Sunday, 13 November 2011

Who's that Trip Trapping Over my Twitter?

I can't claim to be either an expert, or a very high profile person, on Twitter- I've only been on for a few months and only have about 160 followers- but today my experience has stepped up a level and I feel compelled to write/rant about it. I have just been on the receiving end of a nasty little troll, which is something I thought was confined to Dom Jolly and other sometimes contentious Tweeters. I feel a bit like I've passed some kind of bizarre initiation ceremony now I've had my very own troll. Wonder if there's some kind of badge..

The reason for the trolling was that I "unfollowed" someone. I don't even remember how or when I started following in the first place, but, cursed with good manners and a need to please others, I've developed a silly habit of always "following back" when someone follows me. (This is starting to sound like organised stalking). This has proven to be a big mistake for two reasons- firstly, it's turned my Twitter account into another version of Facebook, and secondly people seem to get the right hump if you "unfollow" them.

One of the things I liked about Twitter at first was the anonymity that it can say whatever you like, and because you don't know a lot of the people on your list, you don't have to worry about getting funny looks the next day in the office/playground/ shop. I also liked the huge amount of people you can interact with, bounce ideas off and learn from, and the fact that you can choose whose comments fill your timeline. Every day I get to read the thoughts of 280 different people, ranging from the obligatory and brilliant Stephen Fry, to the Dalai Lama to the Big Ben Clock (who doesn't say anything other that Bong but is very helpful with letting you know how much of your day you've wasted staring at a computer screen). I love the variety, the fact you can keep up to date with what's going on in the world, and the probably immature and slightly ridiculous sense of satisfaction I get when someone off the telly replies to one of my tweets.

With Facebook there's an obligation to stay "friends" with people because most of the time you know them in real life; no matter how insanely, brain warpingly boring you find their comments about what mood they're in, what they've put on their toast, or how much ironing they have to do, it's very hard to delete someone from your friends list if there's a chance you'll have to face them the next day.  I have about 20 people I know in "real life" on Twitter, and about another 5 who I've grown to like so much that I forget we don't actually know each other, but the vast majority are people I never have, and never will, meet, so I thought it would be easy to disappear into the night. Or not. Apparently some people take it very personally if you do a runner, even if you'd never even recognise each other if you sat together on a bus.

Sometimes I "unfollow" by mistake, as I'm mostly using Twitter through my phone which is very temperamental and I'm a bit rubbish with technology. Sometimes I just do it because I find the things that some people say boring, annoying or offensive. Today was one of those days. This particular person had been filling my timeline for some time with increasingly offensive "jokes"- often involving violence towards, and humiliation of, women. Today he wrote about 9 tweets about what brand of chocolate he should use to stick up his (obviously imaginary) girlfriend's bottom. I'm far from prudish and love comedians who push boundaries and use satire. As someone who's followed, and defended, Chris Morris's work for years, I do "get" comedy that tackles difficult subjects and makes people feel uncomfortable. But Chris Morris he is not. Maybe I'm having an off day, but I just don't see the big joke in a "bitch" being anally raped by a chocolate bar. If this was real life I'd have given him a verbal what for, but this morning in Twitterville I just shook my head, tutted a bit and clicked "unfollow". Job done.

But here's the creepy bit.  Within a few minutes I had a very shouty, sweary comment from him asking who I thought I was. Apparently there's some kind of technology you can get that tells you when someone unfollows you, and who they are. This to me screams paranoia, self obsession and immaturity- who cares if someone takes you off their list? It's not like being dumped, get over it. I've been unfollowed a few times and although I did go a brief moment of "what did I do wrong?" it isn't exactly the ultimate rejection so I moved on pretty quickly. I write mostly about cooking, my love for Alan Partridge, current affairs and silly mistakes I make in daily life- this isn't going to suit everyone and I wouldn't expect it to. Mr Troll obviously wasn't able to be quite so sanguine about it and threw his toys not just out of the pram, but all over the nursery. Except with swearing and insults. Apparently I'm humourless, stuck up, stupid and frigid according to him and his team of little furry, wart ridden friends. Not sure what else has been said because now I've blocked him.

So, lessons learnt today:
1) in future, I'm only following back if people genuinely interest me
2) next time I unfollow, I'm blocking too.

If I do unfollow you, please don't cry/ jump off a building/ call me rude names- it might have been an accident. Or you might just be a really annoying, rude and unfunny blot on my Twitter who just needs to be a big boy and get over it. Now, where's my badge?.....


  1. Totally uncalled for that comment of his. Phew. I am like you: I had to unfollow a couple of people and there's an initial bad feeling but then I just move on. And when someone unfollows me I think 'Oh nooooo, what did I say??' but often they weren't interested in my line of tweet so it doesn't matter. :)

    I can't believe you used 'only a few months on twitter' in the same sentence with 'only 160 followers' :s Only??? ;p


  2. If someone notices that you have stopped following them, they really haven't got the hang of Twitter.