If you’re going to sling words…

please take it offline.

We speak with words on Twitter.You can’t see me when I’m writing. You have absolutely no clue how I’m feeling. We have great conversations, we provide information and we make connections. We also point fingers (words), sling barbs and in some cases, become outright bullies. That’s where taking it offline comes in. You have the option of a DM (direct message), email or even chat.

Words, whether spoken or written, are powerful tools…and weapons. They can lift you up or tear you down. You can have the loveliest smile on your face whilst absolutely destroying someone…all with words.

I saw a rather pointed attack on a twitter friend. I don’t know the reasons for it and I don’t care to know it. What I do know is that someone was being harassed and bullied and it offended me.  After watching this attack for a minute or two, I decided to say something. I asked the person to stop or take it offline. I was polite and to the point. I had manners. The person to whom I directed this comment, did not. After a bit, things calmed down, the person (for whatever reason), stopped the attack and all was quiet. Or so I thought.

Let me be clear on something before I continue. If I ever see a situation like this again, friend or not, I will intercede. Personal attacks or bullying has no place online, just as it has no place in real life. It’s a cowardly act which accomplishes very little. Hiding behind a computer and an online name won’t save you. Lest you forget (and thank you Margie Clayman for this reminder), all of this is public, your stream looks ridiculous with a one-sided diatribe and just makes you, the attacker, look like an idiot.

After this little situation puttered out, things calmed down for a bit. It was stirred up again later (and got worse in my opinion), when I was blindsided by a comment someone made to me. Frankly, I’m still not sure what possessed this person to jump on me, but it happened.

The person that blindsided me was not the person who was attacking my friend earlier. The person who jumped into my stream was in a roundabout way, the reason for the earlier attack on my friend (clear as mud? Yeah, it isn’t to me either).

I responded in a polite way that I really had no idea what this person was talking about (I didn’t then and I still don’t), but noted that I didn’t like what I had witnessed and felt disrespected for expressing an opinion.  This person continued the comments, wherein I tried to explain what I saw was inappropriate and just tried to stop it. I then mentioned that I sent a DM. A clear signal that I was taking (trying to anyway) this conversation offline.

Paraphrasing myself, I told this person that the comment made should have been made offline and that I was dismayed at this person’s lack of courtesy to me online. I also invited this person to unfollow me. I unfollowed this person promptly thereafter.

Unfortunately, the comments continued for a bit. I chose not to respond to any of them (and let me tell you how hard it was to keep quiet). This person then let loose on others until a few folks convinced him/her to let it go.

What did  this accomplish? It made this person look foolish, especially if you consider how h/she portrays him/herself online. The diatribe was uncalled for, was made personal when it shouldn’t have been and was out of line. I lost every ounce of respect that I may have had for this person and for a few others that egged this person on.

All over words that were best said offline.

  1 comment for “If you’re going to sling words…

  1. March 7, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Great first post, Sherree! I feel the same way. I don’t get into “sling fests” online. When Instant Messaging was all the rage, I tried to teach my kids that one should never type anything they aren’t willing to say face-to-face. You were absolutely appropriate. I’m disappointed but not surprised when you try to be straightforward and respectful and receive more bile. I absolutely abhor the cowardice of anonymous rants – yet they seem to be quite effective in riling up emotion, even when from a nameless avatar.

    I think it was honorable that you stepped in for someone under attack. We should also be looking out for each other more. Unfortunately, the Internet is full of cranky people looking to flame their next victim. And with the absence of any real vocal tone or facial expressions, oftentimes people put their own emotion into whatever they’re reading (email, post, tweet, IM) and then react.

    Unfollow/block is the easiest defense to people looking for a fight.

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