Is Twitter a Toxic Environment?

I love twitter; it’s my social media platform of choice. I have a Facebook account but I don’t use it for anything other than sharing fun stuff with my family. As my parents use it and read/comment on EVERYTHING I post it’s a heavily edited and censored version of me. My parents still don’t know about my AS diagnosis, as far as they know I’m the same old “normal” son I’ve always been.

On Twitter I have a cabal of interesting people I follow, a caucus of weird people who follow me and a junta of people I respect and occasionally see other people re-tweeting. For the most part Twitter is fun and I can be truer to myself than on any other social media platform. However it’s not without its problems. On more than one occasion I’ve fallen foul of “Twitter etiquette” or been set upon by the baying hounds of some Twitter lynch mob just because I had the audacity to either disagree with someone – or agree with the wrong person!

My current Twitter account is at least my 5th – I say “at least” because I’ve honestly lost track. I’ve deleted accounts when I’ve been picked on so many times. People might tell me to “man up” but I can’t. My aspie side hates conflict and I can’t stand it when I think people dislike me.

I try VERY HARD to be likable. I’m VERY OPEN to alternative lifestyles. I DO NOT CARE if you are Black, White, Straight, Gay, Cis, Trans, Male, Female or a Yellow polka-dotted bisexual tribble! As long as you’re a decent person I’ll probably get along with you. Unfortunately my eagerness to “get along with people” has been misinterpreted on more than one occasion. I know I can be a little “invasive” and I try to curb this.. but if I see something I agree/disagree with I’ll usually respond to the person who tweeted it originally. I’ll often mistake twitter conversation for friendship and a friendly “hey you look good today!” tweet from me comes across as a creepy perverted tweet to another.

I had one ex-follower recently accuse me of being a pervert and a “chaser” (I still don’t fully understand this..) to another friend and encouraged my friend to “be careful” and “steer clear”. Thankfully my friend disagreed with this person’s opinions and stood up for me in my absence. Unfortunately the spreader of this toxic accusation had MANY MANY followers who took up arms and picked on me, my friend and mutual friends. So much so they drove my new friend off twitter, blocked me and anyone I followed and who disagreed with them and spent the next few days rubbishing anything and everything I’d ever done via poisonous subtweets. After that, I deleted my account (again) and was very careful about who I let in.

Speaking as an Aspie, I find the terse 140 character limit very problematic. I find it very difficult to read subtext in such a small piece of text. I can’t always pick up on irony or sarcasm; sometimes I’ll read the gist of a tweet wrong and comment inappropriately. It’s not easy to read the mind of anyone from the contents of their tweet, not just for aspies but for anyone.

Another problem with Twitter is its lack of any form of control. Anyone can form a twitter account and say anything they like, admittedly inflammatory or racist comments get picked up EVENTUALLY but usually too late. The number of far right, islamophobic, homophobic, anti-female, anti-male, anti-science, anti-common-sense twitter accounts out there is staggering. Then you have “The Eggs” the accounts who’s only purpose to throw a bucket of steaming hot poison into the room then vanish. They pop up like a rash, Egg or Pepe the frog accounts with random names just to insult someone and cause a ruckus (or fan the flames of an existing ruckus and pour gasoline on the fire!) because there’s an anonymity that makes people think they’re untouchable. I’m @CopernicusCF on twitter. Copernicus, you’ll be surprised to hear, isn’t my real name! I’m loathe to put my real name on twitter or anywhere else where it could be used to track me, my wife, my family or my friends down.

If only Twitter would open up the verified account mark for EVERYONE who supplies proof of id. You wouldn’t need to use your real name, but JUST have your account linked to an identifiable person in the background. Then they could add an extra filter to say only see tweets from verified users. Ok this in itself wouldn’t rid twitter of ALL the bile, but it would dissuade some of these more vocal hate mongers from spewing their vile bile over the internet. But it’s not in Twitter’s interest to do this. They don’t want to limit users access and of course there’s the screams of “Hey free speech and all that! You grok me Earthman?” any time any mention of a filter is suggested.

I’m not for limiting the right of any user to say whatever they want.. I’m just saying we don’t necessarily need to see it in our daily feeds.


10 Replies to “Is Twitter a Toxic Environment?”

  1. Oh yes!! This!! I love your post! And I can relate so much and so well to what you wrote. Twitter is like a simultaneous heaven and hell. On one hand, it’s awesome for making friends and being yourself, but on the other hand, there are so many voices and so many land mines to fall into and get burned by!

    There are a few extremists as well, and at first I took them seriously and tried to learn their ways and their etiquette. I made the mistake of believing that an Asperger’s/autism diagnosis in common was all that was necessary to form a friendship and become good friends. I thought that sharing a neurotype was enough, that we’d automatically be compatible. Oh, how wrong I was, and how painful it was to learn the hard way, and how relieved I was to give certain people the axe!

    I now realize that some of the people who were oh-so-authoritative are actually quite unstable, irrational, and childish. They went off the deep end and are no longer worth associating with, for me.

    If you’re curious, I let off a little steam in a few blog posts (which were really the tip of an iceberg but I didn’t want to bombard people or beat the topic into the ground) during the months of January through March or maybe April. Definitely January through March, though. Just search the blog for “Twitter” and you’ll see everything.

    Yeah, I used to spend lots of time on there before, and now I log in only occasionally. I had thought it was fun at the time, but I started feeling all those old feelings of anxiety, panic, confusion, and contorting myself to fit someone else’s ideals/standards, all over again, just like grade school! (Well, there was a reason for that–some of the people I was dealing with had elementary/primary school mentality!)

    I genuinely hope that your Twitter experience doesn’t bring you the anguish, stress, and eventual burnout that mine did 😘. It’s still an important aspect of my life, but I get easily/quickly overwhelmed and saturated. I hope people are kinder to you!

    If I’m not already, I’ll gladly follow you 😁👍🏼💖

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Twitter is most definitely a minefield and one I’ve yet to fully master navigation of. I’m far from perfect, I do occasionally overstep “friendship” boundaries but I have made some AMAZING connections on there as well as others I’d rather forget. There is so much unrestrained anger and hatred on there I try and tune out from it as I find it very upsetting. I’m one of these over-empathic Aspies who feels the pain of others without a filter. So when I see such bitter vitriol I feel physically unwell and very ill at ease.

      Thanks for the follow.. I “think” you already are but every follower is appreciated. I’m really only blogging as a vent for my pent up thoughts. I think it’s cathartic to let them free and out of my cramped head XD

      All the very best! Pete.

      1. Thank you Pete! I agree with you all the way – you’re not alone – the unrestrained anger is way too intense for me too 💞. Yep, I have an idea of what you mean about the extra-empathy with no filter 💚💙. I have a filter that is sometimes thick and sometimes blows holes and then everything gets through 💜💓

        No room in the world for bitterness and vitriol. I’m so tired of that 😊🌷

  2. Hi there,
    Great post, Sir! Simple answer is, yes I do find Twitter toxic. That’s one reason why I keep taking breaks from it. I’d love to follow you, so I’ll look you up once I’m back on. Meanwhile, I look forward to reading your posts. 🙂

    1. Thanks. I’m TRYING to focus on the positives and keep myself grounded and not sink into the mire of despondency . Glad you liked the post.

      best regards

  3. Twitter is what you make of it. Personally it is our preferred
    social media platform, we avoid Facebook like the plague.

    You can make your Twitter private & view-able by those you
    chose, plus you can MUTE & BLOCK the internet trolls,
    Using twitter as a blog index has been the primary
    use here, & when we do communicate with others it is
    always through Direct Messages. Getting involved in
    debates & arguments just doesn’t happen. Also you can
    filter various keywords, so nothing really shows up in your
    feed unless you allow it there. Sorry you have had troubles
    with the platform. Also you can watch some youtube tutorials
    to learn more about how to use twitter in the best way for you.

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