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.