The Iron Bowl Backlash
At some point in our lives, many of us were taught the “golden rule” – treat others the way you want to be treated. Or maybe you were told the phrase “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But when it comes to Twitter, general human decency can go out the window quickly.
I bring this up because of the explosion of negativity on Twitter after the Iron Bowl, which arguably overwhelmed the celebratory reactions of fans on the winning side. Following the Auburn victory over Alabama, many self-identified “Alabama fans” lashed out at kicker Cade Foster through harsh and malicious tweets. The supposed “fans” tweeted personal attacks, death threats, and many other things far too inappropriate to mention.
The amount of tweets that flooded Foster’s caused him to make changes to his account to make it more difficult to find – out of respect I will not include his account information. Fortunately, all of the negativity directed at Foster has drawn a movement of support in the process. Multiple Alabama players have voiced their support of Foster on their own Twitter accounts and have chastised those tweeting out hate.
This isn’t the first or the last time a backlash like this has been spewed from Twitter, and it doesn’t only occur in sports. Any major trending topic on Twitter, will generally draw a significant amount of negative and malicious tweets. A major issue is people don’t care or understand what they are saying on social media. Part of this can be because people detach themselves from their words online and don’t feel accountable for what they say. In their minds, their words are acceptable because of the platform. But when you say in elaborate detail how and why a person should die, it’s not magically ok because it came from your twitter handle.
How do we fix the problem?
1. Unfollow immediately
If you someone you follow posts something terrible, unfollow and/or block them right away. Most of the people that tweet extremely hateful or generally terrible things are just searching for attention and reaching for responses. The more followers, retweets, and (most undeservingly) favorites these accounts pick up, the more they will continue to produce the same content. With no audience, these Twitter users are merely crazy people shouting into a void.
2. Don’t try to be a hero
Chances are someone who tweets a death threat at an athlete likely isn’t a good person to begin with, and you can’t change that. Tweeting back at them won’t be very effective in changing how they think or what they say. In the end, you could find yourself locked into the Twitter battle they were looking for.
3. Affect those you can
If one of your friends or someone you know personally is a source of these types of posts, bring it up to them away from Twitter in a real conversation. Let them know what type of person these tweets make them look like and advise them against continuing this pattern. Hearing this come directly from a friend in private, there is a lot better chance they will change their behavior.
4. Don’t be a source of the problem
It starts with you. If you’re not sending out hateful malicious tweets yourself, then you are helping. This is where the golden rule comes back into play and people need to pause to think about what they say.
Ultimately, Twitter trolls will probably survive forever because there are plenty of bad eggs out there. Though we can’t make them all go away, we can take away a lot of their power, which is their audience. If they really want to keep spewing terrible Tweets out when nobody is listening, well that’s their right I guess. But what we can do is stop perpetuating the problem and stop to think what our grandparents might say if they read our Twitter feeds.
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