Twitter Junior High

Surviving Social Media Adolescence

Illustration © Mits Katayama

Illustration © Mits Katayama

Popular kids, poseurs, drama queens, bullies, geeks and weirdos—all the the archetypes we came to love or loathe in junior high school—can be found on Twitter

Although you'll find most people fit into the "normal" category, in recent months several occurrences took some of the shine off my otherwise happy Twitter experience:

• A troll attacked me on the open time line.
• Someone tried to undermine several online friendships.
• I was accosted because I disagreed with an opinion.
• A person unfollowed me because I didn't divulge a secret.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON'T KNOW, a troll is someone who gets their kicks by issuing inflammatory comments with the intent to provoke. Trolls are cowards and bullies.  If you've not experienced one firsthand, congratulations. When it happened to me, it reminded me of how I felt when I was in a car accident—shaken and freaked out. Except in extreme cases, Twitter's terms of service allow their behavior. What to do? Two things: Unfollow and block.

SOMEONE WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES attempting to sway alliances, is strictly junior high. This type of behavior should not be validated. If someone tells you something offline that casts a negative light on someone else—think twice before accepting it at face value. Ask yourself what sort of person has the time to engage in this kind of mischief, and then use your own common sense.

A "POPULAR KID" came to me with a notion—that people on Twitter are racist. I don't buy that. I view Twitter as a meritocracy as well as a model macrocosm of egalitarianism. When I attempted to deflect the assertion with jokes, the person became cross with me and the dialog quickly escalated, making me uncomfortable. At that point I disengaged, hoping a "cooling off period" would help. I raised two kids and learned: Do not give attention to bad behavior.

IF A PERSON YOU KNOW UNFOLLOWS you, it's usually an unhappy thing. Having someone unfollow because you won't disclose a secret is the equivalent of a "Twitter tantrum." Does one person's desire to know something trump another's entitlement to confidentiality? I don't think so. When you betray someone's trust, you'll never fully get it back. Tweetlevel says, " It is trust that makes someone act — for this reason alone, having a high trust score is considered by many to be more important than any other category."

So with all of this negativity, why keep tweeting? On the flip side, some positive things occurred:

• I've met some terrific tweeps face-to-face, including @MomsofAmerica @LoriMoreno @krystynchong @JessicaNorthey @MartyMcPadden and @Zaharoff. Actually being together, exchanging laughs, thoughts, experiences, hugs—sharing a meal—mean your virtual friendship jumps to the next level: real-life. And the thing is, people are so much cooler in person!

• My buddy, @ellies58, helped me with a complicated task to help my son, a U.S. Army captain currently stationed in Afghanistan. It demanded an exceptional amount of trust on both sides, and both of our families were a bit concerned. But in the end, Ellie and I had the last laugh because it all came together. The whole experience really sealed our friendship.

• Two friends (@iamwhite and @dallasnagata) met at a tweetup in Hawaii, courted, fell in love and got married—all of it unfolding before our eyes on Twitter. A contingent of Seattle tweeps including myself, @slickriptide and @BecauseUAreHere, virtually "attended" the ceremony at Kona Kitchen (a Hawaiian restaurant in Seattle) "live" via UStream. A dozen people gathered to watch. It was touching to see our virtual friends tie the knot.

• And last—the spontaneous hilarity of engaging with friends on the Twitter stream is difficult to describe to someone who doesn't tweet, but let me just say some of the funniest things I've ever witnessed, read or taken part in have occurred on Twitter! Beside giving millions of people a  sense of place, it can make you smile and laugh—things proven to be healthy for all of us.

For me, negative online experiences have lowered my tolerance for aberrant behavior. But by far, my connections with people on Twitter have been positive and have added value to my life. I'm constantly amazed by the kindness and generosity I encounter there, popular kids, poseurs, drama queens, bullies, geeks and weirdos notwithstanding.

One of the things I realized while being treated for cancer: There is no use worrying about things you cannot change.

That goes for people, too.


  1. ellies583:18 PM

    A subject that has long needed addressing! I, applaud You Terri for having the courage to write this post! We both have been so lucky to have built a solid, kind, responsive group of Twiends around us! And at times...if that has been undermined by the careless, thoughtless actions of a very Few....we have grown out of #BRAVO! {{{{HUGGLES}}}}

  2. Thank you, Ellie. You're one the reasons why I feel fortunate to live in the moment in time. Social Media brought us together, and without Twitter it's doubtful we ever would have crossed paths.

    I don't know that it took courage to write this post, but you of all people know I've thought about many of these things for a while.

    While it might be unpopular, the contents are true. Hopefully that means something.


  3. What an open and valuable post to find.Seriously love you, what you say and how you say it Terri.
    Living in Tokyo and now a bit in Brisbane I have yet to meet hardly any of my favourite Twitter buddies face to face as it seems that very nearly all the people doing it well are "stateside". Cannot wait to get to America soon and meet you and many others! Have yet to have a bad experience on Twitter. Has been bliss from day 1.
    I have come home. Thanks for being a huge part of that. Michael XXX

  4. Dear Michael,

    Thank you for reading and commenting. With so many things competing for your attention, I feel honored you took the time to check out my post.

    Maybe you will have to plan your visit around a 140 conference or some other social media event where lots of tweeps will already be congregating. That way you'll be able to meet, in one location, friends from all around the U.S.

    Part of why I believe some of the (above) incidents happened is because I have a tendency to befriend anyone who wants to connect. And the more accessible I've made myself, the more I've exposed myself to negativity.

    It would be safer if I maintained superficial relationships with everyone, but I genuinely want to know who is "out there." I wish a couple of these things hadn't happened but none could be described as a real tragedy.

    Thanks again. I hope to meet you one day!

    ((HUGS))) Terri

  5. Terri, you are right on the money, here! Sometimes, online friendships are forged out of the strangest compatibilities, while others simply don't hold water. It's EXACTLY LIKE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL. Love this fab article!

  6. Dear Dawn,

    I just want to reiterate, most people are nice, but there are definitely some real (and unreal) characters in the mix.

    The great beauty of Twitter is meeting terrific tweeps like you! So glad we connected there :-)



  7. Great post, Terri!

    I'm sorry you had to go through the uncomfortable awkwardness brought on by the Twitter bully. Thank you for sharing your feelings -- your experiences will help others know who've been through the ringer that they aren't alone.

    Twitter bullying affects a person just as much as it did in jr high school and the best way to nip it in the bud is just a click away. I love the ability to "block".

    I love this post.

    Thanks again for sharing, my wise, sweet friend.

  8. having had some experience with trolls, i don't like to see anyone have to go through this crap. let alone people i care about. good people. like you :)


  9. Dear Krys and Lori,

    I've known you guys for a couple of years—which is like 14 in Twitter years—and I'm sure we've all seen our share of the good, the bad and the ugly.

    Thank you so much for reading and responding. The troll thing happened last summer but I still remember the shock and fear I felt. Krys, you are so right—the ability to "block" somewhat levels the playing field.

    Thanks again for your support, you #BA75 women! I'm so glad we are connected!



  10. Great post Terri about a subject that needs to be talked about. There will always be those who choose to be negative and never graduate "Junior High School." I love when you say: "There's no use worrying about things you cannot change. That goes for people, too." A great way to be! :-)

    Looking forward to seeing you and meeting @BecauseYouAreHere and the rest of the Seattle contingent in June! :-)))

    To borrow from @ellies58 {{{{HUGGLES))))

  11. Aww, Marty,

    Thank you. And thanks for being an understanding friend.

    I think my quote about worry is based on something I heard attributed to the Dalai Lama—someone who knows!

    I'm looking forward to seeing you again, and I know Whit, Scott and others are looking forward to meeting you for the first time.

    Didn't we have the best time in New York, eating our sack lunches at the 92nd street Y?

    (((HUGS))) back, and many thanks for reading and commenting.


  12. Marty McPadden12:58 AM

    You're the best Terri!!! NYC was so much fun!! I'm so looking forward to visiting everyone in Seattle!! :-D

  13. Great post Terri and SO true ... :-) I have loved Twitter for three years now and will continue to do so ... I have to say it's still hard when someone I enjoy thoroughly unfollows, but that's life. Can't force life or love and you just have to keep on surrounding yourself with those that enjoy your presence no matter how it's served. So glad to have met you.

  14. Dear Heather,

    Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment! I'm with you—it's sad when friends unfollow—but relationships on Twitter ebb and flow, and it's unproductive to spend too much time analyzing WHY.

    You've been tweeting for three years? Is it my imagination or are there more crazy people now than before? (J/K) But seriously, I'm so grateful to Diana and Amy for bringing us together. There are some real gems among the #BA75, and you are most certainly one of them.

    (((HUGS))) Terri

  15. Anonymous2:08 PM

    You've got the pulse of the situation. I seriously messed up by meeting with someone coming to my city long before truly knowing her online. Had dinner, swapped some no big deal stories. I was uncomfortable with this person and lo and behold, my fears were later founded. She not only twisted everything I said at dinner for the glee of it troll style, she went as far as to give other's my phone # and city/state. This ended up on twitter and yes, I got phone calls from undesirables. It was quite disturbing. She's done far worse to at least one other, to the point it has distressed an entire family.

    Therefore, I see a new category needed. "Obsessive Compulsive Evil Doer" comes to mind.

  16. Anonymous, Hi.

    Yikes. I'm really sorry to hear about this, but you're right — "OC Evil Doers" are lurking. It's too bad, too, because as I said, most people are nice and "normal." The problem is, unpleasant ones take up as much or more mental space :-(

    I've heard some amazing stories from people, none of whom want to publicize their plights. But what their experiences tell me is, we are not alone!

    Thanks very much for taking the time to read and comment. Here's hoping in the future we can avoid as many "OC Evil Doers" as possible!

    All the best, Terri

  17. Thanks for writing this. I love the way you write. I am thankful for Twitter or else, we would have never met. You are such a great person, Terri.

  18. Dear Felice,

    Thank you for reading & commenting <3

    I'm grateful for social media and glad we are here at its beginning, but really happy you and I made the transition from virtual to real friends. You're right—without Twitter, the chances of us meeting would have been so small.

    Huge (((HUGS))), Felice


  19. Hi Terri,

    Thank you for being a wonderful spirit. So glad we connected on Twitter. So far in my first year, I have not had any bad experiences there. No trolls or harmful energy in the stream.

    I have a card from a woman I met last summer at a writing retreat in Grand Lake, Colorado. On the cover there is a sun shining over the earth. But it was these words I treasure and often feel when I think of the many fabulous, creative beings like you on Twitter:

    Each friend represents a world in us that did not exist until they arrived. I am so glad that you came into my life.

    Thank you, Terri, for being part of my world. And thank you so much for the tweets on my WRAPPING OUR ARMS AROUND HOPE post for Japan.

    See you soon on Twitterverse. Have a beautiful, April day ❤

    - Mia

  20. Dear Mia,

    Thank you for stopping by. No question—it's possible to make some of the most amazing friendships on Twitter. I know because I have, too.

    I'm really glad to have made your acquaintance, and only regret it was under such sad circumstances.

    Wishing you, your family and friends safe and well, and happy travels through the Twitterverse.

    Warm regards, Terri

  21. Terri,
    You are such a great role model. And courageous to speak out and help all of us understand how better to relate and connect. Our youngest ones especially need this.

  22. Dear Meg,

    Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comment, too.

    The post primarily was written to adults, but I'm glad you can see its usefulness extends to other age groups.

    I'm thankful to real-life friends like you who are keeping a watchful eye on me as I dive into social media.

    ((HUGS)) and thanks again!


  23. Beautiful piece on the good, bad and ugly side of Twitter.

  24. Anonymous8:31 PM

    Great to hear of the outcomes of your deep immersion in Twitter, the good and the bad. It's the result of a level of commitment which I have been unable to bring to bear to the platform. I still don't get Twitter, even though I post on it all the time (Facebook makes a lot more sense to me), but this post helps me understand it a bit more.

  25. Dear Teddy and Doug,

    Thanks, guys. You represent both virtual (Teddy) and real (Doug) friendships and both are people I like a lot.

    Doug, I don't know if you engage with your followers or have a one-way stream (outbound), but the latter can feel like tweeting in a vacuum. Most people I think want to connect to the person who is posting the information, and if you took a chance and talked to some of the people who may be commenting or retweeting your posts, you'll find a totally different experience awaits.

    My objective was to bring some problems into focus and offer possible ways of dealing with them. I've known quite a few people who have had an odd experience here and there, but haven't seen a lot written to address how one might respond.

    Again, thanks for the comments. I'm so grateful to know you both.


  26. Dearest Terri,

    Your posting reminds me of how twitter is a microcosm of life. Everything, good or bad, in the real world is reflected in our Jr High. The difference being, in life one has clues like the way a person looks or acts to help us decide whether we should trust them or not. Sometimes those clues lead us astray and our stereotypes prejudice us to a stranger who is just a friend we haven't met yet.

    On twitter we are all strangers and the clues like the name, avatar, and bio can all be faked. So the only thing we can build trust on is what they tweet. Maybe the person says something funny, clever, or wise. Maybe they blip a favorite song of ours. It's not a lot to build trust on. However, we need to build trust, so we do.

    We get to know the person, we might never have talked to if it wasn't for twitter. We get to like the person. We build a bond, solely on what we write to each other. That makes twitter a much more egalitarian place.

    Sadly, we may learn the person has a nasty streak, or wasn't who we thought they were, or does something truly evil like violates the trust and shares something private with others we never would have told it too. Perhaps, they even manage to hurt us in the real world.

    Fortunately, such evil ones are not the norm, and our twitter friends comfort us and teach us that not all trust is misplaced. In fact, we remember that we have a lot of friends on twitter. Those people who we would never have met that now circle the globe and who someone is always online for us no matter what the time of day or night. Those who teach us the wisdom from sources we wouldn't have even know about. Those who amaze us with images that inspire and delight. Those who constantly cheer us up and give us warm {{{hugs}}} and waves. Those are who we celebrate and why we love twitter. Terri, you are one of those.

    Much love, @intel_chris

  27. Dear Chris,

    Your comment has left me awestruck. You and I have been exchanging fairly lengthy emails for going on two years, and I've recognized you to be a smart, honest, caring and articulate person. But this comment makes me see something new—you're write beautifully.

    It's true we can only judge people by the interactions we experience. In many cases, the more superficial the engagement, the more positive our perceptions are, simply because we're not exposed to someone's underbelly or "dark side."

    I think I can say you and I both seek authentic and truthful relationships with people — where we know with relative certainty the person you THINK you are communicating with, IS the person you think he/she is.

    From where I stand, I'm very grateful you were interested in establishing a friendship with me that blew past 140 to something much more substantive. Even when we don't see each other for weeks or months, it doesn't change our regard for one another or the quality of what we share. At any given point, one of us can reach out and the other will be there.

    Hmmm. This sounds suspiciously like a real-life friendship. And Chris? I'm so very grateful to Twitter for making it possible to know you.

    Thank you for reading and commenting.

    Love you back, Terri

  28. Thank you for calling my writing beautiful. It isn't the sort of compliment I would expect to receive.

    Of course, I must admit that was the 3rd draft of that reply. But, laughing at myself, it wasn't because I wanted to get the words just so, it was that I was technically incompetent (not something I want to have to admit *too* often). It was just that it took me 3 times to figure out how to get the "comment as" field to refer to me. Each time I lost my posting and had to write it over "from scratch", and of courxse each time it came out a little different. I actually think the 2nd draft was best, but the 3rd is the one that survived, so I'll presume that was the universe's pronouncement on my writing, and that's why it finally let my overcome my klutzyness and send that one. And, since, you liked it, the universe must have been right. :-)

  29. :-D
    Chris, thanks even MORE for your comment!

    I can't tell you HOW MANY TIMES that has happened to me — you write a comment and then *poof* it disappears!

    Yes, the planets must be in alignment, otherwise I'm not sure how in the world our paths would have otherwise crossed!


  30. Good to finally speak with you just recently. I can see that there's much I can learn from you.

    Glad to finally begin learning what you do, who you support, and so on. Congratulation on (just over?) 4 1/2 years in remission, and I'll do so again when its 40 years of it, okay?


  31. Dear Saul,

    Every day I marvel at the miracles Twitter delivers to me each day in the guise of followers.

    It's really amazing and cool to have made your acquaintance through Mike Todd — a definite connector of people.

    Thanks for your comment. I'm really pleased to be alive and well and would love nothing more than to check back with you in 40 years, though I suspect even I wouldn't want to live that long!

    As for learning, it's a two-way street. I'm glad to be traveling along the road with you!

    Warm regards, Terri

  32. Terri! I LOVE that you are a graphic designer who loves to write. I really enjoyed reading this post. I am fairly new to the twitter community and I have found mostly amazing positive people. I too have met a few amazing people in person I have met on twitter. I do try to avoid questionable tweeps but you have reminded me to keep my guard up. Anywho... my purpose is to inspire and empower women and girls. That usually involves trying to make you laugh or going deeper to find that healing place. My hubby is a theme park master planner & designer who works with graphic artists all the time. We look at the world in a different way always looking for beauty and design. And my daughter is a real trip in that way. So happy to connect with you. Your energy is the stuff we need. You light up the world.

  33. Dear Susan Kay,

    Wow, I really love your energy! Thanks so much for taking time to read and comment.

    Laughter is a fantastic tool for building relationships with people, and as I mentioned toward the end of my blog post, some insanely funny conversations happen on Twitter every day.

    It's possible to meet some really incredible people, and for me, making the transition from virtual to real has been exciting and fun. Here's hoping you and I can stay in touch, grow our connection and see where it leads!

    Meanwhile, bravo to you for your efforts to inspire and empower women and girls. Keep up the good work!

    Best regards,


  34. Hi, Some one from facebook refereed your link i have book marked it nice blogs you write see Free  how to grow twitter followers here

  35. AWESOME Blog Terri! You hit the nail directly on the head! So funny as I was thinking the same thing. The things/items/points you brought up are right on. Frankly, I didn't like 8th grade in the first place. That is one of the reasons I never went to class reunions. But, I finally did break down and go to one... yes only one... recently.

    The outcome: Remember those >>> Lame cliques, the bullies and the supposed "Class Leaders". It's so funny how in "real" life most of those people wound up as losers. I saw one of the "abusers" that some of had to deal with when we were kids and I could instantly tell his life was nothing but hell = karma.

    On the positive side - I have meet some incredible people - like yourself - on twitter and in social media. I focus on the positive aspects and sides of things and drop the drama like it's "hot". But it's funny how those same types from 8th grade are still trying to play their games. I give them no quarter. Thank God we have the Block button! LOL

    I feel grateful to have met in person (and hopefully we will meet soon) some amazing people and professionals who I respect their work. People who are talented, share and care to make our social media experience a mutually awesome journey.

    Thank You for all the Greatness you bring into my life :) #Blessed

  36. Dear Sebastian,

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. You and I have had numerous discussions about the spectrum of people we encounter through social media. It's the few bad apples who can negatively impact our experiences here, but you're right—Thankfully many of the people we meet are really great!

    You and I have been acquainted for a couple of years, but just this past year I feel as though our friendship has made the leap to the next level. I'm so looking forward to being able to meet you, Sandy and San in real life and to transition from virtual hugs to real ones.

    In the meantime, thank you so much for being there for me. I really treasure your friendship!

    Love, Terri

  37. Great post! So true about some of it being like junior high. Also true about how there are many positives that kind of help to put things into perspective.
    I am now following your blog and look forward to reading other posts:)
    (@F5th on Twitter)

  38. Hi, Sunshine! (I love the way that sounds!)

    Seriously, Colleen, thanks for taking a look here. Twitter is basically a sampling of the world at large, so it stands to reason to find the entire spectrum of humanity here.

    I remember looking at your bio earlier today and wondering...sunshine state. I should know that! Is it California ? Florida? AACK! Brain freeze!

    Thank you again, and I'm looking forward to more dialog with you through our various channels!

    Cheers & I hope you have a nice Sunday!


  39. I am sorry for your bad experience and thankfully haven't had that one as of yet. I have had creepy people DMing me and more BOTs than I can count.

    I am glad you are still tweeting and your Seattle/Hawaii love story is so sweet, sorry I missed it.

  40. Hi, Janet and thank you for taking a moment to comment on this post.

    The wedding was really quite sweet, and for the people who "attended," it was really very much like actually being there!

    There has been a recent deluge of followers who are spam-DMing everyone. The spam DMs are caused by their accounts being hacked. By responding to the "bait," naturally curious people will click the links and that opens the door for the hackers, and then your account is "infected." The situation is usually fixed by changing passwords, but I usually suggest to people they post a tweet in their timeline to let their followers know they're fixing it.

    I'm sorry you've been receiving a log of these DMs as well—but try to remember, most of the senders have no idea they've done so.

    The BOTs on the other hand, are something else! They don't even seem to be making the effort to "pretend" to be real people anymore.

    Dead giveaways: Zero tweets; following hundreds or thousands of people and having very few people follow back; the generic "egg" avatar; not listed or very few lists, and a 1-way, outgoing stream that never interacts with anyone.

    The shoutout BOTs are also annoying, so when I see someone continually shout out and see they aren't following me, I filter them out in Tweetdeck's global filter. Then they no longer show up in my feed.

    Thank you again for the comment, and I just wanted to let you know I subscribed to your blog.

    Cheers, Terri

  41. Great Post,
    By and large I've had a 90%positive experience on twitter. I have encountered a few bad eggs but after a final burst of poison from them and no response from me they have faded into the digital ether.
    I've only been on twitter two years, I think, and its been grand I've meet people on line and later in coffee shops around the world and I am deeply grateful for that.
    I see more meetings, coffees, dinners and hugs in my future.
    Tweet on,

  42. Dear Jude,

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I think there is a very small percentage of "bad apples" out there, but they have a tendency to cast a cloud over the rest of our experiences on Twitter.

    The "block" feature comes in really handy for some of these people, as it removes them from our view and interactions. I've used it fewer than a dozen times over the course of 3 years, but as our followings grow and we're exposed to more and more people, the likelihood of having to employ it increases a bit.

    May I just say I am SOOO glad we've met on Twitter, and how marvelous it would be to some day meet in real life. I'm with you—tweetups and real-life meetups are wonderful.

    ((HUGS)) and see you soon, I hope!


  43. Beautifully written Terri. I think comparing getting attacked by a troll to that of being in a car accident is perfect. I so regret not meeting you in person yet, thanks for continuing to be a friend. :)

    1. Dear Roscoe,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you haven't encountered any of the negative types of people mentioned in the post, especially a troll.

      Trolls hurl verbal stones at people behind the safety of their anonymous monitors and keyboards. Most likely would never have the courage to traumatize people face-to-face!

      I'm so sorry you couldn't come to the tweet-up in June but hope you enjoyed a spectacular vacation! It would have been great to meet you! I am hopeful it will happen one day, so let's hope another opportunity arises!

      ((HUGS)) and heartfelt thanks,



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