Accusations, assumptions, gaslighting, general rudeness and one upmanship.? If you’re on twitter then you may have experienced this but hopefully it’s been infrequently.

Yes, it’s happened to me and I could have minimised the collateral damage by just pushing unfollow, block or by simply not responding. But, as in life, I don’t think standing aside in the face of a combative person is how the story should end. Instead, I try to work through what is going on and in most cases the exchange ends in a mutually beneficial way with both parties saving face.

I once posted something which was simply an observation and got this fully blown sarcastic and rude response from a well-known female columnist. I blocked her and, no, I never liked her stuff and certainly don’t waste my eyesight on her bile now.

Then I wrote something my seven year daughter said about Michael Jackson (her words exactly) and was accused of promoting homophobia from someone hiding behind their area of work in order to make their bad behaviour acceptable.  And there are a lot of people who do this whether in the digital world or in real life.

When things go pear shaped in an exchange I usually think of the following things:

  1. Someone is having a bad day and needs a punching bag they don’t know because they’ve worked their way through their family, boyfriend/girlfriend, work colleagues and friends and they aren’t taking it anymore
  2. Someone has mistaken twitter as a place where they can be a turd to other people because sitting at your computer gives you the spine you don’t have in real life exchanges; or
  3. I am so glad I am not you. Things must be bad for you to act in this way.

But even when I have a jumped up assault on my 140 characters I always do one other thing. I go into their profile and there I look at the following factors:

  • How many followers they have and how many people follow them this gives me an idea as to how experienced they are on twitter and their relationship to those they engage with
  • Their bio often you can get a sense of what they want you to know about them by this, hopefully.
  • What their previous tweets have been this gives me a sense of how they speak to others, what their positions are on things and whether they make sparring with others their one true twitter sport
  • I look at their name and whether it’s the same as their twitter handle how open are they about their identity? (Yes, I am just Ms Hermes on my personal twitter account, but you’d be surprised how many of my followers have either met me or know my full name and my real occupation)

You see, a real conversation is said to take three hours. Yes, it really takes that long to have a decent exchange. It is no wonder that so many exchanges on twitter end in a block or an unfollow.

Think about the reality of it two, or sometimes even more than two, people exchanging view points, often at odds with another, with one invariably trying to get the other to agree, and if they don’t it usually gets heated, terse and sometimes abusive. And they expect a result using a medium that allows about 20 words, a lag time for delivery and a shadow of anonymity which protects people from using manners, respect or honesty?? There is also not a lot of space or room for suddenly becoming humble if you’ve has been an arsehole. You can simply just disappear. Why bother doing the right thing when you don’t have to? Human nature at play, unfortunately, is an ugly thing.

So next time you step out with your views or bravado remember that you are dealing with other people, real people, who have a history of their own, views of their own, beautiful memories, tragic experiences, obsessions, certain leanings and learnings; they are just going about their day. They are not there to make you feel bigger or better. They are not there to necessarily have their views changed or be told they are wrong. Oh, and for the record, this is not an article about cyber-bullying. It is an article about not being a dick.