I am still absolutely small potatoes on Twitter — I’m nowhere close to even one hundred followers, and I don’t see that changing dramatically anytime soon — so when someone starts following me, I have time to take notice. This morning the notice caught my eye as soon as I opened my email inbox:
“ifollowHATE (@ifollowHATE) is now following you on Twitter!”
I was a tiny bit taken aback by this, and clicked to see the profile for this charmingly-named account: this consisted of a brief statement of opposition to the proposed marriage amendment to the state constitution in North Carolina (a state I have never come close to visiting). Not sure exactly what I had posted to put me in this individual’s social media crosshairs, I posted a wry comment, which was replied to in short order:
Ah, I see. So it wasn’t anything I had said, but rather some account among the three hundred nineteen that I follow that this person had branded with the lazy label of “hate group” for their stance on this matter. Well, as I observed in direct response, that is a system of sorts, so whatever works for him or her.
But really, it is tiresome, and tiring. Why label and name-call? Is this undertaken as a public service, to alert me and others (@ifollowHATE was following 2,368 accounts last I checked) that we might have inadvertently followed a “hate group” without knowing it? Or am I now I “hate group” myself? I’m still confused about the parameters, but any way I try to slice it for myself, what glares out at me is what a ridiculously narrow view of how social media works that this person is displaying by this single gimmicky endeavor. Frankly, I find it a little insulting that anyone would assume that I must agree with any and all views of everyone of the more than 300 very assorted Twitter users that I have found interesting for any of a score of reasons.
One of the greatest drawbacks of most social media networks is that they can become vastly insulating for the user: the friends we interact with are from similar backgrounds, enjoy similar movies, music, and shows, hold similar socio-politco-economic views. And while many might see this as a great advantage, limiting ourselves to the company of the like-minded is always ultimately going to be exactly that: limiting. Speaking from my own approach to social media in general, and to Twitter in particular, if I want to be part of the conversation (and eventually I do), then I need to be listening to everyone else in the conversation, those I agree with, those I do not, and all the gradations in between. That’s how I do Twitter, and while am under no illusion that it is the only way to use this or any other network, I am disappointed that some feel so strongly that it should be used instead to reinforce the already tragic polarization of our societal discourse. Before we can talk to each other, we need to stop talking at each other and start listening to each other as if we actually cared.