“I should be allowed to share whatever I want online without anybody spreading it around!”
Sure, maybe it should work like that, but it doesn’t.
This is adapted from a twitter thread I made about someone DMing me a while back for RTing something this person made available to RT. This article has a frustrated tone throughout, but ultimately I hope this person’s learned how to set up a private account since then. If not, or if a private account is not appealing to this person (or you), there are other suggestions for all of this person’s (and your) personal online journaling needs.
Content notes for a mention of suicide and neck trauma roughly two-thirds of the way in, in the context of internet trolls. This is not any specific’s person’s suicide or neck trauma, it is a generalized reference to the goals of a certain type of online asshole. This is done to demonstrate the dangers of careless social media usage, for the people this article is intended for. The thread linked in the previous paragraph does not contain this reference, if you would prefer to avoid it.
I realize that the vast majority of people using the internet were born and raised in a world without it. And even people who were born and raised with it may have received guidance ranging from actually good advice to the useless and ultimately unfeasible demand, “Don’t use the internet, ever!!!” My hopes for this article is that such people will walk from it away wiser.
Also, this post as well as the original thread were written with twitter users in mind, but the basic principles are applicable elsewhere on the internet.
Ultimately, my wisdom boils down to this: if you wouldn’t say it out loud in public offline, don’t put it out online on your public twitter account.
I get it, I struggle to make sure tweets are made on the right account sometimes. Hell, just the other day, I accidentally posted time sensitive information on the wrong day because I hit “tweet” instead of “schedule”; and that was a tweet that was supposed to go on that account. That’s why i don’t have a private or a business account. Three accounts, two of which i only occasionally switch over to, is already too much fiddling for me.
But I do so with the full knowledge that everything I put out there is available for public consumption and redistribution. Social media sites are literally and professionally designed to drive as much engagement as possible. That’s how they make money. If you’re going to talk about how your therapy session went on your public account, don’t expect all 6000 of your followers to not share the thing that you made available to share. They’re using social media the way it was intended to be used.
Do you know all 6000 of your followers personally? No, you don’t.
Pretending that your followers are your best friends who can all read your mind is dangerous for you and unfair to them. There have been numerous conversations about parasocial relationships with celebrities. Do we need to have one about parasocial relationships with your audience?
Any one of those 6000 followers, even just by liking it, can put your content on someone else’s timeline. On their entire following’s timeline. For more on that, read this article by the patron god of this site: Hachiko. Unlike some people, he knows how social media works. It’s his job.
“Don’t post anything you don’t want people to see” is literally what we teach children! And like I said at the start of this article, I understand that not everyone had access to the internet as a child. But if you’re online prolifically enough to amass 6000 twitter followers, it ought to behoove you to learn some basic online safety tips.
If your therapy sessions are that intensely personal to you, don’t put them out online. I don’t remember the exact details of this post anymore, but I didn’t get “this was a humiliating experience for me; don’t spread this” vibes from it. Nothing about it struck me as unique to the individual in question.
Before anybody says anything, yes; fuck anyone who reposts your content without your permission. But any “diary-minded” social media users need to keep that in mind as well. Can you handle the inevitability—not the possibility, the inevitability—of your therapy posts ending up on a site you don’t even use? A repost you might not ever see or get credit for.
Can you handle your therapy posts going viral? All it takes is either you or one of your followers having a large enough, active enough following to fling your therapy posts all over the internet.
Can you handle your therapy posts being quoted without your permission by a journalist? The ethics of quoting social media remains a hotly debated topic. But the fact of the matter is, any journalist can legally use anything you put out there; and they’re doing it more and more often. Also, even if it was universally considered unethical, you cannot rely on all journalists being ethical.
I’ve been mentioning therapy specifically because that’s what this person got upset at me for sharing from this person’s public twitter account that is public and thus available to the public.
Some people intentionally post about therapy to share things that might help others who do not have access to therapy, or good therapy. Or to bring to light abusive therapeutic practices. Others post about therapy to help destigmatize mental healthcare. How is anybody supposed to know the difference between that and your “private” therapy posts? Why should anyone trust that the content you put out there is content you want shared?
If anyone’s wondering what the aftermath of this specific incident is, I muted all of this person’s accounts. If you don’t use twitter, muting means they can see your posts, but you won’t see anything of theirs unless you go directly to their timeline. I am a heavy RTer. I see anywhere from dozens to hundreds of tweets every day—thankfully closer to dozens than hundreds these days. If I have to waste time and social energy calculating whether or not you actually want the stuff you put out there spread, I’m just not going to interact with you. I will promote people who know what they’re doing instead.
And sure, this particular person doesn’t really need my promotion. This person has 6000 followers for a reason. But if you’re trying to grow your audience at all, you can’t afford to piss people off over situations you could’ve prevented. Those are valuable social contacts that you are throwing away because of your own social media mismanagement. Hell, even if you’re online just to pass memes around to your friends, pissing off the wrong person could easily lead you to being dogpiled and doxxed. You cannot rely on strangers being good people.
Also keep in mind that while some people, myself included, will un-RT the public thing that you made publicly available on your public account if you ask; you are also sharing the internet with white supremacists, ableists, transphobes, and even just general assholes.
Social media isn’t just you and your friends posting memes. There are people who do not care about your best interests. People who hate you for having the audacity to exist in a way they don’t like. People who literally want you to kill yourself because they can’t get away with killing you themselves. If you give them this knife, they will thrust it into your neck without hesitation. If this sounds overly alarmist to you, it’s only because I am trying to ignite your survival instincts so that you will guard yourself better in the future.
You don’t need to be afraid of everyone online—at least not more than you’re afraid of everyone offline. However, the internet does provide unique opportunities for anonymity that can be used for good (such as a queer person being out online without having to be out offline) or evil, which thus empowers abusers, bigots, and creeps to be abusive, bigoted, and creepy without any real consequences (to themselves). It’s part of why I’ve been so tight-lipped about this person’s identity. I don’t even want to give you this person’s pronouns because a certain portion of the internet will be combing this article for details so they can harass someone who just needed to vent and just didn’t pick a good place to do it. That’s not what I want for this person. I want this person, and all of you, to be careful and to stay safe.
If an internet diary is truly what you desire, a better outlet for that would be sites like 750words or 4theWords. They’re primarily focused on productivity, but they are secure and cheap. 4theWords has monsters you can fight if you would like to write and game at the same time; whereas 750 is more no-nonsense.
There’s also diary apps on all your favorite app stores. Other options include google docs, word docs, .txt files, and private accounts. Literally anything is better than a public social media account.
Admittedly, some sites make it easier to set up a private account than others. On twitter, you need to log out of your current device (if you don’t or can’t do this on different one), an additional email or phone number, and a whole new @ and password because you are making a whole new account—even when you’re just going to connect this to your public account anyway. On tumblr, assuming you haven’t hit the blog limit, you can set up a private blog in the time it takes you to come up with a handle.
When I was venting about this situation to some friends of mine, one by the name of Orion (who wrote this fantastic piece about transphobia within the cis community) mentioned that perhaps these types of people “crave the community fostered by that… it’s scary to go thru something hard and nobody responds cuz only 17 ppl follow u on priv.” If that sounds like your situation, I suggest starting a group chat with some friends you trust not to spread your shit around and venting to them. If nothing else, you might get a twitter thread and a wordpress article out of it.
Social media is not your diary. Social media is not your friend. Social media is designed to drive as much engagement as possible. If you post something on a public account, people are going to engage with it because you allowed them to engage with it. If you leave your doors unlocked and all your windows open, is it really any surprise when your house gets robbed? This is why it’s important to go through your privacy settings, with a competent friend or guide or both, to make sure you understand who can see your posts—before you start posting. There are measures you can take to protect yourself online. I strongly urge you to consider using them.
The last thing I’ll add is adapted from this.
A 6000 follower account is not “a personal account for personal things” jesus christ 💀. Even my account’s not “a personal account for personal things” and I don’t even have a sixth of that figure (at the time of writing). Sure, I’ll share things about myself, but only things that I am comfortable sharing with the public. Online small talk, if you will.
Granted, if you dig deep enough, I guarantee you’ll find something I’m now embarrassed to have out there. In the past, I intentionally used twitter as a place to vent when I didn’t want to bother my friends (while also secretly hoping the ones on twitter would see it—or that just anybody would see it).
One’s personal social media usage can certainly evolve over time. Some people stop using their original accounts in order to move forward with a clean slate. Some people change sites completely, either due to their original site changing or they themselves changing. These are all natural reactions to cultural and personal evolution, the former of which can occur especially rapidly due to the swiftness of the internet.
But no matter what sites you’re on, think carefully and critically about what you put on them.
Social media is not your diary. You cannot pretend that it is.