So, some things happened on Twitter, and I freaked out. I won't go into what happened, as that's not important as far as this blog post. What is important about the incident is what followed: someone fucked up, and a mob formed.
"So what? It doesn't involve you, does it?" you may ask.
Well, yes and no.
See, I don't follow the person who fucked up. I haven't for a long time, thanks to politics being talked about on their timeline. However, that doesn't keep people from using three tools, two of which I saw in use during this shitstorm:
- Retweets, which can be muted ONLY when they are native retweets. (Wasn't used directly, but still relevant)
- "Subtweets" and Public Replies (dot before the username), which can only be muted if you mute the user entirely.
- Replies between two or more people you follow, even if the rest of the conversation isn't visible. Can only be muted by muting the user.
Now, here's the problem: these two methods used during the shitstorm can't be muted without muting or unfollowing a user. Why is this bad? Because muting them mutes everything they do in your timeline. Unlike Facebook and Google+, where you can mute conversations and posts on their own, Twitter doesn't offer that feature. In fact, #3 was added recently to "encourage engagement among users", and just like Quote Retweets, there's no way to turn off the feature. I've even seen it crop up in Tweetdeck.
These are people I enjoy speaking with on occasion, and muting them keeps their DMs and Replies from even showing up in your notifications. If you mute someone, it's as if you unfollowed them, even though you still follow them. So that's not really a solution on Twitter. You, as the user, are backed into a corner, and will lose no matter what.
So...There's obviously an underlying reason why I'm explaining this, and here it is...
Some people are triggered by words bringing up bad memories or feelings. For me, it's seeing people ganged up on by an internet mob. I've gone through this mob hell in THREE SEPARATE INCIDENTS, two of which I can recant easily, and the last I've effectively blocked from my mind.
Back when I was a YouTuber, I was targeted by a channel that took videos and overlayed commentary from the hosts. In the case of this channel, it was mostly tasteless (but funny) humor, and I didn't mind too much. What I did mind was that their fans were trashing my channel with hateful comments, encouraging me to commit suicide, and so on. That wasn't too bad, but I couldn't clean it up since it was flowing in faster than I could stop it. Turning off comments on one video lead them to go to other videos, and back then, you couldn't mass-close videos.
Then, thanks to someone tearing down the videos that mocked me and ending up having the channel suspended, people went full-tilt on me with hate and threats. This included death threats. Of course, back then Google cared about such issues almost as much as they do now—so as to say they didn't give a shit, and still don't. It all went by without aid from Google, and in the end, I gave up on YouTube. I even got an Encyclopedia Dramatica page for my troubles...
The second incident involved my old blog from a LONG time ago. I'd just bought an HP desktop that refused to boot, I speculated as to why, but I didn't know what it was. I was pissed, and it seemed to be SecureBoot and UEFI at fault. I mention this, but I didn't know what it was, and left it at that.
Later on, I noticed that the views on my blog shot up. Found out that a Free Software fanatic on Identi.ca (a StatusNet/GNU Social instance) shared my blog entry, and it spread to HackerNews...then Reddit...then a SLEW of sites—many of them Russian and Spanish language sites, so I didn't know what was being said. It eventually ended with me being attacked on my own blog, said blog (on Wordpress.com at the time) being DDoSed off the net, me being attacked on HackerNews and Reddit, people claiming that the sharer was me, and me getting doxed by someone on Reddit. A FUCKTON of shit happened, I had threats and hate thrown at me from every direction, and in most cases, I couldn't fight back without looking the aggressor!!!!!
It put me in a dark place back then, and I'm not afraid to admit that.
Now, think what this does to someone who isn't really fond of crowds in general. It's a fucking mess, and it made me a mess. When I see it happening to others, it brings back those memories, and it makes me want to withdraw from the internet even more. Twitter is a place where one fuck-up can ruin you for life now—or, you know, making you the fucking President of the United States, but that's neither here or now.
The point is: I've been there. I've been at the bad end of mobs, and it's NOT fun. In fact, it's terrifying. Think about that when you think that holding someone accountable in the court of public opinion is the best option to deal with an asshole. You might not be thinking that if you find out they committed or attempted suicide because of the resulting mob backlash. And if you do...well, you have different morals than I do.