Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Welcome to the Dark Underbelly of Social Media

I should have expected this. In fact, I'm pretty surprised I hadn't experienced anything like it before, given that I've been fairly active on social media and the internet for over a decade. But until this week, I've never experienced being targeted by strangers on the 'net because my beliefs disagree with theirs.

And I recognize I've been lucky. Most of the nasty tweets directed my way were scattershot, rather than personally targeted abuse or direct threats. Other women have been 'doxxed' and harassed and threatened for their mere existence.

But this week (among other things) I've been called 'retarded', 'brain dead', a communist, and outed as Jewish by a self-described anti-immigration, anti-islamic twitter account that bracketed my name in triple parentheses.  That last one is pretty bizzare. My last name is Cohen. It's not at all a secret that my heritage is Jewish. Which has nothing to do with my activity on twitter.

And what did I do and say to attract such nastiness? I retweeted some of Senator Elizabeth Warren's tweets and then made my own tweet to her appreciating that she was my senator.

Apparently that was the last straw.

Apparently hordes of anti-everything folks watch the public twitter timelines looking for anyone who uses Elizabeth Warren's name in a tweet and then start the rude message brigade.

I don't understand what these people hope to accomplish or why they targeted me this time. I'm not someone famous. I'm not a spokesman for anything other than my own mind. And I will say what I say because I have the right to say it. If someone doesn't like what I say publicly, they have the right to either block me, ignore me, or enter into dialogue with me about it.

I'm a grown up. I can disagree without denigrating someone or threatening them. I can even carry on a reasonable conversation with people I disagree with. Shocking! Right?

All the accounts that have sent rude tweets my way have been pseudonyms with either 'blue eggs' or logos as photos. I use my real name and my real photograph. (Hey Twitter! I'm actually a real person. Why won't you allow me to go through your verification process?)

And I still come back to the main question: What do they hope to accomplish? I'm not going to have some sudden epiphany and decide I support hatred, prejudice, and misogyny. I'm not going to delete my social media accounts and be silent. I'm also not going to attack or otherwise engage people who have already shown me they have no interest in dialogue.

What I will do is report and block, though I know it doesn't address the bigger problem. And then I'll move on, because I have better things to do than name-calling.


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  1. Hi, Lisa. I use @BlockTogether ( to keep morons out of my feed. Here's my blocklist; you can subscribe and block the same people I do. As you subscribe to more blocklists, you'll prevent more idiots from being able to reach you.

    1. Thanks, Matthew. I need to get that running.

  2. I think you're making a fundamental mistake in asking what they hope to accomplish; like members of any mob, they're not trying to change anyone's mind - they're just there to be angry and throw bricks at something. You just happen to be that 'something' at the time.

    1. True enough. All behavior does have a reason; the reason for this kind of trolling isn't personal. It says more about the trolls than anything else. Most vandals want attention. I don't give them that satisfaction.