Re-Tweet Rage and Twitter Tantrums 

It's funny how quickly things get out of hand. A few months ago I replied to a Tweet. On Twitter. If you don't know what that is, I'd research it before you start reading – it could get pretty confusing.

It wasn't anything particularly earth-shattering, and my reply wasn't anything especially contentious. I didn't think it was. In fact, it was simply an observation.  It doesn't really matter what it was about, but I will tell you it was about an international news item. But you see something else then happened. The person to whom I had addressed the reply, happened to Re-Tweet it. In itself, that wasn't anything unusual. I've had plenty of Tweets Re-Tweeted before. Just not by this particular person. As it happens, a Rather High Profile Person. A person with almost 100,000 followers. A person who had just Re-Tweeted my observation about a high-profile situation to those 100,000 followers. 

I have to admit I was flattered. That this Rather High Profile Person thought it a significant enough comment to be passed on to their followers. Quite pleased with myself, I carried on with my day. I didn't expect to hear anything else. I rarely comment on anyone else's Re-Tweets and didn't expect anyone would on mine. Oh, how wrong could I be? Within minutes my email alerts (set to tell me if I get a message on Twitter) began chiming. I'd received a reply. Within half an hour I'd had half a dozen more. Several were simply notifications that others had Re-Tweeted the Re-Tweet (I do hope you're still following this …) exposing my comment to hundreds more people. But some were people challenging my comment. Initially, I politely replied to each one. Explaining further my reasoning, agreeing to disagree. Moving on. But more came. And more. And more and more. Dozens of them. Each one becoming more and more  critical. Soon it was just impossible to reply to them all. And, to be honest, the tone of several of the replies made me not want to. 

Then the original Tweeters, the ones I had replied to, came back. Determined, it seemed, to convert me to their opinion. Now, I've always set myself a few rules in life. Rules I've been particularly strict in applying to Twitter. I read everything carefully before I respond. I don't do bigotry and I don't usually reply to it. I aim to be open-minded at all times. Just because I see things one way, I don't expect everyone else to do the same. And I don't trade personal insults.

It became very obvious pretty quickly that these were rules that had not been adopted by many of those sending me messages. Because those people made it extremely clear that they 'knew' exactly 'what' I was. I was 'stupid' (because I couldn't understand what they were telling me). I was 'naive' because I didn't see the obvious string pulling of The Powers That Be in the background. I was 'racist' because I mentioned only one country in my comment. And this was just from the people who sought to 'debate' with me. 

Because there were others. And they came from all over the place. There were people who chose to insult me. My brain power (or lack thereof, apparently), my appearance (thanks, for that) and my supposed political leaning (actually they were wrong). Several tried to spam me with adverts for various products they were promoting. Many were ranting about conspiracies, about shadowy organisations, spies and spooks. Others chose to patronise me. Some because I was too feeble to understand what seemed obvious to them. Even more simply because I am a woman. A couple made foul-mouthed insults and I blocked them immediately. 

After a few hours, I simply stopped reading most of them. But remarkably the messages kept coming. It was ridiculous. How could a tiny pebble of a comment create such enormous ripples for so long as across such a huge pond as the Twitterverse?

And, after it all died down (touching a big lump of wood here), it left me wondering. Just how do such Rather High Profile People cope with all that attention? How on earth do they sift through what must be a vast number of messages, of compliments, insults and gossip? I mean, ordinarily no-one takes a blind bit of notice of my Tweets so it's usually not an issue. But what's it like for the famous, the ones everyone reads? They must get a hundred times the messages I received. Every day. Thank Heavens for relative anonymity!

Then, just as it seemed things were finally settling down, I received another message. It was more than 48 hours after I'd last commented on the issue. Let me just say here that I wholeheartedly agree with free speech and am usually against censorship (assuming nothing illegal or offensive, or potentially harmful is being written), but this time I acted swiftly. I'm afraid I blocked him. I'd had enough.

If only someone could work out how to use all that energy for good.  Now that really would be something …