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On Twitter culture and being called out

A couple days ago, while I was weeping again, I asked my friend: “Why can’t I just cope alone? What’s wrong with me?” And he replied: “No one can. We’re not meant to.”

I found this very comforting. It means that I’m not weak. I’m just human. I don’t actually have to do everything on my own. I place such high value in being independent, this is a hard lesson for me, and one that just keeps banging me over the head ever since I got sick.

I think this is why Twitter is such an important space for me. It’s where I can ask for support and receive it immediately, whether it’s in the form of understanding and kindness, or the offer of a coffee or to bring me groceries.

When I first started using Twitter I was very guarded and I hardly ever said anything because I was paralysed by every possible reaction I thought people might have. I was paranoid about my internet footprint and my social media brand (understandable considering my job).

I still think about these things, but I’ve also made a conscious decision to allow myself to be vulnerable. To share what really goes on for me. In doing so, I’ve made a lot of real connections and real friends.

Unfortunately, this is the wild west world of the internet. And it can go from safe space to hard place real quick.

Like anywhere we choose to gather, pack mentality can take over easily. It’s sometimes hard to find the line between speaking your mind, calling someone out – and where things turn into bullying.

I’d like to say right now that I am not referring to any particular individuals or groups here. I’m just thinking academically.

So how can we protect ourselves, whilst still maintaining the real connections? How do we create and maintain safe spaces that everyone can participate in, as they would like to? I’m again learning another lesson that’s been hammering me sick I got sick – picking my battles. Nary a minute goes by on Twitter that I don’t see something I want to argue with. But mostly, I leave it. People rarely back down on the internet. I have so little energy, I can’t engage in many things I would like to. I just have to walk away.

So I guess that’s an option – walk away, at least for a little while. Close Twitter, or utilise the mute, unfollow or block functions.

This is one of the reasons I’ve been doing my #ilu tags the last couple days. It can be easy to get angry, and stay angry. I did this as a reminder to myself that I have met so many wonderful people, and I can focus on my connections with them. I’m working on a positive, supportive space for myself. This is not to say I don’t want debate – I do, and I enjoy watching others do it, and I’m glad it happens. Another thing that Twitter has been great for, for me, is helping me push my boundaries. I do that pretty much every time I tweet – it makes me terrified.

Warning: I’m going to talk about the #goodsex thing for a bit, so if you didn’t enjoy it, you may want to skip a couple paras.

For me, this was an exercise in pushing my boundaries. Sex isn’t an easy thing for me to talk about. I’m a survivor of abuse, and I have a pretty challenging history. The discussions around rape culture have been amazing, but super super hard for me, and for many others. The hashtag I felt was a way of reminding myself that sex can also be a good thing, because I have a tendency to demonise it and withdraw from it and I want to push against this reaction in myself. It was definitely not an attempt to gloss over the important discussions, or change the subject, or diminish it in any way. Anyway, I have apologised. I recognise that I should have been more far sensitive, especially considering my own history.

But I also recognise that I was incredibly brave in joining in on the hashtag, and also brave to stop and apologise when I realised that some people were upset.

Both of these things were a big step for me. I made myself very vulnerable.

I’ve had to realise that I’m not going to be able to please everyone with everything I do. For some amazing reason, a lot of you follow me, and engage with me, which is so great. I will certainly try to be considerate and compassionate, as I always have been. But I respect your right to unfollow me if you need to.

(Not that it doesn’t upset me. I think I should definitely stop using the Unfollower app, because every time someone does I spend ages wondering what I did, and if I should apologise to them, and how I can get them back.)

I would also like to say: I can be called out. Being called out is good. It helps me learn. I’ve learned so much from my Twitter community and I want to continue doing so. If I do something that disagrees with you – even if you think everyone else might be ok with it – please, please let me know. DM me, email me. I really can’t bare the thought of upsetting people. It makes me physically sick. If I had been alerted earlier the other night, I would have stopped straight away. I recognise that this in itself wouldn’t have been an easy thing to do. I’m just saying – I’m approachable. Talk to me. I love conversations.

Anyway, this is rambling! I’ll leave it here.

(I’ve had 1.5 hours sleep. Does it show??)

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@writehandedgirl) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

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