How to uplift positive voices and challenge harassers online – part two

To read the first post, click here.

Each day I spend a couple of hours on Twitter, uplifting voices I admire, checking up on the accounts I aim to support, and reporting harassers.

My Twitter account is set up for this with maximum privacy for me: I’ve never tweeted with it, and I’ve never shared my handle so I cannot be tagged. But I want to be able to see the harassers and have them turn up in my searches, so I don’t Block or Mute with it. I’ve also debated turning off the Safety setting on “Content you see” so that Twitter will show me “Sensitive Content”, but the first rule is to look after your own safety. I’ve seen enough harmful content even with this setting turned on; I don’t think it would be healthy for me to see more.

After the US Presidential election in 2016, one of the ways I reacted was by curating the accounts I followed to focus on those people and institutions I valued most: favourite authors, public libraries, anti-racism organizations. Follows, Likes and other forms of positive engagement will protect those voices that you value, and give you much more satisfaction in your social media hours.

The number of followers an account has is one of the criteria for becoming a Verified Account, and they tend to have better protections and tools to use on Twitter, so seeking to become verified is an important thing for public health professionals to do. 

To be a positive member of the Audience, I restrict my activity to Likes and Follows (and reporting harassment). But if you Reply or Quote Tweet, it’s a good idea to brush up on allyship in general, and on Twitter etiquette specifically.

In the context of Twitter, there are some behaviours that followers, even with their hearts in the right place, might do that actually amplifies the harassment:

  1. Snitch Tagging

    If you come across harassment that is not on the Target’s timeline (because they haven’t been tagged), do not tag them if you reply or quote tweet. This unnecessarily brings the harassment into their space, adding to the volume they already deal with.

    Along these lines, think very carefully before Direct Messaging a Target about harassment you have seen elsewhere online. Consider whether you are contributing more to amplifying the harassment rather than supporting them.

  2. Leaving the Target tagged when replying

    If you end up in an exchange with an harasser (or even if it’s an extended discussion with a non-harasser) then UNTAG everyone else from your replies. Relieve them of the notifications!

Following health care workers on Twitter these days will inevitably bring you face-to-face with online harassment. In my next post I’ll discuss what I do to challenge it, including going out of my way to find and report it. And how, hopefully, this won’t always be an inevitable outcome for nurses and doctors on Twitter.

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