I do an incredible amount of debating/discussing/arguing/pontificating on Twitter.
Plus a little lame joking.
And—much to my chagrin—a fair amount of blocking.
Most of the blocking comes from getting sucked into the web of Twitter trolls and realizing it too late. There are some people who don’t want to reason with you or understand you, or even persuade you to their point of view. They just want to provoke you into a discussion thread they can use to waste your time and torment you. Or trap you into saying something they’ll retweet endlessly to their fellow drones.
So I take certain steps before, during, and after having conversations with people on Twitter
The most important one is something I’ve learned over time:
Know who you’re talking to
Sometimes (like yesterday) I don’t do this, but no real harm comes of it.
But sometimes, people completely misconstrue where I’m coming from simply because they don’t know who they’re talking to.
The majority of people I block on Twitter are right wingers like me. We’ll be debating some detail or other of politics, politicians, personalities or policy we disagree on—and they completely forget they’re talking with someone who largely agrees with them.
Except on this one point.
And that’s when they reveal themselves as drones.
Actually, several examples from one thread.
My birthday was a few weeks back. I had the day off and was in a quirky mood.
So I posted a joke response to a Jake Tapper tweet, pretending to be a lefty troll. Hilarity ensued.
I’ve followed Tapper for several years now. I read a majority of his tweets every single day. He’s on my shortlist of folks whose tweets I actually backtrack to read, in order to make sure I don’t miss anything.
This guy is lionized by centrists and most right wing folks because he’s a straight shooter.
In fact, I really can’t tell from his tweets or his commentary whether he’s a progressive or a conservative.
Sometimes progressive trolls pounce on his accuracy and fairness as evidence he’s sold out to right wing extremists (like me).
So I tweeted my joke hoping Tapper would take it that way.
What I didn’t count on was a rescue mission by the Righteous Indignation Brigade.
A quick look at his timeline and bio (see above) gave me a glimpse of a long-angry man (notice his use of the pejorative “prog”). Better leave him alone.
Next comes Tami.
Judging from the harshness of these two tweets, I would have taken this lady as a right wing troll. Not so. Her bio and timeline reveal a genuine conservative. Outspoken, but the real deal.
So I decide to engage her:
Of course that link takes you here:
Sadly, David misses the clue and dives in with his take. Which merits an intervention by The Jake himself:
I never realized before how much fun it is to be a lefty troll.
Which wasn’t my intent, but what a show.
Here’s a lesson I learned several years ago—the hard way:
Never. Ever. Get indignant with someone on Twitter until you know exactly where they’re coming from.
- Read their bio.
- Scan a few screens worth of their timeline.
- If you’re coming in to the middle of a conversation thread, read the entire rest of the thread before commenting.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Remember what it’s like to be miscontrued and avoid doing that to somebody else.
- Remind yourself that—troll or not—the person you’re engaging is likely not a bot. He or she is most likely a human being with a real life, real friends, and real concerns. Just like you.
- Snark is fun, and surely has its place. But it’s addicting and frequently off-putting. Plus, as you see here, it can blow up on you.
Bonus Twitter Pro Tips
(Because I don’t know where else to put ′em…)
- A sincere apology is an awesome—and necessary—gesture. But only changed actions will restore credibility. Over time.
- Dear angry libertarians: You can be technically right and morally wrong.
- If you get blocked a lot, it may not be because you’re winning the argument.