. Nearly 1,300 followers later, I realize now that I was dead wrong. Indeed, Twitter is an absolute necessity. Not only does it allow writers to meet different people, but it also helps journalists reach out for interview subjects, entrepreneurs to build their businesses and aspiring content creators to fund their Patreon projects. Twitter lets us build fundamental professional networks in today’s day and age, and if you’re not on Twitter now — well, you should at least consider it!

After all, Twitter’s fast pace is extremely beneficial for professional users. I can post articles and videos on my feed, for instance, and have my publications boosted to my 1,290 followers in a matter of minutes. Likewise, Twitter occasionally lets young students chat with established workers in their respective field. As a writer, for instance, I’ve previously chatted with publication owners and prominent writers in the video game industry. The experience is not just humbling, but incredibly inspirational for a young freelance journalist. Twitter has its perks, no doubt. It’s an incredibly social media network. However, the platform has its problems, and posting on Twitter without a bit of tact can be … well, dangerous.

Many individuals treat Twitter like an open soapbox, where they can freely voice their opinions without censure. In reality, Twitter is extremely public, and anyone can use the search functions to find your tweets. This can range from total strangers browsing through random tags, to trolls and n’er-do-wells looking for an Internet fight. The sheer accessibility of tweets is a major problem, as troublemakers often bully vulnerable users for their own personal enjoyment.

Indeed, Twitter seems to lend itself well to this kind of harassment. After all, “dogpiling,” or overwhelming someone with overtly negative messages, can happen incredibly fast on Twitter. The 140 character limit encourages users to be impulsive and concise, and Twitter’s timeline feature encourages users to jump into high activity posts. As a result, it’s very easy for Twitter users to get caught up in a dogpile, and enable harassment –– if not actively engage in it themselves. I’ve previously been the victim of one. It’s not fun.

While getting ready to come home from Rutgers last month, someone tagged me in a tweet conversation about relationship abuse. I did not realize what the discussion was about, and I didn’t really care to get involved, but the original poster asked me to send him some YouTube videos I had created about emotional abuse. I figured there was no harm in doing so and then disengaging, so I posted my work and left. No harm, no foul — right?

Wrong. One hour later, my phone suddenly went off with a Twitter notification. Apparently, this conversation had previously entailed a discussion on “white knights” in feminism, which I didn't know. One user saw this, and decided to take the opportunity to slander me in front of his 3,000 followers. The two of us had previously fought before, and he figured that this faux pas was an excellent opportunity to prove that I was a bad feminist. He argued that I was secretly enabling misogynistic behavior, citing this out-of-context tweet as proof, and he invited his enormous Twitter following to engage me.

Although he later disengaged after several people called him out for his aggressive behavior, I have to admit — I was somewhat upset that this happened. Several people jumped on the opportunity to attack me and share his tweet, and a huge fight broke out in my notifications for several hours. It was truly miserable. I felt like I was being attacked in cold blood for a simple mistake. The dogpiling left me feeling embarrassed, and I was hurt that I was targeted over something as petty as a conversational faux pas.

I realize now that I was turned into a harassment target. What happened to me wasn’t right, it was a deliberate attempt to frighten and hurt me. On sites like Twitter, where information passes at incredible speeds, it’s easy to have miniature faux pas turn into enormous witch hunts.

I still think Twitter is a wonderful platform. A couple spiteful users do not ruin an entire platform. However, Twitter is most certainly dangerous. If you’re going to tweet, please, be careful. You never know who is on the other side.

Philip Wythe is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English with a minor in political science. Their column, “Nothing, if Not Critical,” runs on alternate Fridays.


Philip Wythe

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