Second day back at work and NZ Twitter is already the site of pointless feuds, the latest one causing one of the best journalists in the country to delete her account so she doesn’t have to engage with progressive activists any more.
Something I think most people don’t get about social-media pile-ons is that being the subject of one is disproportionately upsetting and aggravating in a way that’s hard to comprehend unless you’ve been there. I’ve been having debates and arguments and fights on social media for years, and gotten all sorts of weird abuse and threats for things I’ve written, and none of it really affects me. But having your timeline flood with insults and call-outs and criticism and snark from dozens of people all at once is really genuinely upsetting. I’m not sure why. But it is. Even if someone has a really good point to make it generally gets lost in all the noise and just contributes to the sense of being unfairly ganged-up on, usually over something trivial.
So maybe don’t pile into a debate and call someone out unless you have really, really good reason. Especially if you can see that lots of other people are already making the exact same point you want to. Especially if you’re a guy and you’re about to explain feminism to a women (The advent of packs of aggrieved progressive white dudes angrily lamenting white male privilege without a shred of self-awareness/irony and turning mostly civil discussions into toxic shit-fights is, I think, not the best thing that’s happened to identity politics.)
Especially if the thing that’s offended you is not really in the grand scheme of things, particularly offensive. I know, I know, in identity politics everything is political, everything ties to patriarchy and privilege, everything is important. But this just seemed like a really trivial thing to lose the ability to engage with a first-class journalist over.
Online progressive activists tend to have a high regard for what they do: they’re educating people, speaking truth to power, changing the world, etc. But mostly the result of this education and challenging via social media pile-ons and call-outs seems to result in the subjects hating progressive activists and identity politics and/or deleting their social media accounts. These don’t seem like big wins for the cause. It often feels to me like the real goal here is to have fun shitting all over people while feeling sanctimonious about it.
Update: response to this in the comments here.