Be the Light…. or, My Twitter Shame

So, the other day I did something I’m really ashamed of. Someone had posted a judgemental opinion on Twitter that I didn’t agree with – really didn’t agree with. What he said doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but instead of engaging with him in discussion, I took the low road and criticised his grammar and spelling. Properly, loudly, and self-righteously, I quoted a corrected version of his tweet and then trashed his point of view for good measure.

I’d like to be able to stand up for myself at this point. It wasn’t a well crafted sentence. Punctuation was notably absent, and he used ‘been’ instead of ‘being’. All in all, it was everything that, as a writer/editor, drives me nuts and makes me want to tear my eyeballs out. Added to that, he said something so ignorant that I just couldn’t scroll by and leave unchecked. But there’s no hiding here. I was a complete jerk, and I knew it.

I could have gone in any number of directions with my horrible tweet. The original poster didn’t respond, so I could have just left it to disappear into the ether of Twitter hoping it never unearthed itself again. Unfortunately a few people picked up on it and shared it, joining in with my finger pointing, possibly because they were equally frustrated and not knowing how to respond. Luckily, a couple of people were willing to put me right, for which I’m grateful (even if it did make me feel the size of a baked bean).

I could have gone two ways here. I could have stood my ground and carried on claiming that the guy wasn’t allowed to have a view because he couldn’t spell it – and anyway, it was a ridiculous view because I didn’t agree with it. Twitter is somewhere that seems to bring out that behaviour in many of us. But instead I made my low road high, apologised to the original poster, and admitted that I’d been wrong.

I wish that apologising could have made the issue go away, but, of course, nothing ever goes away on Twitter. The original poster never responded, and my nasty comment has been shared by other people since. But, thanks to tweeters willing to point out my judgementalism, I’ve learnt a lesson that I won’t forget in a hurry. As one of them said, some of the most kind, funny, clever, generous and wonderful people can’t spell well for many reasons and if I add a grammar filter I’ll miss them all – and I’ll be the one who loses out.

People – let’s not judge on what doesn’t matter. Let’s not get so busy mudslinging that we become unable to have an actual conversation. Let’s try to skim off the annoyances and frustrations and get to grips with having real conversations with those we don’t agree with. Ignorance isn’t cured by correcting, it’s cured by engaging. Let’s try and engage today, and and be willing to have people put us right as well as the other way round – and, as one the people who responded to me said, make Twitter a brighter, kinder place.


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