The Dark Side of Twitter

I'd always assumed when I'd met people on Twitter that they were "WYSIWYG" or "what you see is what you get." People who are friendly, intelligent, funny or engaging I would imagine would be very similar in real life. On Twitter, people will either like you or not, so my feeling has always been to be yourself and let the "Tweeps*" fall where they may.

Throughout the past year I've developed actual friendships with fewer than a dozen people. These are people I consider in my inner circle, and we communicate outside of Twitter through email, phone conversations, and in some cases have even met in person. Those friendships, as those in real life, are rare, and I treasure each and every one of them.

Recently, out of the blue, I received a DM (direct message) from a follower I don't know well, warning me about one of our mutual followers. The information was disturbing. Allegedly, our mutual follower was dangerous and violent, and was wanted by the police.

Because of the friendly nature of my conversations with the allegedly dangerous person, I was a bit incredulous accepting the information at face value. I judge people through my direct interactions with them, and I'd had nothing but positive exchanges regarding work and common interests throughout our communications with one another.

The ensuing conversation with my family about this episode led to the conclusion that although the accuser's situation appeared to be dire, I couldn't become involved and should disengage. If the allegations were true and I betrayed confidences to enable someone's incarceration, who is to say I or my family wouldn't become the object of revenge?

Until now, I'd only experienced the best Twitter has to offer. I think this shows the worst.

*Tweeps: one of the many words representing people on Twitter


  1. Wow, that's scary. It raises a lot of questions about how smart it is to make yourself available and accessible to people you can't touch, see or know very well.

    It's why I am just signing this:
    Dick the Ripper

  2. I've used Twitter *a lot* during the past year+. The vast majority of my interactions were positive to very positive. I also consider myself a good judge of people, both offline and online. However, there were multiple times - on Twitter - where I had apparently misjudged a person. At times, quite badly.

    This hasn't happened to me in literally decades, since the old days of the IRC and what predated that, and I can only say that the intimiate nature of communications on Twitter can be very misleading, even to someone who is experienced in this. Also, sometimes people behave differently than they normally would because of parameters you would not suspect, such as, the number of followers you have. Once they get to know you they revert to their real selves, but until then, you only see a mask.

    As much as I believe in openness and always give people a chance, the last two negative experiences, which strangely occurred in the same week, made me decide to be more cautious and not blindly follow my instincts as I always did.

  3. Dick (the Ripper! LOL!) and Udi, I've distanced myself from both of the people I referred to in this post. One I think is actually deranged and the other is a question mark.

    Udi, your comment about people behaving differently on the surface is very true as I've sadly discovered. My response is to disengage, which, with the natural ebb and flow of interactions with people, seems to work.


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i'm a graphic designer who loves words. - terri nakamura