I joined twitter in June of 2008, so almost seven years ago now, and I had no expectations when I first signed up. I didn’t know what to tweet, what the point of it was, or how to find people to interact with, so I left it largely untouched for a number of months, until some time in early 2009 when I came back to it and started tweeting about hockey. It’s been almost 7 years since I’ve been using this platform, I’ve interacted with all sorts of hockey fans from all over, have made some good friends, and have certain people in my life I would not know if it weren’t for twitter. Over the years, there’s been a lot of things I’ve really enjoyed about twitter, but the last few months have been incredibly trying, and the bad parts have been doing its best to tarnish the good.
While that doesn’t necessarily mean the bad outweighs the good (because, again, there are certain people that twitter has led me to), seeing how destructive the hockey community has become has had me question a lot of things about ‘being better.’We all came to use this platform for a reason or another; for many of us, it’s a way to talk about hockey, interact with fans from everywhere and anywhere and, for a lot, blog about the game they love to watch. We all have lives off the internet, although that doesn’t diminish the connections we make online, because those can also turn into real life connections, hopefully for the better. We start interacting with some people on a regular basis enough to feel like we sort of know them — some more than others — just like in real life, I suppose.
And then somebody says something you don’t like or agree with — whether it’s directed to you or not, to a friend of yours or not, or something that you generally just don’t like — and you get upset. Maybe there’s a history there; maybe you were close, maybe you weren’t; maybe you know this person, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re looking out for someone, but maybe you just really don’t like what this person said. Tweets get retweeted, without context, into our timelines for everyone to see; you reply to someone like “.@(twitter name goes here)” so that all of your followers can see your reply to this person. You do this for a reason because you want everyone who follows you to see what a terrible thing this person said, which ultimately has the capacity to unleash all of your followers on this person. You call them a trashbag, tell them what a terrible person they are, publicly shame them any way you can because they’re so awful and everyone who follows you needs to know this. You tell them they need to be better, and now you’ve done your part of ‘being better’ by standing up to shitty behaviour by putting that person in his or her place.
Things get taken out of context and tone can be hard to read online; people get unintentionally hurt by things that are said (or even intentionally), but instead of having one-on-one discussions, we subtweet without talking directly to the source to try and work things out. We pass judgments on people we may or may not know; suddenly people are forced to choose sides, so a lot of the time we unfollow without getting the other person’s story. They’re a trashbag, they’re awful, how can they have anything redeeming to say? For those who don’t follow the lead, we get judged for continuing to follow certain people, so we post links to the ‘followers you follow’ of people we don’t like so people can judge you for following that person. And, just like that, friendships become divided; we don’t want to rock the boat, all in the name of ‘being better.’
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who say horrible things and their behaviour needs to be addressed; I’m a believer that having constructive conversations go a lot further than publicly outraging over something that person said, for everyone to see; I’m a believer that people can learn and grow from their mistakes and things said in error. I’m aware that nobody is perfect and there will always be things said and done that are hurtful, whether it’s intentional or not; how we deal with it makes a huge difference.
We get so caught up on being ‘right’ that we don’t think about how our words affect others. We say things without taking into consideration that that’s another person on the other side of the screen, and we have no idea what person’s going through. We wax poetics about how we need to stop being awful human beings while, at the same time, we are being awful to those in the process. We drive people off of twitter for a variety of reasons. We get so caught up making sure this person knows how awful they are, without considering the impact of our own words, because we need to better.
We need to be better.