Trolls, twitter and growing the fuck up.
I know what you’re thinking: no I am not going to be directing Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
So, we are judging people purely on their worst moments now. This is definitely a good idea and will absolutely encourage people to educate themselves and learn from others in order to change for the better.
Trial by twitter doesn't work, because mob mentality isn't conducive to actually getting to the point of a conversation. It is name calling, finger pointing, rumours, gossip, lies, hate, anger, jealousy, rage, accusations, storytelling and abuse in order to make sure you get one over on another human being.
For me this all started when two screenshots from this account started doing the rounds amongst gleeful people happy to watch someone fail. The screenshots featured a racial slur that I have publicly said I had never sent from this account. I'm sorry if this isn't the answer you were looking for. I'm sorry if you wanted me to be a racist, or to reveal a dark past so you could dance with joy at my demise but it's a boring story. Sorry. You can find the explanation in my last blog I'm not going through all that again.
These two screenshots were like catnip to trolls. Suddenly dozens of accounts with nothing better to do were searching my account for anything offensive they could find to use against me (or the lazy amongst them just photoshopped their own). However, some did find some tweets that in hindsight I wish I'd never posted, and they posted them to each other like they'd found their golden ticket, they had found their way to gain notoriety within some drama, they had someone else's attention. It's always about attention.
I locked my account and started going through my old tweets. I sat with my wife as we searched every offensive word we could think of. To address this problem directly, I deleted everything that could be misconstrued, everything that could be photoshopped to be negative and anything that contained any word that could be taken out of context. When searching for these terms, most results were empty, but some came back with poorly constructed attempts at humour from between 2009-2011. Some were offensive out of context, stupid in jokes between friends, some were down right offensive with the only purpose to offend.
I don't remember writing most of these. I was a drunken idiot in his early twenties, a lonely self-pitying arsehole. There is a big difference between that person and who I am now. I have grown, learnt, loved, and done everything else a human being does in order to better themselves. I have educated myself to be compassionate towards others, to learn to understand people, and to never jump to conclusions without proper research.
If you now want to judge me purely on a few bad sentences sent by an idiot a decade ago then frankly this blog isn't going to change your mind. However, if these tweets are the biggest thing going on in your life right now, you really need to evaluate the way you conduct yourself.
I've read about extensive trolling before. It's a far too common theme nowadays. People getting pushed off social media platforms for having a different opinion or standing for something the mob don't like. I've had my run ins with trolls before. A MAGA account telling me they will gun me down, a Tommy Robinson fan messaging me to share how they wish I would get stabbed, violent brexiteers saying they would send a bomb to my post-box... you know completely normal things you'd say to strangers on the Internet. But this time, this time the trolls were out for blood, for my career, for my reputation and my happiness.
Trolling isn't a hobby any more, it's a sport. It's an activity to see who can take down who and who can do it the fastest. To see who can ruin a life or a career for a laugh. There is no empathy there, no humanity, it is blind anger.
In two days, two accounts between them had sent over 500 tweets just about me. All of these tweets encouraging more people to send me abuse, to send me threats, to paint me as a racist, a coward. They took a still from a video I did for a news channel, when I was discussing suicide and obviously looking emotional, and photoshopped it onto whatever they could. They created parody accounts of me, they tweeted people I had worked for, they spammed my book reviews with hate, they harassed every single person who asked if I was ok. They sent abuse to my wife, and after finding out I was a mental health writer began incessantly telling me that they hope I break and give in to the depression.
At no point was any of this rational. It was an attack where the only objective was to make me quit. Accounts jumped on the hate bandwagon and publicly said 'I have no idea who this is but I'm with you', or would start writing conspiracy theories about me with the only objective to be part of this wave of hate. Responses came in saying I was a racist, but at no point were they angry about me being a racist. It was never about the racism - racism for them was a way in, a way to project their fears of being labelled onto me. 80% of the accounts I saw trolling me had Islamophobic, transphobic, racist tweets and retweets further down their timelines. The big issues don’t matter to them, they only wanted to see a fall from grace, to see someone crumble.
I apologise for any old tweets of mine that have genuinely caused offense to anyone, I apologise that anyone has to see screenshots of this account with a racial slur attached to them. This whole experience has helped me realise that people have to evolve and grow in order to become better people. As twitter is a site where you post a lot, it is of course going to imply that some of us used to be problematic, but all we can do is prove that we aren't that person anymore, that our values and compassion are real and try to use our voices to fight against language and beliefs that we now know to be vile and wrong.
I realise that this account having racial slurs associated with its name will be seen as hypocritical, especially with how vocal I have been about how much I abhor racism, and I am sure that my future mentions will be filled with idiots trying to one up me, however I will not stop publicly denouncing racism of any sort, no matter how normalised or disguised as satire it may be. I have a platform where I can speak as I choose, I will keep working to battle stigma around mental health problems, I will continue to call the Tories twats, I will continue to write absolute nonsense and I will continue to call a racist a racist.
This trial by twitter and pitch fork mob mentality are not healthy for anyone involved in these arguments and will never solve anything around these cases. I hope people can see that blind outrage without understanding or research do more damage than good. These attacks can seriously damage lives, 3 or 4 years ago I would not have been strong enough to take this amount of abuse, I would have broken. Some people on twitter are vulnerable, people on twitter are trying their best, but some people on this website only sit on here to fuel anger, hate, division and pain.
If you don’t like someone on twitter, don’t follow them. If you dislike someone so much you don’t want to see their tweets, block them. If they are being abusive, report them. Think to yourself, how does this person - who I do not know and have no intention of knowing - affect my life directly? If the biggest problem in your life right now is that you don’t like someone else’s tweets, you need to gain perspective. If you believe the biggest problem in the world right now is a stranger’s twitter feed, you need to gain perspective. If you think that spending all your free time sending abuse, death threats and bile to people on the internet is the best us of your time, feel free to take a flying leap into a fucking bin.