Monday, January 21, 2019

my thoughts on Twitter, tagging, subtweeting, & blocking

I joined Twitter back in 2011 and, for the most part, I've appreciated the experience – it is the social media platform that I spend the most time on. It's a great place for me to get the word out about my writings and music, and to find/follow/read other people's work. But over the last few years, Twitter has become far more difficult to navigate.

For me personally, the primary reason has been the anti-transgender backlash we've been living through the last few years. Not that long ago, trans people were not in the public eye so much, and while trans-haters definitely existed online, they were not very organized. But nowadays, they are far more vocal and coordinated in their efforts. Often they will swarm transgender people's (and allies') feeds expressing hatred and misinformation. Increasingly, they've resorted to mass reporting to get trans people suspended from the platform for relatively benign things.

Then there are the usual aspects of Twitter that most of us have engaged in at one time or another – e.g., quote-tweeting articles & tweets that we disagree with (thus enabling/encouraging our followers to comment upon them as well); tagging/@-ing other people into conversations that they'd rather not be a part of. While not always done in a mean-spirited manner, these things can also make Twitter somewhat inhospitable at times.

As a writer, I am quite used to being criticized. And I understand that social media is now the new public forum where ideas will be shared and debated. While I am always open to listening to sincere constructive criticism, far more often than not, the negative comments I receive on Twitter these days are either thinly veiled (if at all) attempts to smear or dismiss transgender people and perspectives, or more general complaints about "liberals," "feminists," "SJWs," and the like. In some cases, these individuals may simply be "letting off steam" or "getting something off their chest," but the end result (whether intended or not) is that other people who are fundamentally opposed to my perspective & existence will likely find that comment and flood my feed, thus creating a hostile environment for both me and my followers.

So long story short, I have become very liberal with blocking accounts.

Upon being blocked, people will sometimes complain that the person who did the blocking must be "unwilling to engage in dialogue" or "trying to censor free speech." These accusations are kind of silly. If I were to block you, you still are free to talk shit about me on Twitter and elsewhere, and you are still able to read my Tweets (from outside of your account); the only thing you *cannot* do is tag/@-me into conversations. And I can assure you that I *do* regularly engage in dialogues and debates with people that I disagree with. If I have blocked you, it simply means that I have reason to suspect that you do not want to have a dialogue with me in good faith.

I've decided not to use publicly available blocklists, as they can be blunt instruments that impact non-problematic people. So how do I determine who to block? Well, here is a list of the most common reasons. These guidelines also include my thoughts on tagging and subtweeting – if you genuinely do want to follow or interact with me on Twitter, I encourage you to read them, as they directly relate to the matter of blocking.

1) If I come across your account, and your tweets and/or bio includes any anti-trans propaganda or dog-whistles, or basically any slurs/dog-whistles against any marginalized group, you will be immediately blocked. Seriously, why are you even a person?!? (In my experience, many of these accounts *only* spew anti-trans hate, so it's likely that they are merely sockpuppets.)

2) In the event of #1, if I have the time, I may go through your following/followers lists and preemptively block all other explicit-hatred-in-the-bio accounts. I highly recommend this, especially for trans folks, as it's an effective way to exponentially reduce anti-trans pile-ons and mass-reporting attempts.

3) If you don't like me, or you disagree with what I say, then by all means subtweet away! (i.e., talk about me without tagging/@-ing me). I will probably never see it. And even if I did, so long as it's just criticism of my work, I will not intervene. Although if it includes ad hominem attacks or hate speech, I will be inclined to block you.

4) If you do decide to tag/@ me de novo, can I ask why you are doing this?

  • if it's to contact me about something important, this is not the best way to get in touch with me, as I don't see all my notifications. Please try emailing me instead (you can find out how to do so on my website).
  • if it's to share your appreciation of my work, thank you very much! If or when I see it, I may "like" or re-tweet it. FYI, if you'd rather me not publicly like/re-tweet your appreciation tweets, then I encourage you to not tag me on them.
  • if it's to ask a thoughtful question, I will try to answer it if I can, although like I said, I don't see all my notifications, and don't have time to answer all questions.
  • if it's thoughtful criticism (and I see it), I will most certainly take it into consideration. If I have the time and energy, I might even respond and/or send you a link to a previous piece where I've addressed similar criticisms.
  • if your criticisms of me are snarky or dismissive (but fall shy of hate speech) and I see it, I may block you, depending on the context. As a general rule, if you are some rando from outside of the communities that I write about/participate in, you will most likely be blocked; otherwise I may let it slide. Unless, of course, it is something you do on a repeated basis, at which point I'll probably block you.
  • Most importantly: PLEASE DO NOT TAG ME INTO conversations with people who are fundamentally opposed to my existence & perspectives. Often people do this in a vicious manner – they are hoping to sic the transphobes/bigots/anti-SJW-types/etc. in that conversation onto me. Others times, people who share my views will tag me into the conversation in the hopes that I will back them up in their arguments against the transphobes/bigots/anti-SJW-types/etc. they have taken on. While different in intent, both situations have the same net effect: my feed becomes flooded with transphobes/bigots/anti-SJW-types/etc! If I believe you have done this unintentionally, I may ask you to untag me. If you fail to comply, I will have no choice but to block you, for all the reasons stated above.

5) If you genuinely want to follow me, and have no desire to harass me, but find yourself blocked for some reason, I am open to unblocking you. Just contact me (e.g., via email) and I will reconsider the situation.

So that's my policy.

While I find Twitter to be the best social media platform for sharing my work (particularly my writings), I also find it to be the WORST possible venue for debating people who disagree with my perspectives, not only because of the 140 280 character limitations, but because this platform is especially prone to pile-ons, due to the fact that anyone (e.g., outsiders, bigots, and sockpuppets) can crash in on any conversation. This is the reason why I primarily write essays, which allow me to more thoroughly make my case, and address nuances and caveats that inevitably get lost in brief Twitter exchanges. So if you want to engage trans-suspicious & trans-antagonistic individuals, and/or people who constantly complain about "identity politics" and "political correctness," by all means, share links to my essays with them, as that is where I make my best case!

But please please please, do not tag me into those conversations. Thank you in advance...

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