If you follow any prominent columnist on Twitter, be it in sports or politics, you have no doubt been exposed to the occasional deluge of angry, hateful and sometimes deranged retweets. Every time an opinion writer states an opinion, a tiny minority of their followers will send the person a mean-spirited hate-tweet or a half-baked conspiracy theory. Rather than simply ignoring and blocking such people, a growing number of prominent people have chosen to retweet these messages to all of their followers. This needs to stop.
There are two reasons why people retweet their deranged followers, both of which are misguided. The most common reason is simply to say to the rest of their followers “Do you see what I have to put up with?” Well, on behalf of all of your civilized followers, we know what you put up with. We know that there are all kinds of angry people out there who say angry and mean things online. You don’t need to remind us.
The other, less common reason for these retweets is to embarrass these so-called Twitter trolls by broadcasting their terrible comments to the world. Many loyal followers often bombard the troll with tweets chastising him or her for their comment, sometimes with hateful words of their own. This is a waste of time as these type of people typically do not have any shame and all of the responses actually play into the person’s craving for attention. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the problem of too much negativity online will be solved with additional negativity.
Most of the people on earth are good people, or at the very least, not horrible people. In an age when the internet and social media have served to provide a giant megaphone for every negative and depressing thing that ever happens, it is easy to start thinking that that the world is a horrible place filled with horrible people and things are getting worse by the minute. I’m not a sociologist, but that kind of world view cannot be healthy.
One of the biggest problems with retweeting hate-tweets is that it gives angry, isolated people a feeling that they are not alone. If you are sitting in front of your computer, hating the world and everyone in it, and all you see around you are sensible, functional people, you might at some point question whether it is you that has a problem. If, however, you see all kinds of angry and paranoid tweets being retweeted by the prominent people you follow, you may take comfort in thinking that there are many others out there who hate the world just as much as you. You may start following those people and retweeting them.
The recent shootings in Ottawa in many ways brought out the best in people, as strangers rushed to save a dying soldier and many people risked their lives to stop the shooter. If you spent any time on Twitter, however, you would see no shortage of people taking advantage of the moment to spew their agenda driven venom, be it attacking the government or Muslims. Some pundits retweeted a sampling of these tweets while others simply summarized all of the hate tweets. Perhaps society would be a little better off if prominent columnists would just let us all remain in our state of innocence about the nasty side of social media.