I love Twitter. I spend most of my time there. Scrolling. I’ve connected and ‘discovered’ some really great people there, especially since I started tweeting under themotherhub banner earlier this year. I credit it with my being better read, more politically engaged and aware. I have found two tribes of great women – parenting bloggers and Irish feminists, with a good amount of cross-over on a Venn diagram of impressive women. I do follow the occasional token male. I don’t know if you’ve heard but men can be funny and well-informed too sometimes: but my Twitter feed is primarily a female space. It’s my Twitter bubble, and I’m allowed to do with it what I want.
So in some ways Twitter is my safe space. When I go there, I find women who think like me, read like me. They might not live like me or look like me, but we come from the same place , mentally. I think the majority of us follow people because we agree with what they say, we like the same TV shows, books – you might throw in the occasional hate follow to get the blood pressure up, but nothing too controversial.
That’s why when you come out of your twitter bubble it’s such a shock. When the story broke of Ched Evans acquittal for rape charges a couple of weeks ago, everyone on my twitter feed was disappointed, shocked , angry, concerned for the impacts on future victims reporting in the future. I saw a tweet warning not to look at the tweets about the case, but I ignored it. I’m sure you’re aware of the types of tweets sent by those supporting Evans. He turns into the victim, she the slut who should be shamed, and imprisoned herself for what she has done to him. Rape threats were profligate. Such anger, such hatred. It is utterly, utterly depressing. I put away my phone for the rest of the evening.
Depressing as it is, it’s a reminder that your sensitively curated twitter feed is not the real world. It happened for me with the UK election a couple of years ago, and again with the Brexit referendum.
I’m lucky in that I haven’t encountered too many trolls or much abuse on Twitter, but it can often happen unexpectedly. A couple of weeks ago I listened to a debate on Newstalk about sex work – it was a balanced look at the argument from all sides. I sent a tweet to the presenter saying I found it interesting, and that it was a complex area and I was not sufficiently informed to have a definite opinion one way or another. I used the phrase sex work in my tweet, without thinking about the implications of the phrase. Overnight our conversation had been discovered by two US citizens who most presumably had not heard the show but were quick to accuse us of dismissing the victims of prostitution and ignoring its connections with human trafficking. I repeated my stance that it was a complex issue, on which I was not sufficiently informed to have a definite opinion. I was told that by using the term sex work I was thereby supporting the concept of prostitution as a profession, and what is more, my original tweet was mere virtue signalling. Whatever errors I had made, I was never going to win this argument. It’s not a place for nuanced debate, twitter. But the story highlights why for so long I kept my opinions to myself on Twitter, and why for people, women especially, twitter can become such a hostile place.
Other than that, I’ve had the odd abusive tweet , particularly when tweeting about abortion access , or lack thereof in Ireland. I don’t debate with them – I mute them, let them rant into the void, they’re not interested in debate anyway.
Am I presenting myself with an unrealistic world view? Am I fooling myself that the world in general is more interested in the matters that interest me than they really are ? I don’t think so. Attached as I am to my phone, I do also exist in the world, read papers and watch the news, but I’m happy for Twitter to be my go-to place for news and opinions on the things which matter to me.
How are things in your Twitter bubble ?