TWITTER……friend or faux?

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Twitter, some say social media at its best. It could advertise itself with a slogan that reads, ‘Free speakers and bullies welcome’ as that is what its members appear to be made up of. The latter, trolls as they are formerly known, sadly, seem to get more press, and are present in a higher proportion. I must say, why they are compared to the cute dolls from the nineties with brightly coloured hair and cute faces I will never know.

If we had to truly visualise a troll, it would resemble a cross between a naughty child, who is attention seeking and very needy and one of the evil reproductions from the movie Gremlins. Think cousin Spike. A sole purpose, to be unpleasant and terrorise people. Sadly unlike the movie, daylight does not get kill them off, nor does a good verbal bashing as any good parent would dish out.

As with naughty children, they want the biggest audiences possible hence why celebrities are their prime targets. Anybody from A-list movie stars, to Olympians, to TV personalities have all been on the receiving end. Even our beloved Great British Bake Off evictees do not escape unscathed as was proven this week. All for what? For no other reason than to satisfy some sad, deluded weirdo’s need to be completely vile and gain attention.

It’s old fashioned bullying with a modern twist that any verbal attack has to remain under the strict 140 characters limit. Be under no illusion, the low word count does not make the attacks any less vicious. After all to say ‘drop dead’ for instance, is only a mere 9 characters long. And let’s not forget anything up 645,750,000 twitter users can read anything that is directed at the victim. The potential for #globalshame for anyone on the receiving end is both huge and easily done.

The victims can be mortals like you and me too. I can tell stories of a number of friends who have gone through it. They are commented on like a piece of meat which has no feelings or even worse has no right to any.

Now many believe that if you are a) a celebrity or b) someone who dares to bare on twitter, you have to accept the flack back at you. Sorry, NO, NEVER. Similar to the ridiculous concept that a woman wearing a short skirt can cause rape. There is similarly never a justifiable excuse to issue an individual with death threats or the like on social media. Furthermore what is the purpose of free speech, a primary reason for twitter, if we are all terrified to make use of it in fear of a bullying backlash?

Knowledge is power. For twitter this is far from the case, as we have no knowledge of who is actually on there. You can after all, make like Paul O’Grady or Barry Humphries, and have your very own drag queen comedian alter ego on twitter, and nobody will be any the wiser. There are no ID checks or request for proof of address. Nothing is logged to register who you really are.

So for those who wish to be bullies, it’s a dream. They can remain anonymous, and get away with behaving accordingly. For the victims there is little or no way of stopping it, as there is no real way of tracing the culprits. We are some believe if it happens, powerless against it.

Or are we? We can assess the risks and protect ourselves as we would in a normal daily situation. It’s very simple as I continually tell my stepdaughters. It’s just about using common sense.

Would you open the door to a stranger? No, so why accept a follower request from one? Click decline. Keep it strictly to who you actually know and have seen in the flesh. They might know you from the pub or have had the pleasure of sweating next to you in spin class. Who cares, but you actually know them in a 4D, high resolution, living and breathing sense.

Dare to not bare, be an anti-exhibitionist and keep your profile, like your knicker drawer, strictly private. Find the closed profile, private profile or any other vow of secrecy button you can find and click it. It’s one of the simplest and most effective way of being closed to the potential for harassment and bullying. Who really needs to know about you beyond your small world? Simply, nobody. If they do, they are probably a little odd and to be avoided like a very aggressive, skin eating, infection.

Worst case and all this still does not work and you end up a victim. Walk away from the abuse, or rather block the user and delete the tweets. Like the playground bullies these guys are no different, so should be treated accordingly.

So it appears that twitter and real life are parallels. As with life in general, tweeting successfully is about engaging the brain and behaving with common sense. Just like flashing your knickers on the local high street on a Saturday afternoon might get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. Tweeting your most personal thoughts and pictures can now do the same if you are unlucky.

So go forth. Tweet with your eyes wide open and a knicker drawer under tight lock and key.

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