To tweet or not to tweet: That is the question.

I have been active on Twitter for almost 4 years. I was @naturalurbanmom for most of that, @SAHFeminist for a bit and now you can find me @NatashaChiam. I have sent almost 28,000 tweets in that time, have just over 4000 followers and am following ~1900 folks myself. I use Twitter in a few different ways. It is a way for me to stay up to date with news and world events (I follow a few trusted news agencies), to know what's going on in circles that matter to me (feminism, parenting, #YEG), to share my writing and blog with a larger audience and to stay in contact with friends near and far.

I LIKE Twitter. A LOT. I like that it is a real-time social tool and I like a lot of the people I have "met" via this platform. And on Twitter, I am ME. Yes, it also says Stay@HomeFeminist on my profile, and I live that reality every day, online and off.

But like anything in our highly digital world these days, Twitter has an ugly side. Or rather, Twitter allows for the ugly side of humanity to manifest itself a little bit easier.

We see it time and time again. A beautiful woman of colour wins the Miss America pageant and BOOM! The VERY ugly side of Twitter erupts. A woman wants to talk about Tropes in video games/pop culture and her life is threatened. And you can find countless awful examples of sexism and racism all over social media. These days Twitter is the no-holds-barred medium of the troll, the bully, the poor-priveledged-me's and the NIMBY's of the world and you can actually fit quite a few mean and hateful words into 140 characters.

Twitter seems to also be the place for people to have "personas". There is a whole subculture of Twitter, the so-called 'Weird Twitter', where people have anonymous accounts to which they can post all kinds of wacky, often highly inappropriate for everyday conversation things and they get to be all, well... weird. I am not knocking it, I just really don't get it.

And then there are the people who are "really nice IRL (in real life) or offline, but assholes online." To be perfectly honest, these are the ones that I have a hard time wrapping my brain around and the ones that piss me off the most. These are the subtweeters, the "I am not saying anything directly to you, or about you, but I'll just tweet MY OPINION about this topic and you can't get offended because it is only my opinion and it's not my fault if you don't like it."  These online assholes are the subtle or not so subtle mockers of the internet. The ones that for some reason actually believe that their ONLINE personas do not represent the 'real' them and because of this and to keep up the act, think that it is totally acceptable for them to be assholes online.

The problem as I see it is this. An asshole is an asshole is an asshole. Whether you are online or off, 140 characters or 1200 words or face-to-face. And you can replace asshole with bully, or someone who plays the victim all the time, or any number of folks who insist on maintaining that their online 'personas' are separate from the real them.

This clip from Louis CK on Conan has been making the rounds this week and I am going to post it again. And while he is talking about why cell phones (and by extension what kids are doing on said cell phones) are toxic for our children, I think that too much of anything is toxic for ANYONE and that too much social media puts us all at risk of losing some of our empathy and turning into the "stupid kids".

[youtube]http://youtu.be/5HbYScltf1c[/youtube]

The validation that people get with a RT or an LMAO or a 'LIKE' is NOT real. The mean words that people write on any social media platform are and can have profound effects on others and for the most part, there are no real world consequences for them. Often these exchanges get chalked up to, "You misinterpreted my TONE' , and/or the apology of the bully, 'I'm sorry you felt bad and misunderstood my words, but that is on you, not me'. Yeah, online or IRL, that shit doesn't fly with me (and for me that kind of behaviour online often results in an unfollow and/or block).

Like she was reading my mind today, Glennon at The Momastery wrote about the dangers of social media (and cereal). She took a 40 day hiatus from social media and learned some life lessons that I definitely needed reminding of today.

"During my internet fast, I learned that Social Media makes me feel bad. I wish I were cooler so it wouldn’t affect me, but it does. I once saw an Olympic swimmer interviewed after winning a race and she said “I swim best when I mentally stay in my own lane.” Me too. Social media just takes me right out of my own lane- every single time. No matter how satisfied I am with my life, career, family, social life – as soon as I log on and peek into others’ lives, I immediately feel that unease caused by comparison. I start to doubt myself. I just feel a little kernel of doubt settle into my gut and it feels really bad. Comparison is the thief of joy, and social media is a breeding ground for comparison."

And I'd go one step further and say that social media is also a breeding ground for those that like to bulldoze over others in the name of "having an opinion" and for people to let their inner asshole out to play with little to no regard for others or the consequences of their 140 characters.

It's enough to make a girl want to go on an internet fast of her own.

Which is what I just might do.

Maybe.

Starting in about 10 days.

You know, after I get back from that, ahem... social media/blogging conference thing.

{I know, I know, I have a problem.}

Signing off

{for today},

natasha~