As fandom stuff winds up, I want to have this available as a general post I can point at when people wonder Why Patrick is Being Mean. Here are a few key points that people maybe don’t always have in the forefront of your mind while dealing with people who have, while not a ton of followers, enough that they deal with a significant amount of noise on a daily basis. (As of writing this, I have around 49k followers on Twitter. Currently, that is dinky by the standards of anyone whose job is to have a public persona, like an influencer or celebrity, but still enough to be a significant platform by normal person standards.)
Social Media is a Public Space
This means three things:
- We are all allowed to say whatever foolish thing we like, as long as we’re not violating the terms of service.
- We should be prepared for anyone in the world to potentially read the thing we just posted.
- People who are not working as your personal customer service rep are entitled to cut off your access to them at any time and for any reason.
So if you trash my company, my coworkers, or me, and it gets in front of my eyeballs, there’s a decent chance I’m just going to block you, so that I don’t have to worry about reading whatever you’re saying. That doesn’t mean I disapprove of you saying it or think you shouldn’t be allowed to say it. It just means you aren’t entitled to make me hear it.
I have been blocked by people. Sometimes I have no idea what I did to get on their block list. And it’s okay! We are just not going to interact on social media, and that’s probably okay for everyone involved.
“But you’re missing valuable criticism of–“
No, I’m not. I get valuable criticism every day from people who know what they’re talking about.
“But as a public person, you have a responsibility–“
No, I don’t. They can still get any info they want from the official work social media accounts. Nobody is entitled to my personal social media stuff. I can block or allow anyone I like on that account, based entirely on whether they irritate me when their posts go in front of my eyeballs.
Using Someone’s Name is an Invitation
Everything I just wrote applies to any post. I am 100% allowed, as a person, to block anybody I like for literally any reason. A perfectly nice person who posts a lot of monkey pictures that other people retweet? I’m blocking them. I just can’t with monkeys. It’s not them. It’s me.
But if I have a hundred times as many followers as that monkey-posting person does, it would be rude of me to to use our relative follower imbalance as a cudgel by putting them on blast in a negative way. Quote-tweeting them into my timeline and telling people that anyone who posts pictures of monkeys is a terrible person would be bad. At my current follower count, even just replying with, “Ugh, monkeys as the worst,” might be enough to cause some of my followers to see it and go after them on my behalf without my permission or desire, so I try to be careful about what I post in that regard.
However, as soon as you @-me, or attribute words to me directly? You have invoked my name, and the consequences of that fall upon you.
I don’t normally quote-tweet people who come into my mentions and are rude, abusive, or condescending, and the bar is higher for me replying at all, but that’s because I’m trying to be more positive in general, and the odds that I’m going to convince someone to be a better person by engaging with their toxic behavior are, I have learned, really low. But if you are an asshole with the intent of me seeing it, you do not get to dictate the terms of how I respond to you being an asshole.
If you start the fight, you do not get to complain that your enemy has a cooler sword than you do. Consider this a valuable life lesson.
As for putting up something that falsely attributes something to me, you should be aware that that will get you on my bad list very quickly. For you, it was a joke or a silly meme that nobody should take seriously. And yet, unless you specifically tagged me in it, the reason I’m getting it shoved in front of my eyeballs is that somebody did take it seriously, and now it is my problem that people think I said a thing or did a thing because of your hilarious fake screenshot. You have given me a pit-of-my-stomach dread that comes from knowing someone is making up stuff about me, and other people are believing it.. and now I have to put down whatever I was doing to deal with it.
And I will usually try to do that as gently as possible, but yes, the internet is a lawless place full of people with varying levels of social understanding, and there’s a chance that even if I was reasonably polite, someone else is going to come in and call you an asshole. And that sucks! I wish it didn’t happen!
But I did not cause this. You did. You used my name and pulled me into this.
I have been on the receiving end of this kind of lesson. It’s not fun, I’m aware. And as I said, I will try to be minimally retaliatory, because having been on the receiving end, I know it’s mortifying. I am more likely to just reply than to quote-tweet, or to screenshot a tweet and mark out the username while saying, “In general, please do not do this,” so that fewer people are likely to go yell at you on my behalf.
(And to be clear again, this applies to people who are putting words in my mouth or coming into my timeline. If people talk about what an asshole I am on their own timeline but don’t tag me or falsify things I have said, well, I might block it if it somehow finds its way into my eyeballs, but I’m unlikely to pick a fight with you for talking trash. You do you over there.)
“But you don’t understand the power imbalance–“
Yes, I do.
Which is why I don’t pick random fights these days. I don’t go out of my way looking for people to leverage my social media presence on. If I post directly at someone to ask them to stop doing something, it is because they have caused me personal harm with their actions. And while I will try not to cause harm myself while resolving the situation… I am not the one who started this.
I have enough followers to get into trouble when I shoot my mouth off, so please believe that if I reply to someone who is rude to me, it is because I have done the math and come to the conclusion that this one requires a reply.
“But it’s part of your job to–”
No, it is not. I am not the customer service department. I am a person. If you cause me irritation, I am fully within my rights to cut off communication with you. If you cause me actual harm, I am within my rights to address that harm.
The fact that I choose not to address that harm so often. because I get told not to feed the trolls, or just to ignore them because they don’t understand that I’m a person, or that it might cause awkwardness for the company if I replied to people who were saying horrible things to me, is actually kind of messed up when you think about it. I got to deal with people replying to pictures of me at the park for a birthday party telling me they hoped my kids got cancer because they didn’t like the ending of a video game I worked on, so please understand, all of you who are quite certain I’m misusing my platform by even replying to people being rude to me, that you don’t actually know what you are talking about, and for that, you should be truly grateful.
Please Don’t Worry, and Please Don’t Dogpile
Everything I just wrote might sound scary, like I’m sitting in judgment and preparing to fire a superweapon at anyone who crosses me.
The truth is that most people who interact on social media are great. That’s the reason I’m still here.
If you write something awkward to me, or tell a joke that goes flat, even if I’m mentioned in the tweet, the odds are pretty good that I’m just going to say to myself, “Okay, but they meant well,” and scroll by it.
But when people have reached out to me and said, “Hey, I know you probably didn’t mean it this way, but this thing you said kind of hurt some feelings,” I have appreciated that, because there are very few people I want to cause harm to with what I write. And I assume that most people feel the same way I do, and can actually take a polite “Hey, this actually hurt my feelings,” as a chance to learn that they caused unintentional harm and do better next time instead of as a big personal attack.
So unless you go really really looking to start a fight with me, you’re probably fine.
And unless I have signaled clearly that I really want you to go after someone else on my behalf, please don’t escalate a situation. I appreciate the support, but you might be one of 100 people jumping into that person’s mentions to tell them they’re being rude, and at that point, it quickly stops being an opportunity for growth and becomes abuse that drives people to delete their account in tears. And even if they were wrong in the first place, they don’t deserve that! Very few people do!
So please… just be kind to each other in general.