Please forgive me, as this post is probably going to seem very Junior High (at best). Please know that I was not the instigator of such behavior; I merely got dragged into it when I was targeted.
First, a little background: A handful of you reading this will already be aware of the recent Twitter fiasco. Well, it wasn’t actually all that recent; the whole thing began in January with an intense argument between two of my good friends. When I became distressed over witnessing a complete meltdown (in the literal sense of the word, as both of these friends are on the autism spectrum, although I’ve begun to question the status of one of them), I opened my big mouth and pleaded with everyone to cease fire and make peace.
That’s like telling a woman to calm down; it didn’t work.
After some skillful navigation through choppy waters, I hunkered down, covered myself in a thick film of diplomacy, and tried to wait out the storm.
I thought it had worked. I thought the worst was over. I thought I had survived, having lost “only” a couple friends in the milieu (from both sides) over the fact that I was still connected and friendly with principal people on both sides, but otherwise unscathed.
I was wrong.
Last week, out of the blue, two good friends (one of whom had been one side of January’s cat-fight, whom from here on I’ll refer to as “the ringleader”) abruptly decided to “unfollow” me (on Twitter, which is like “unfriending” on Facebook). Shocked and bewildered, I messaged each one individually through Twitter’s private message function to ask what had happened and to give each of us a chance to clear the air and hopefully iron out any misunderstanding. From my lips to god(dess)’s ears, my goal was to make peace and perhaps retain the friendships.
But that goal was not to be had.
Instead, each of them messaged back, coolly but civilly, stating that because I was still friends with the “opposing” side, they couldn’t bring themselves remain connected with me anymore. I wasn’t surprised about the one, but the second one came as a mild shock. It turns out they had made friends with the ringleader, a stronger friendship than I had previously been aware of, turned into their lapdog, and then of course, whatever the ringleader did, the lapdog followed suit. Which included severing ties with me.
They said that I had dissed their opponent in a previous private-message conversation but then acted all chummy with said opponent in public, and they said that’s what clinched it for them: they were severing ties with me because they thought I was two-faced.
Had they not been following me for the last six or seven months? Had they not seen that I had “tweeted” over 10,600 times during that period? Had they not seen the variety of stances I took? Did they not remember numerous past instances in which I had expressed my ability to see both sides of a debate? People are multi-faceted creatures anyway, some more than others, I more than many. Could they not see my forest for my trees? Were they really going to sever ties completely over this single incident?
Apparently, the answer was “yes” to the last question, and “no” to the rest.
OK, fine. Nothing I can do about that. I wasn’t going to grovel or beg or plead for them to change their minds; they were pretty made up already, and if that’s the way they were going to handle this, then, well, I couldn’t ignore the possibility that it might end up being for the best.
But the chain of events didn’t stop there.
I wrote a blog post on another blog about inclusion vs exclusion within our community, and of course, the ringleader (who had unfollowed me but not blocked me and thus, could still see my Twitter posts) decided to “retweet” (which is like Sharing on Facebook) that post, with the added note about being very “twee”, “two-faced”, and “fence-sitting” (the latter two of which she had accused me of before and I had already debunked, which apparently fell on deaf, illogical, fixated ears).
This sparked a conversation among about four or five people, who responded empathetically with thoughts of their own. OK, at least I knew who my non-friends were – the people who would ultimately choose the ringleader over me. It was painful but helpful to have that information.
And then the tirade began. Not on my part–on theirs. Luckily I had made a move earlier that day known as “muting”, in which I would no longer see their responses to conversations nor receive any notifications of shares or being tagged in conversations or posts involving them, but if I visited their profile directly/specifically, I could see their posts and activity. Because I muted this person that morning, I didn’t receive any notifications about it; I only saw it in the afternoon.
The tirade went on for quite a while. Apparently I’m “part of” some “problem”, and they tried to air some of my mildly-dirty laundry (which wasn’t so much dirty or stained as it was proverbially discolored at best).
The semi-scary part was that this person would. Not. Stop. They would not let up or give it a rest. They kept. On. Hammering. And hammering. (FunFact: the yammering didn’t receive many “Likes” or replies.) I didn’t expect anyone to reply to the contrary in support of me, because this person would have ripped them a new orifice where the sun doesn’t shine, but the interesting part was that no one rallied behind them in support, either. I thought that a few would have.
For the record, I did not engage or respond to the ringleader at all. (Although part of me really wanted to.) The first thing I did was “lock” or protect my Twitter profile so that the ringleader couldn’t see it. Immediately following that, I ranted (lasting maybe four or five tweets) about the situation, not mentioning anyone by name. After that, I was busy reading and responding to the dozen, dozen and a half people who reached out to me, mostly via private channels, asking me if I was OK, asking what happened, declaring their agreement and corroboration, and offering their support and helpful suggestions. Go them! Go me. Go us! Online spirit-family forever.
The ringleader’s sharing of my blog post (during which they had mentioned “twee”, “two-faced” and “fence-sitting”), that had sparked the conversation that appeared underneath among the four or five people also involved the ringleader claiming that the post was in reference to them. The locking down of my profile only added more fuel to that fire, providing the clincher for their assumption.
My theory is that the only reason the ringleader has not blocked me despite their level of rage against me is that if they block me, I won’t be able to see them or their profile, but they also wouldn’t be able to see mine. So they sacrifice their privacy in order to spy on me. Classy.
This was confirmed when they made a comment to that effect. Which means they had visited my profile several times. And it also means that they might have been borderline-butthurt when I denied them the opportunity to satisfy their twisted curiosity.
I knew from past experiences of witnessing various altercations between this person and anyone they zeroed in on, that once someone is in their crosshairs as a target for aggression, it doesn’t end well for whomever they’re targeting. In the past, the targets had been more wisely chosen, and the aggression might arguably have been justified. This wasn’t the case this time. I hadn’t even been on Twitter much. In fact, after originally losing those two former friends last week, the rejection and friendship termination affected me such that I felt the need to take a break of undetermined length from Twitter, and respond to private messages and personal notifications only.
Regardless, after realizing that I was getting pummeled, I knew that it was a hopeless situation. If my dignity was already fair game, if it was open season on me, I knew that I would always be a target. That’s why the ringleader hadn’t blocked me; they wanted to continue to see what I was posting so that they could continue to pick at it, pick it apart.
My lockdown came when I realized I hadn’t felt safe. I needed time to vent and process, unfettered.
They’d been so sure that my post was about them. Although their behavior fit the bill for sure, and I’d be lying if I denied the fact that their images entered my mind more than once while writing that post, it wasn’t necessarily specifically about them.
When faced with what they perceive as criticism, it’s a common theme among Aspies or autistic people to direct the focus inward, assuming it’s they who someone is mad at, assuming they did something wrong. Usually we’re much more introverted about this, meaning that we keep our thoughts to ourselves much of the time. But in this case, those thoughts didn’t remain on the inside; they were spewed all over.
The ringleader was pretty sure that post (and my entry into lockdown mode) was all about them.
It wasn’t. At least, not exclusively. Truthfully, it was about anyone who engages in such behavior. Anyone who acts immature. Anyone who allows logic to be displaced from their mental driver’s seat and emotion and irrationality to take over the controls instead. Anyone who acts as though they’re in Junior High school when in reality, they’re chronological adults. Anyone who would lash out at one of their own because we support an opposing side at the same time we’re supporting them.
Look, like most people, I possess multiple–and a wide variety of–facets. At any given time, only a portion of those facets will be visible, while the others will likely be submerged beneath the surface, seemingly hidden. As a result, I have a variety of friends and I can empathize, relate to, agree with, or at least understand/respect a multitude of viewpoints and perspectives. It takes a lot to rattle me in the Offensive Department. I just don’t see the need to get bent out of shape about that which does not make or break my life. I have better things to do, and there are a lot more of those things than there are issues I get riled up about.
I also tend to generalize when I write posts like those, so it may or may not be aimed at one person. Typically, I question the person who takes a post that speaks in generalizing terms and interprets it to mean that it refers solely to them.
I question the person who would take the time to visit the profile of someone they initiated the severing of ties, only to share my material to their wall with a snarky ad-lib caption, with the sole purpose of rallying other people and sparking opposition and negative action.
I question the person who would spend that much time on such a fruitless and non-productive/non-constructive activity. What are they going to get out of that? Are they seeking attention? Thriving on drama? Deriving energy from conflict? Trying to turn additional people against me with their “expose”? Really, what’s the point?
When one makes a decision to do one thing, they give up all of their other opportunities. That’s known as “opportunity cost”, a term and topic that this person has clearly never been exposed to or considered. This person has children; wouldn’t both this person and their children be better off if, instead of them sharing material online for the purpose of criticizing it and attempting to create discord and hatred or trying to drum up support for their dysfunctional mindset, they actually backed away from the computer and engaged and interacted with their child?
Quit flaming me; go talk to and hug your kid. Ask them how their day was, what they learned in school today, or how they’re feeling, instead of looking for ways to attempt to deconstruct and destroy me online.
The intent to destroy was not successful, either, by the way. I don’t think it garnered near the support the ringleader was hoping for, and I’m sure that only added fuel to their flames.
Because I made sure that it wasn’t all about them. I didn’t leave or engage that person. For a while, they couldn’t even see my profile. They were shut out. They were rejected in return. They were smacked back. And I didn’t even have to do anything except set my account to private. One simple move sent their world spinning. Because it was all about them. It always had been. It was never anything different.
How unstable. How unhealthy. How uncivilized.
Well, after a couple days under the safe canopy of lockdown, I decided I didn’t care anymore. I decided that nothing was going to affect me, nothing was going to happen to me, no one was going to beat me, and in all likelihood, nothing was going to change. A new normal had been established. And in the end, I was still standing.
It’s not all about them. It’s not all about anyone. There’s room for me in the equation, too.