(Sorry, everyone – I know I promised you all a happy post about the Pacific Ocean, but this is more timely.)
How do I handle it?
I’ve been asked that question a couple times since Monday’s Twitstorm. I’ve been asked how I developed such thick skin, how I can troll the people calling me a “dumb b*tch” with such cheek, and how other people can develop similar resilience. At the time, I had no ready answer. I’m still not sure I do.
But a couple things have occurred to me since then, and I’ll explore them here. Part of it is about perspective, and part of it is about understanding what breeds Internet hate.
Let’s tackle perspective first. Generally speaking, I don’t like having enemies. I’m not the sort of person who thrives on conflict. I’m not an anger junkie. But in the context of random people tweeting about how much they hate me, my definition of the word “enemy” merits closer examination. I’ve never met any of these people in my life. The most intimate interaction I’ll ever have with any of them is retweeting them. When they watch me on TV and when they tweet about me, there’s the barrier of a screen separating us. We’re very much removed from each other.
In a few words, they really don’t have any power over me. They’re not even worth calling “enemies.”
That helps a lot.
This isn’t my first experience with Internet-disseminated hate, either, although I’ve not really been the recipient of such hate before. I’ve been a denizen of Tumblr long enough to know that people send anonymous hate all the time. Some people are affected pretty horribly by it, but I’ve also seen people opining on how pathetic it is. “Do you really have nothing better to do than to send people anon hate?” they ask.
Granted, the concept of anon hate is more malicious on Tumblr because the haters send it directly to the people in question, whereas I basically sought out my haters. I still think, though, that the point stands.
Another aspect of Twitter hate (that also applies to Tumblr hate) is the forced reliance on self-censorship. The click of a button – tweet or ask or submit – is the only thing between you and the rest of the Internet. It’s never been easier to express your opinions. Which, of course, spawns a tendency for the Internet to become a logorrhific cesspool. If you don’t believe me, then disobey that old adage and read the YouTube comments. Any video ever on feminism would be a good place for your education to start.
I honestly think the presence of Twitter hate reveals more about the haters than it does about anyone else – specifically, their lack of prudence. Not being prone to more charitable impulses is one thing. But not keeping it to yourself? Not thinking for a second that if you can’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all? Not thinking that there’s a chance your words could come back to bite you? Not even considering that your words could hurt someone? Those things are in a league of their own.
That’s why it’s so important to me that I troll the haters. Retweeting them, letting them know that I know what they say about me, is a form of public shaming. It’s my attempt to remind them that words have consequences, that you never know who’s paying attention to what you’re saying.
Lastly, to the haters: you’re lucky it was me. You’re lucky I’m not more fragile. If you’d been targeting someone more affected by this stuff than I am, you might have a lot more to answer for. “Awkward,” several of you said after I trolled you.
If you’re not more prudent in the future, things could get way more than just “awkward.”