I see you. I hold my breath every time I tweet, waiting for the inevitable buzz of my phone declaring a Twitter notification. And there you are. HOW ARE YOU ALWAYS THERE EVERY TIME I TWEET? You favorite every single thing I tweet, and reply to some of the most random stuff that’s not really begging for a reply. If I engage, you will tweet me until the world ends, responding over and over even when my response deteriorates into a limp “lol.” If I don’t engage, I feel bad, because I know you mean so very well.
Oh white men (I use the plural because there have been a half dozen or more throughout my past year on Twitter, and I know there will be more). I don’t hate you, specifically, or at least, I didn’t when I followed you. I probably followed you because we are both part of some online community I’m really into. So please don’t take this as an attack on you as a person. It’s merely an attack on your painfully annoying behavior that honestly sometimes feels just this side of harassment. Or it’s just an invitation for you to open your eyes to how your behavior affects others.
I used to be a terrifically socially awkward homeschooled girl. And I learned something, in all my hopeful wishing for friends and being perpetually stuck “outside looking in.” If you think the conversations people you like are having with other people seem more interesting, that is because they are. If someone doesn’t want to be talking to you, you’ll know it. Listen to that voice that says, “this conversation is going nowhere” and stop tweeting me. Social interaction on twitter is much like any other social interaction: you can tell if it’s one-sided after awhile, and that’s where you gotta ease up a bit instead of trying harder.
Furthermore, I am not tweeting for you. I tweet nothing at all to you, though when you have original and well-crafted thoughts I might retweet them, which is not the same as saying, “Hey we’re bffs now!” It just means you had a good thought. Have more of those instead of just constantly reacting to my thoughts.
But, you’re saying, why white men specifically? What’s that got to do with anything?
It’s about power. It’s about privilege. It’s about acting as though I owe you my time & attention. Even if you don’t actually think that way, that’s the particular oppression you’re enacting when you respond to Every. Single. Thing. I. Tweet. You are a man, you occupy a position of power, and my socialized reaction is to respond to you even if I don’t want to. You blithely sit at your computer, tweeting away, inserting your voice into every space you can find because why wouldn’t you? You’re a cishet white male. The world is set up to take you seriously. To treat you as Important and Worthwhile. And until you realize just how much your white male voice is amplified in the world around you, in others’ consciousness, you won’t understand why I’m so upset that you tweet me all the time. You won’t understand that the constant barrage of your attention is overwhelming and that I feel too bad and too obligated to be nice to tell you directly, “Fuck off, you’re being really annoying.” I, being a woman, was socialized to be nice, to be caring, to be kind, to never hurt others, and to defer to men.
In fact, since I grew up in a patriarchal culture the power dynamics between you, twitter dudes, and me are especially skewed. I was explicitly taught my whole life to be subject and deferential to male authority. Of course I know now that that’s a load of shit, but the patterns implanted in my brain are still there, meaning my knee-jerk reaction is to smile, reply nicely, and grit my teeth silently wishing you’d go away.
Finally, I’m not that cool. There are tons more interesting things you could be doing than tweeting me all day. I’m not interested in you romantically and I never will be, especially not if you keep pestering me. (And lest you say, “why do you women always assume I’m interested in you romantically?” that’s because experience has taught me a man pays attention to me only when he’s attracted to me). I have a boyfriend and I’m quite happy with him. Yes, we met on Twitter. But that was one of those things, a sequence of events that would have played out similarly had we met in real life. Twitter isn’t a magical place for you, twitter dudes, to meet girls, and I am most definitely not that girl (I can be a bitch and I promise I would make your life miserable). It’s just another place where there are a lot of humans interacting. The good part is you have the chance to go find a bunch of people you might not encounter in your everyday life, then sit back shut up and listen to what they have to say. Because that’s the first step in learning to battle your own privilege: learn to listen.
I would also like to state that I’m speaking from a white person’s perspective. There are similar power imbalances people of color experience which I’m usually on the beneficiary end of. It’s something I need to try to be more mindful of myself.