Twitter used to be different. It was nicer, more educational. It was fun. I can still remember the challenge in crafting a 140-character message. If I didn’t have a clear idea what I wanted to blog about that week, I could pop #diversity into the search bar, and any number of articles would pop up to spark an idea.
Now when I do that the feed reads like a litany of hate and anger. I still like Twitter. But like most social media platforms, I’m not immune to its flaws. It’s a fabulous educational tool, a way to learn new things, find resources, and keep up to date with the latest happenings, customizable to your interests. It’s also an easy way to spread hate and misinformation, and sadly, people make ample use of it for this purpose. Even sadder, Twitter doesn’t do much to stop it.
And the World Stood Still
A Twitter employee disconnected the President’s Twitter account for 11 minutes today, and hilarity ensued on the Twitter-verse. Or, the apocalypse threatened, however you want to look at it.
But the incident reminded me of a very sad but true fact. It’s a fact I am intimately familiar with, as every Friday I try to reiterate it to all who might be receptive: Your treatment in this world varies based on who you are. Who you are is comprised of a number of variables, but the variables that can significantly impact life or death, employment or unemployment, poverty or riches, good treatment or bad, often relate to race and gender.
People – pundits, women, men, academics, researchers, politicians, teenagers, tech specialists of all kinds, teachers, basically any and everyone with a social media account – have been saying ever since the word troll came into existence that social media sites need to do a better job of policing themselves.
That Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Reddit et al should not be free havens for bullying, sexism, racism and bias. But they are because this is a free country, and we have the right to free speech, to spread our ideas far and wide, even when those ideas are gross and hateful.
Until, that is, the President’s social media account is temporarily suspended. Then Time published an article discussing how “scary” the incident was. Somehow it became more serious, a matter of winning back America’s trust.
Really? As Carrie Bradshaw used to say before every column in Sex and the City, “I can’t help but wonder,” what was the impetus for this particular, passionate disavowal of social media treachery?
And before my own personal trolls gear up for action, this blog is not about the President. This is not about politics, unless you refer to the politics of race and gender. This is not a right or left discussion. This is me pointing out a clear bias prioritizing a pre-existing issue featuring a high profile white male over the thousands of women and minorities who also use Twitter and have experienced an interruption in service due to malicious mischief.
Twitter’s lack of safeguards to protect its users’ accounts is not new. So why is this suddenly so dangerous? Well, Kellye, duh. It’s the President. National security, this and that, blah blah blah. Blah indeed. It’s Twitter. It’s not the CIA, FBI, NSA, the economy or anything so weighty. It’s social media. So I ask again, why is Twitter’s lack of control suddenly so critically important?
It’s because the person impacted has societal value. He is considered important. That makes the situation critical, notable, desperately in need of a resolution. And that’s pathetic because it says that minority women, for example, who have been complaining about the abuse and sexual harassment they suffer on Twitter forever, do not rate the same attention. The Time article even pointed that out.
Trolls Don’t Always Live Under Bridges
I’ve been spared a lot of the trolling I read about from black activists and feminists, perhaps because those are not words I typically use to describe myself. If anyone were to ask, I’d describe myself as a media consultant and coach, a writer, a journalist. But I’ve read sundry articles – on Twitter – detailing how little the social media site has done to curb others mistreatment.
Consider a few weeks ago when actress Rose McGowan had her account “suspended for openly breaking one of the rules in Twitter’s terms of service,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was prompted to take action. What precipitated this action? According to an article I read on The Root, “white women got upset and boycotted the platform for a day.” Then Dorsey wrote a Twitter thread claiming the platform would soon have more strict policy enforcement to curtail the abuse we’ve been complaining about for so long.
Dorsey was talking about that on October 13th. I haven’t noted any significant changes since then though. It’s sad that the many women who work in media and use Twitter to help do their jobs, who are sent explicit and unsolicited photos of troll body parts, are more likely to have their accounts suspended for defending themselves than the trolls who harass them. Granted, trolls often use multiple accounts to do their creepy and hateful work, which makes it extremely tough to get rid of them. But the fact remains, depending on who you are, you can at least get a response, a promise of help.
That’s why I keep writing this blog. A blog that breaks a little bit of my heart each week, and then patches it back together thanks to the positivity I get from readers who understand what I’m saying. I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry. No person is more or less important or deserving of equal and humane treatment.
And don’t even dare come at me with talk of serial killers or rapists or career criminals. You know what I mean. A white man does not deserve special attention and consideration when he suffers the same issues that minorities or women are suffering with no recourse.
Oh, Kellye. You’re always bashing white men for something or other. No, I’m not. I don’t, and I will not. That is a simplistic perception.
Honestly? If I could be reincarnated I’d want to come back as a 6’4” white man with jet black wavy hair and pale blue eyes. I could keep my same name and everything, maybe drop the e – Kelly is more masculine. I’d be a real master of the universe type, a CEO for sure. But I would be confident and woke enough to acknowledge that my color and my gender afford me special privileges that other people simply do not get.