This week I had my very first negative Twitter experience, and then by coincidence a couple of days later I had another one. I sincerely hope that this isn't the start of some sort of epidemic as my career in social media and marketing communications will suddenly take a downward swing of anxiety as I dodge virtual fetid groceries and eventually am found rocking backwards and forwards tracing little blue birds across my padded cell like Dreyfuss at the end of the Pink Panther.
Ahem. *takes fortifying sip of tea*
The first negative experience was one which occurred as a result of being included in a chain of tweets that one of my favourite Saturday Kitchen tweeters had sent about his negative opinion of Iain Lee. Now I must confess that until he had mentioned Iain Lee several weeks ago and I googled him I actually didn't know who he was, but that's not really relevant, what's relevant is that I have no personal opinion of Iain Lee but I am aware that he was rude to some people I tweet with about Saturday kitchen. As a result of being included in this tweet about Ian - not TO Ian, he wasn't tagged in it I hasten to add - I suddenly see in my "mentions" feed that Iain Lee has "outed" us all as bullies.
Not the one person who took umbrage with him, but the people he was tweeting about it. Now any idiot with any understanding of context would never have thought that we were all bullies, and anyone who suspected as such should surely have had the common sense to research it a little further by viewing the conversation and confirming such a suspicion before accusing someone of something. And further to that, someone with manners would have complained to the person directly rather than immediately make incorrect public accusations.
Other than a few tweets from fans of Iain Lee telling the group of us they want to vomit, that's as far as that went thankfully. I don't care to have my twitter account (which promotes my food blog Everything Goes With Toast) associated with a so called "celebrity" thinking I'm a bully... but the situation didn't distress me, just irritated me.
The second situation did distress me. At first I found it petty and childish and then as the day grew on I realised that I was genuinely affronted and upset. I'm not embarrassed to admit this, even though I am sure I will read back on this in a few months and dismiss it as the kind of hormonal slump more suited to a teenager than a 28 year old woman who is rational and renowned for her rhino thick skin.
During Saturday Kitchen (again with this show! What's going on!? I've been watching it ever since James Martin began to present it and never had a moment's cause to regret that!) I always add an extra column to my Tweetdeck for #SaturdayKitchen so that I and the regular group of viewers can share our opinions. I almost get more entertainment from the feed than I do from the show. (Except if Michel Roux Sr is on it. *swoons*)
One viewer wrote "Fucking Saturday Kitchen. Knobs" which made me laugh because unlike the rest of the feed who tend to be a bit more specific such as hating a chef, or hating the presenter etc they just had this brief profane outburst so I responded "articulate little thing aren't you?"
If I didn't LOATHE the use of emoticons as being mostly the communication choice of morons I would have added a little winky one to the end. Perhaps if I had this would not have happened, or perhaps then I really WOULD have been deserving of ridicule!
Their response was "Thank you! I think it's the course in Philology I teach at Oxford that does it." which further intrigued me because you'd think of all people he/she would be passionate about language so I responded "having a day off from it?" and then... this was the part which confused me I got a response saying "don't worry honey, lots of people don't know what philology is."
I didn't understand where that had come from because it seemed so out of context of what I'd thought was a cheeky exchange of tweets between two people so responded "I know what it is! I may be blonde but I'm not an imbecile" which earned me a retweet/quote of "I know what it is! I may be blonde but I'm not an imbecile" < Me thinks the lady doth protest too much..." followed by this person updating their status to "I really should stop playing with people on twitter that are less intelligent than me. It's morally wrong. But they make it so EASY..."
and then, much to my horror I realised that the person I was tweeting was retweeting what I was writing, responding to my tweets and trying to make out me out to be some sort of object of ridicule.
Fair enough had I been doing something ridiculous like writing about my deep respect for David Cameron or that I'd read something compelling in The Daily Mail by Richard Littlejohn... but I didn't understand how the conversation could be so misconstrued. It irritated me that they were trying to make me out to be stupid when I'm anything but (clearly I'm too trusting which may make me a little naive but I'm not an idiot) so I replied "because using profanity to express an opinion makes you sound so much more intelligent than you are..."
What follows is the rest of the exchange.
"there there. Try not to cry. We can't all have a sophisticated sense of humour."
"what's funny here is that you actually seem to be under the impression that you're bothering me or somehow superior"
"* whispers* (do go away silly blonde woman)"
then an update to someone else "I swear because it offends simple minds."
I realised that they obviously thought I was offended by profanity (how ironic when I swear like a sailor!!) instead of understanding that I had meant that profanity rarely demonstrates a person's intelligence but is often a sign of a limited vocabulary. You only have to listen to some people frustratedly punctuating every second word in a sentence with the word "fucking" when sharing an anecdote to realise this.
(n.b - I am not saying that profanity can't be humorous or used intelligently, it obviously can)
I tried to explain this, hoping to resolve the situation with "I'm not remotely offended by profanity, I merely pointed out that it didn't sound very articulate. You're quick to assume" but of course they had long tired of me as soon as I realised that I was in fact being ridiculed so I left it there.
As the day went on though it really did start to bother me. How often do we misunderstand people on the internet? How often do we inadvertently offend? How many people do we alienate or upset as a result of a limited 140 characters to express our view making things we say sound perhaps terse or serious instead of in jest?
It's a worrying thought which reminds me of a scene in You've Got Mail where Meg Ryan, her character a saccharine sweet victim, undermined professionally by Tom Hanks (who she of course later falls in love with) finally snaps and bitches him out. Then she regrets it and apologises to her anonymous keypal (the internet equivalent of penpal? Yes?) who of course turns out to actually be Tom Hanks... saying "I was cruel, and I'm never cruel. And even though I can hardly believe what I said mattered to this man (to him, I'm just a bug to be crushed) but what if it did? No matter what he's done to me, there's no excuse for my behaviour." and that really does sum it up.
So now I worry that I have inadvertently offended someone and even if I didn't do so, I worry that I misrepresented myself. I'm an intelligent and sensitive person - I would never "troll" someone on the internet and whilst I find sites like http://www.27bslash6.com hilarious I do so as a vicarious voyeur (alliteration addict) knowing that I could never actually go through with those sort of pranks or deliberate attempts to belittle people.
And this person - I don't know them but Twitter tells me they're passionate about food because of the people they're similar too and the people we both follow. Clearly they're intelligent - this is someone I could have come across, not made a fool of myself with and perhaps made friends with. Someone who may have liked my food blog or someone I could have talked to about supper clubs or where one can find edible glitter and whether it should ever be used by someone over the age of 5.
Kierkergard said "at the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference" and it seems to fit here.
Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.
Title: Queen Bitch by David Bowie