Monday, February 4, 2013

A Guide to (and a Plea for) Propriety on Social Media

Hi, sweet readers! I want to talk to you about something serious today.

A few months ago, I blocked someone on Twitter.
I can't remember exactly why - whether he was being overly confrontational, sexually suggestive, or otherwise inappropriate - and it doesn't matter. (I've blocked people for many reasons, those being the most common.)

 I blocked him because, for whatever reason, I no longer wanted him to be able to communicate with me on Twitter. 
It is my right to make that decision, and so I did.
That week, he emailed me. I can't remember exactly what he wrote - whether he was apologizing, asking why he was blocked, or asking to be unblocked, it doesn't matter.
I no longer wanted to communicate with him, and so I didn't reply.

Weeks went by and I thought this person would now leave me alone.

I was wrong.

Last night, I received another email from him, asking me to "please, please unblock him on Twitter."

It sounds innocent enough, and maybe it is. Probably it is, even. But the fact that this person is going out of his way to ask me to unblock him on a social media site that should be, in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal, scared me. Because the fact that he'll go out of his way to take the time to email me, makes me wonder if he'll be motivated enough to take any more steps. Any further steps - and he only lives one state away. And it's easy to find out where I work, and to approach me there. And, and, and.

So, even though I've been stewing about appropriate use of social media for quite some time, I felt that it was finally time to make an official blog post about it: A Guide to Propriety on Social Media.

The rules are simple to remember and easy to apply.

1. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, in public, don't say it on social media. Because social media is a public forum, and there is a person - with a face and a life and emotions - behind the screen.

This includes, but  is not limited to:

  • Aggression of any sort, whether over sports teams, writing/querying/publishing methods, politics, or comic book universes.
  • (Unwelcome/unsolicited) Sexual suggestiveness, explicit or implicit. (If you have to stop and ask yourself whether you're being sexually inappropriate, YOU ARE. Don't post or tweet that.)
  • Unsolicited advice. Meaning: If I didn't ask you how to write my book's blurb, style my hair,  or discipline my children, I don't want to know what you think. Really. I don't.


2. If something would get you a restraining order in real life, don't do it.
Think of Twitter as a high school.. If I've made it clear, by blocking or unfriending you, that I don't want you to sit at my lunch table, do not under any circumstances wait for me at my locker, come watch me at volleyball practice, or have your friends pass me notes in class.

It is creepy, and I will call the cops on you. I am not freaking kidding.


Here's the part where I defend myself, even though I strongly feel I don't need to. 

  •  I understand that people in violation of these rules may have real medically-explainable issues discerning appropriate social interactions. In the case of social media, that is their problem, not mine.
  •  Blocking, unfriending, or otherwise dissociating from someone on social media is neither a punishment nor harmful to that person. It is my personal decision to choose who I interact with - no more, and no less. 
  • I fully recognize that it's possible I'm overreacting. I would rather trust my own instincts, and be safe, than allow others to brush off my concerns, and be sorry.
  • I know that this is why some people use pseudonyms for every online interaction. Setting aside the fact that that would be nearly impossible for me personally, I did not use a pseudonym, and it's too late to do so now. 


I'll be watching and managing the comments to this post quite closely, because I don't want them to devolve into blaming anyone who has ever felt scared, worried, or victimized by social media abuse or creepiness. I also don't want this to turn into a platform for the person currently freaking me out to defend himself.

 So,  if you were about to do either of those things, please don't comment. Save yourself, and me, the time.

Thanks for those of you who are listening, and supporting me. You mean the world to me.

55 comments:

  1. Why some people don't realize how intimidating this is, I'll never know. Boundaries, y'all. It's not such a difficult concept.

    I hope he leaves you alone. <3

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  2. Sorry you had to deal with this. The Internet is strange in its ability to allow people to sometimes feel more uninhibited than IRL.

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    1. Isn't it? And to make me feel less safe, I guess. :-/ Thank you.

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  3. It would freak me out too, I hope he leaves you alone!

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  4. The lack of boundaries shown by some people simply amazes me, and I work with kids who have social impairments! I'm sorry this happened to you, hon, and I hope this person backs off.

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  5. Great post! Unfortunately, I think this happens so frequently because it's so much easier to be rude, creepy, and other inappropriate things when you don't have to look someone in the face. Some people abuse the anonymity of the internet. And just cause you don't have to look look at someone doesn't give you a free license to be a jerk!

    I really have to wonder how this person even knew if they were blocked as social media does not notify the user. They would have had to physically tried to go view your page again and in which case, they should have seen it as private, not blocked. Which means they did some serious inferring.

    At any rate I'm very sorry this happened to you, and I think you took the right approach in not engaging this person. People need to learn boundaries, even online. **HUGS** <3

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  6. I think your guide is awesome. There are so many crazy things that happen out there that you are 100% right . . . we have to trust our instincts. I'm just in awe that some stranger would e-mail you twice (!!) to get you to unblock him. CREEPY.

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    1. I KNOW. THANK YOU. CREEPY. *shudder*
      Really, Thank you. <3

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  7. You're definitely not overreacting. My Creepdar was going off like crazy as I read this. You've already said NO to this guy clearly and unambiguously. He's choosing not to respect that, and even if he doesn't have harmful intentions, he's clearly lacking respect for your boundaries, privacy, and personal wishes. This is not someone you want to interact with. This person needs help.

    As authors, we're public figures. We don't have the luxury of cloaking our real identities online, because we're supposed to *use* our real identities to "build a platform" and all that.

    You did the right thing. Cut off all contact at the first gut instinct of something being wrong, and do not engage him in any manner.

    There are -illions of good people out there who respect social boundaries. You never have to make concessions for one creep.

    Sadly, this blog is probably not going to get through to the people who do this, but at least it'll help those on the receiving end of this kind of abuse.

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    1. Thank you sweetie. I'm glad if it even just gives fortitude to anyone, you know?

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  8. LeighAnn:

    Our brains must be in sync because I just wrote a post today about being thoughtful when using social media.

    I hope that everything works out okay and that the person who is causing you undue grief gets the message.


    I'll be keeping good thoughts for you. :)

    Amy

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    1. WHAT???? I'll have to go look and comment!!! <3

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  9. I was compelled to write a post about this on my own blog a few months ago after seeing inappropriate Youtube comments on a Felicia Day video and, the the same day, seeing a lewd comment on the Facebook page of an indie author who I consider a friend. Some people apparently think that making rude remarks about a woman's breasts is a great way to get their attention, but what they fail to realize is that the attention is NEGATIVE.

    I appreciate the simple breakdown you wrote here. If you would not say it to their face, why would you think you should say it online?

    The fact that this stranger seems desperate to be unlocked would be a red flag for me, especially as I am always hesitant to block people. Trust your instincts; they keep you safe. I hope that, if he does turn out to be harmless, he will see this post and understand that he made you uncomfortable and back off.

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    1. Also, after what happened to Bookalicious Pam this winter, be safe!

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    2. It's so so so so SO gross what people will say. And red flags, yes. I hate to be a screamer, but my instincts are more important to me than anything, you know? Thank you. <3

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  10. Great post. The one thing you forgot? Employers look at this stuff too. I've been combing through junior writer resumes for the last few months at work and the first thing I do after looking at their online portfolio (which they absolutely must have if they want to work in marketing) is look up their social media profiles. They give you a good idea of who the person is outside of the polished interview process. I've weeded out a couple of crazies that way. The things people willingly put online about themselves blow my mind. Some of those youngsters need some lessons in self awareness.

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    1. Right! Employers! Dodgy behavior is dodgy behavior, plain and simple. Thanks, Austin.

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  11. Do not unblock and do not feel badly about it. Even if he's completely harmless, he's inserting himself and his needy negativity into your personal space. I've been there - it feels creepy and uncomfortable.

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    1. It *is* creepy and uncomfortable, and I still feel badly about it! Why? Thank you so much for your encouragement. <3

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  12. I don't think you're overreacting at all. It's funny (and by funny I mean NOT) - I'd heard about 'the Twitter crazies' and thought 'oh, how crazy could they really be?'...until I finally interacted with one and realized, oh, yeah. Pretty crazy. So I blocked this person but I was still totally freaked out for days by what he said to me. It was aggressive and inappropriate and ugh. *chills* I totally understand how you must be feeling! You did the right thing, though, and I hope this is the end of it. xo

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    1. Right??? It's amazing how much people can invade your psyche from so far away. Thank you so much for your support. <3

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  13. I had something similar happen when I was seventeen (eep). I used to be very personal with my blog posts... until some guy started sending me emails, asking if he could call me. It certainly made me feel less safe, and I have had a hard time trusting people I meet on the Internet (learning to get over this!).

    Really mad that this happened to you. But you're sweet to share in an excellent, concise post. <3 <3

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    1. SEVENTEEN!?!??! *clings to baby daughters* Wow. thank you for sharing. Thank you so much for your comments. <3

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  14. I really like this post. I will have to take some time and return to read the comments. It is so important to call out bad behavior and report misuse, slander, defamation, abuse, stalking, etc. We all have a right to be safe (feel safe) and not be taken down by others because they feel they can. All of this hits too close to home and I am so glad you are speaking out and raising awareness. Thank you Leigh Ann. My thoughts will be with you.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rebecca. It is important, even though it sometimes gets diminished.

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  15. When I saw your tweets about this, I actually did a little research about blocking and what it actually does. I was disturbed to see how little protection it offers against potential nutters. It's worrisome, because I also used my real name when I signed up. It's a little late to try to hide my identity now.

    One poorly thought out comment won't make me block someone. I mean, everyone has a bad day once in a while, or a minor lapse in judgment. Heck, for all I know their account was hacked and it wasn't even them sending the offending messages. But if they persist with inappropriate behavior, I'll block them in a heartbeat. I just wish there were something more concrete we could do to defend against it.

    In case your twitstalker is reading this, I hope he just backs off. The creepy persistence to get unblocked only confirms you were right to block him in the first place.

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    1. I know. The most panicky feeling is that there's just not much that can be done.

      You have a very kind heart. <3

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  16. Trust your instinct. I hope this matter quickly comes to an end for you.

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  17. I love you for posting this because I think a lot of people would've brushed it off and tried to pretend it was nothing, when maybe it isn't. It's always better to be safe, and you should always speak up for yourself. WHICH IS WHY I THINK YOU'RE AWESOME <3

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    1. Girl, you always make me feel like singing power anthems. All the hugs, honey. <3

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  18. Yipes. I'm new to social media myself, and before reading your blog and these comments, didn't realize how frequently it went down to that level. Good luck Leigh Ann, I always enjoy your tweets!

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  19. You're brave for posting this, and I'm so glad someone has said it. Twitter--the immediacy of it--freaks me out at times, too. I'm trying so hard to be open to meeting and interacting with new people (especially writers/bloggers/readers) but there are times when my wacko radar goes off and it's not a fun feeling. I've met some wonderful, lifelong friends on the internet. And I've also met some who I'm happy to see the back of. Let's just hope that you've seen the back of your "friend" for the last time.

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    1. Aw, thanks Jeanmarie! The good news is that most people are very sweet and totally safe and, at worst, annoying.

      Thank you so much. <3

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  20. Scary stuff and you are quite right to be concerned. I hope he backs off.

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  21. yikes :( scary stuff. I hope this person leaves you alone for good.

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  22. You have every right to block whoever you want. You have the right to decide with who you want to talk. I hope he leaves you alone and understand. I lived this in real life and it's really scary, calls and shouts outside my home when I was alone with my little boy. They don't realize the stress they put in you.
    I hope he really stops.

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  23. You have every right to block whoever you want. You have the right to decide with who you want to talk. I hope he leaves you alone and understand. I lived this in real life and it's really scary, calls and shouts outside my home when I was alone with my little boy. They don't realize the stress they put in you.
    I hope he really stops.

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    1. ANABEL. OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE? O_____O

      Thank you so much, honey. Yikes.

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  24. This is absolutely unacceptable behavior. I'm sorry you have to deal with it and I'll keep my fingers crossed that he takes the hint and leaves you alone. It is scary, and whether he is harmless or not, you are right in trusting your instincts. Virtual hug!

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    1. RIGHT!?!?! I thought so too. Thank you hon. <3

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  25. Wow. That is really scary and you have every right to react the way you have. There's just no knowing what step someone like that will take next and your safety is the most important thing. I'm sorry this has happened to you, hopefully this post will get the right message across!

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  26. Well said. Coolest thing ever happened to me the other day. I have a video on youtube that is, quite frankly, really stupid and immature (has to do with farts. Nuff said). Some dude wrote a comment on it detailing how infantile it was and how I probably never read the comments anyway. I replied politely (Courtesy?? On the INTERNET? What???), agreed with him, told him I do read the comments but that fortunately I didn't worry about them. He said, wow. I wasn't expecting a response. And a classy one at that. Take care, nice person.

    It's possible. We CAN be nice and not creepy online. Just because there's a screen separating us doesn't give us reason to be a jerk (or a creeper!!) Great post, Leigh Ann. Going to share it on FB now.

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  27. Wonderful post, Leigh Ann. I hope we don't have the same creepy guy, who, by the way, I blocked as well. Maybe I do hope they're the same, so there's only one creepy guy out there. Ha! Thanks for sharing!

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