Yesterday I wrote a blog post about why I thought the #TwitterSilence that is taking place today is meaningless and even damaging to the cause of those participating – a cause I support wholeheartedly. It seemed to upset a lot of people, including those dearest to me. So I deleted that post and slept on what I believed I may have written in the spur of the moment. Now, I’m trying again.
Some High(ish)-profile MPs, journalists and feminist activists have been subjected to really horrible abuse recently on Twitter. Some have received bomb threats to their houses, some got death threats, almost all of them received threats of rape or violence. None of this is okay. This isn’t internet trolling, it’s harassment and harassment is a criminal offence. So, as a way of forcing Twitter to do something about these unsolicited, unacceptable communications, they decided to appoint today – Sunday 4th August, International Friendship Day – as a day of Twitter Silence. They decided to leave twitter for 24 hours, boycotting the social network for one day in protest. Almost (but not quite) immediately, Twitter added a “Report Abuse” button to all mobile and tablet devices, promising that it would appear on Web Twitter as soon as possible also. It would seem that the threats from these “celebrity Tweeters” worked! Twitter gave them a way to quickly and efficiently report any abuse that they may get – and more importantly, this feature was available to everyone being abused, not just the celebs.
However, the Twitter Silence still went ahead. So it would seem that these people want more! It seems, reading the hashtag, that the action is actually against ALL trolling/bullying on Twitter. An admirable cause indeed! I’m behind that 100%! But is “staying off Twitter for a day” the way to make the point? To me, Twitter Silence For A Day is something that happens when my phone runs out of battery and I’m not near a wifi connection, or when my girlfriend and I spend the weekend cooking and cuddling up watching telly instead of being online, or when my internet dies and I have to wait until Monday for a repairman! It is not, in my opinion, a protest.
The psychology behind this Twitter Silence is interesting and I know I’m going to sound like a bit of a bastard discussing this but I think the questions are valid. What sort of effect do these celebs think they’re going to cause by not Tweeting for a day? Do they see it as simply a gesture to raise awareness of an issue? If so, that’s already happening. Their story is everywhere and it has nothing to do with their day of rest. Rightly, the threats they and others have received are being treated as serious by the authorities (those which have been reported, anyway) and that’s a win for them.
And isn’t this setting a bad example? The best way to deal with bulling and threats now is to go away? To hide for a day? People want to silence you and in retaliation you silence yourself?! How the hell can that work?! Someone threatens to rape you so you hide? Oh yes, you tell everyone you’re hiding, you make it a “thing” but you’re still hiding while the people threatening you are rubbing their hands together, reveling in their perceived victory and just waiting for tomorrow when they have one more thing to attack you about. Just being quiet: this is not a healthy message to send to anyone suffering at the hands of a bully.
Or maybe it’s not that at all! Maybe they think that so many people will miss their Tweets that the whole of Twitter will break down and quit for a day in solidarity, thus forcing the network’s hand, prompting faster action against the abusers. But, as mentioned above, Twitter are on this. They’ve put a feature in place that allows abuse to be reported immediately. What do people want? A hunt on all trolls? What more can be done? The internet is a big, wonderful, horrible, nasty, frightening, dangerous, warm, loving and – most importantly – unregulated place and that’s why we all love it!
As someone who shares the opinions (socially, politically, morally) of many of these celebs who aren’t using Twitter today I follow most of them. I have got bored, however, in the last few weeks, of the stream of aggressive, violent RTs that they are pumping into my timeline. I’m truly sorry they get that kind of abuse, it should never happen and should be treated seriously by the authorities. But don’t give these disgusting trolls the platform they so crave! Do you know nothing about the vile sub-culture of people you oppose?!
Trolls will see today as a victory, because they don’t care about your message or your stand. They see today as the day their incessant viciousness and threats and abuse pushed you off Twitter! They see this as you running away, because they neither know nor care about the problems you face at large. Caitlin Moran says that sometimes she gets 50+ threats or abusive messages per hour on a busy day. So, block them all. Report them all. Don’t Re-Tweet them all calling them Mongs, or Spazz, or whatever, as you’re just giving them what they crave: attention, an audience, proof that they hurt you.
One day off Twitter is not a protest. It’s a break. Your weeks of Tweeting about this issue and how much it bothers you is drawing more and more of the stupid, angry, lonely people you call trolls (but who are actually bullies – there’s a big, big difference!) out of the woodwork and into your @replies. Block. Report. Every time.
But what annoys me most about all of this is that the people who are leaving Twitter for the day seem to have no concept of a day without Tweeting. They seem to feel their presence on the social network is so front-and-centre that not being there must mean something. They think not doing something for a day is a real protest!
Tell that to the hunger-strikers the world over. Or to the people who camp outside military bases for months or even years on end. Or to those who set themselves alight against the injustices they see around them.
I see today’s Twitter Silence as a nice thought, but ultimately a move governed by ego: these people must feel so important to think their 24 hour absence will chance a thing! Nothing will change because Stella Creasy doesn’t tweet a picture of a mouse playing a guitar, or because Chris Addison doesn’t promote his tour. No victims will gain the upper hand over their tormentors because Grace Dent and Caitlin Moran have their hilarious verbal exchanges in real life, down the pub, face to face, instead of online. In fact, that’s normal! Sometimes I don’t tweet for a few days because I’m busy doing other things with other people who I know in real life! If Twitter trolls are getting you down, go to the pub! Go and read a book. Take a break. Allow them to get bored and wander off to find some other poor sod to pick on. But not before you’ve Blocked them and Reported them.
No. This whole thing is silly. It’s pointless and serves only one purpose in real terms: it allows people who want to do something about a problem with apparently no real, quick, easy solution to feel like they’re doing something at least. It’s an admirable end but the means is just… well, meaningless.
Unfortunately, on Twitter and the internet over trolls will troll and bullies will bully because all human life is here. Including the cunts. So speak out against them, not sit in silence. That’s why I’m on Twitter today: because giving the trolls and bullies what they want – your silence – is not protest, it’s not victory and it’s not going to work.
Also, Doctor Who.