Whenever I see I’ve got new mentions on twitter, I’m overcome by a feeling of dread. You might call it having a naturally guilty conscience. I invariably think “oh shit, what have I done / what have they found out now?” It doesn’t make much sense – no one has ever tweeted anything nasty about me (yet). But I have this sense that one day I will be “found out” – over what, I just don’t know – and everyone will then know “the truth” and I’ll be publicly named and shamed.
Well, enough about me and my idle, self-important paranoia. I have just spent the evening witnessing someone else take their place in the Twitter Hall of Shame (I have also been watching Snakes on a Plane, but hey, I’m versatile – I can do both!). And by “someone else”, I mean the Tom Daley troll. I’m not quite sure why I’ve been watching this. I suppose I’ve never before witnessed someone having so complete a meltdown into violent, hate-filled, furious threats. I’ve never really seen so much real-life anger being spewed out, live, in real time, while I sit comfortably in a position of safety. I can just watch and watch. And so I’ve watched, as have many others (not that this excuses my own voyeurism – that’s down to me alone).
The tweet sent to Tom Daley was pointed and nasty. Scroll further down the troll’s time line, and you’ll find even worse material, racism and rape threats, only these are directed at people who aren’t famous. Without Daley’s retweet, all the other instances of bile and hate would have floated by forgotten, except by those who’d been on the receiving end. Such a level of spite is hard to comprehend. Yet in some ways I pity the tweeter. Call me a liberal idiot, but while I don’t wish to downplay the suffering of his victims, I can’t help thinking that someone like this doesn’t need to have all his paranoia confirmed in hate tweets thrown back at him. There are legitimate ways to respond to racism and threats of violence. Reporting some of the tweets seems to me appropriate; trial by twitter lynch mob does not.
I can’t imagine ever sending tweets like that. Nevertheless, I can remember times in my life when I was not as “balanced” as I am now(!), times when my thinking was angry and clouded and fueled by substances other than the usual caffeine and antidepressant mix. I didn’t have twitter back then, and I’m bloody glad about that. It takes so little to turn so many people against you. While the tweeter in the Tom Daley incident offered a huge number of violent, nasty tweets – and while I can’t even work out whether the attention scares or excites this person – something seems wrong in further encouraging it. I think most of us are healthier, less angry, less filled with hate than this person. I think we can do better.
Well, I write all this and no one has yet tweeted nastiness about me. Perhaps they will tomorrow and then I’ll want everyone to hate them on my behalf. Not having the following that Tom Daley does, it won’t quite be an occurrence of the same magnitude. But still, I’m just saying – don’t be mean. At least, not unless I say so.
PS It would be just my luck if the person I’ve been writing about here finds this blog and starts threatening to rape me too. That’d teach me for my liberal ways. But still, since I’ve now listed this as a possibility, it’s not going to happen. Or something.