I had some time this weekend to idly look at Twitter. After I had read the content of those who I follow and then browsed the interesting Twitter Trending topics I started to look for a promising subject to interact with.
The Twitter Trending topics are generally mature discussions by the time they are aired and most angles are covered by then. Twitter is very much a now thing and subject matter is quickly outdated so getting involved on anything here is mostly futile.
My next point of call may be Twitter’s own selected suggestions. However these are rarely useful. With only three suggestions made and each from an algorithm that is too narrow so I usually find these pointless.
If I’m in the mood for discussion I don’t want a viewpoint that is just like my own and I certainly don’t think a conversation with someone who mostly re-tweets other people’s material would be satisfactory. I appreciate an original thinker, someone prepared to do a little bit of writing.
Finally, in the absence of a genuine random Twitter Feed I look to the suggestions the service makes based on my perceived likes. In my case these subjects are cars and comedians. Naturally my tastes are wider than this of course but not according to Twitter.
So I read these offerings and often chip in with comments on the subjects that most interest me.
And, if I have some time, I seek to increase my options by looking at who else is commenting on these subjects and then possibly delve deeper into their feeds as well.
It was during a search like this that I happened upon a user who had themselves commented on a celebrity Tweet. One that is irrelevant to this tale and now long forgotten.
I checked a little deeper and discovered that this person appeared to use the service in the way that I do. That is to say original written content, not merely a lazy bunch of re-tweets, pictures of their food/cats or tiresome religious style quotations. And I noticed that they had pinned an interesting Tweet to the top of their feed which was a survey about whether a particular, named comedian was funny.
In the way the survey question was set out I immediately anticipated that the author didn’t actually want to know the answer but really wanted to take an opportunity to gather like minded dislikes.
But I noticed the survey was flawed as it offered up three options – Funny, Not Funny or Irrelevant. You can probably already see why I jumped to the conclusion about the bias of the survey.
Anyway, in a bid to encourage this member I opened a discussion suggesting the flaw in such a survey, positing that one could conclude two answers were correct and a conversation followed. The Tweeter even posted a ‘like’ on my comment.
They then explained it was only an attempt to measure respondents to see what sort of people they were and I replied with the point that a respondent’s Twitter avatar was not necessarily an indication of who was making the choice.
The author then clarified a point about their original Tweet and them actually seeking an Echo Chamber Effect, which is, to quote Wikipedia, ‘a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system’. They then clearly pointed out that they wanted respondents to think like they did and agree that the comedian was clearly not funny.
In actual fact, although often controversial, the comedian is highly popular so on the spectrum of comedians should generally be classed as funny given such limited choices.
So I took the survey and marked them as funny. At which point I was able to note that I was the only one who had done this. Twitter surveys do not let you know the trend or votes until a vote is cast, which prevents forced bias toward a less popular choice.
I wasn’t really such an outlier. In fairness only eight others had bothered with the survey, a very low, statistically unreliable number, mostly voting for Not Funny. This contravened an earlier claim by the author that the option Irrelevant was trending.
Then I re-engaged with the author noting this skew towards the idea that the comedian was Not Funny and added a comment that this was a typical response to a comedian’s work in general. To reinforce the point, I also suggested that, as opposed to comics, poor actors don’t suffer from surveys about the quality of their work.
It appears that this hit a nerve. A reply came back stating that the survey was over a week old and as I was now responding they assumed that I had actively sought out the Tweet just to be a ‘spoilsport’, along with a suggestion that I desist being such a person and a ending the message with a firm invite to leave the conversation.
A few points to note:
- The survey was still active and had another day and some hours to finish
- I found it because it was pinned to the top of the user’s feed. A place Twitter users can ensure they get maximum attention
- Twitter doesn’t work that way. People can join and leave when they wish to. It is a public forum
- I could even claim it was my own conversation topic that I was being strongly invited to leave
I felt I had been unfairly libelled about the motive for my conversation and unfairly called a name. So I decided, as is my right, to politely reply once more.
I noted that they had misinterpreted my intention, that I didn’t seek the tweet but came across it and thought it interesting so started the conversation. I added that they now choose to terminate it, rather impolitely. And suggested that I seemingly didn’t fit their narrative. However I did finally note that I will leave them to it and finished off with a simple message – Be kind.
I had no intention of continuing a conversation that appeared to have reached an impasse.
However curiosity led to me checking to see if a response came and as I was reading the rude comments that were being fired back by the author to their followers, without including me, the feed suddenly disappeared.
I had been blocked.
Unable to see the rest of the continued libel and unable to respond.
It was the Twitter equivalent of someone steaming out of the room whilst shouting back abuse and slamming the door.
Let me be clear. I do not object to being blocked. If you can’t handle a conversation that is not feeding your own bias then that is fine. Everybody has a right to be who they choose to be.
I find it sad, however, that this person does not wish to open their mind at all to a reasoned, alternative point of view.
And downright rude to be libellous without being subject to recourse.
After all, when all is said and done, I took some time to carefully craft an interesting conversation with a low level user of a system where my only expressed opinion was that comedian’s generally get a raw deal and I had taken some of my valuable time to take part in that person’s public survey expressing an honest opinion. A survey which had hardly received any other traction from a person who I initially thought might deserve more than their handful of followers. Generally I try to support those with less followers and initially thought I may have discovered another interesting person to follow.
In continuation of my polite attitude towards this exchange I have not sought to belittle the Twitterer on this platform who I had the conversation with so will not advertise their details here.
Nor will I name the comedian who was being subjected to the initial attempted trolling. In fact it is interesting that although named in the original survey no attempt was made to involve them as no hashtag or Twitter handle was included by the original author.
However, as can be rightly conferred throughout this article I am interested in thoughts about this exchange, the merits and disadvantages of being a comedian and of learning alternative opinions. So please feel free to comment.
And I promise you, no matter what you think I will not block you. Because that way I am really blocking myself.
Plus, I know, it does hurt a little.
Author: Vince Poynter
An original article, published here first on WordPress, 26 Mar 2018