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Secret Gamer Girl @SecretGamerGrrl
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Quite often, I find myself thinking about the social norms that have been established on twitter over the years (perversely, most commonly in "anti-abuse" circles) which seem to serve no purpose but to cause horrific harm to innocent people while insisting it's for their own good
I'm bringing this up tonight not because any recent incident I've experienced or witnessed brings it to mind, but because I can't actually recall seeing any of these toxic behaviors playing out recently enough to merit a discussion of them, which hopefully means I can get into it
without having to worry MUCH about, well, the first point on the list here:
"Subtweeting."

Part of the conventional wisdom of twitter is that it is very bad and evil to ever dare "subtweet" someone. Which roughly means... to make reference to some person/event/conflict without
getting into any of the specific details about it.

I have never, for the life of me, been able to work out how this is supposed to be a terrible thing to do.

Now, mind you, I can totally see how people can get upset over a specific incident of someone doing this sort of thing.
Like, if Adam just had a sudden miscarriage, and 5 minutes after he pours his heart out over it, Bob reads it, sits down and posts "Nobody ever has a miscarriage unless they're a terrible person," Adam is well within his rights to call Bob a hateful monster (and BTW, I am just
running through the alphabet for any example names I might need, and going with male ones to avoid any sort of "women are catty" implications when discussing general social dysfunction, but trans men exist, and do try for babies now and then, so screw you if you find that example
to be absurd as a result).

In any case, Bob totally is a monster, but it's completely absurd to suggest he is based on him "subtweeting" here. That would be just as horrible of a thing to say if the timing were totally coincidental, and Bob were unaware of Adam's recent woes.
And frankly, if Bob had avoided "subtweeting" here and just said "Adam is a terrible person, that's why he had a miscarriage" I am really unable to see any way in which that could possibly be considered less cruel or harmful. There's no room for doubt with that phrasing that Adam
is being kicked while he's down, so he can't console himself if he reads this with the possibility it didn't involve him, and any random people reading Bob's feed are being directly told that Bob, who they are really big fans of, really has it out for this Adam guy, who must be a
terrible person because Bob said so, and at a time and in a fashion where doing so is really socially unacceptable, so it must be over something really serious! And then Adam has Bob's misguided fans coming after him. Much, much worse than the vague version.

Now, I HAVE seen the
argument put forth, distressingly often, that in a case like this, Bob might be "subtweeting" Adam because he actively wants to send his followers after him in the above-mentioned fashion, but is simply trying to avoid Adam tracing this attack back to him.

And, wow, let's unpack
that one a bit. First off, we have now dropped all pretense that Bob is anything but a malicious hateful scumbag with an unhealthy obsession with Adam and a devious mind that'll look for loopholes, so focusing on his specific methodology is really besides the point now. But also,
this vague "subtweet" angle is like, the least efficient possible way to go about this. Adam isn't going to get a notification if Bob doesn't @ him, unless Adam's one of those guys who sets up alerts for their own name, but even then, you can get around that with some creativity.
"Ey Dee Ey Em sucks," for instance, would be a lot less ambiguous, and the more ambiguous you are in siccing your goons on someone the fewer of your goons are going to get their orders straight. And we could keep going around with hypothetical complications to the point where Bob
and his followers have some codebook of dogwhistles to keep authorities off their trail by calling Adam something stupid and calls to attack something innocuous (remember GG's whole "Literally Who" thing?) but the further we go down that road, not only are we making it more of a
corner case, but also the more it becomes clear that there is way more of a problem here than Bob's personal etiquette.

Meanwhile there is a huge list of legitimate reasons to not be totally specific with names and dates and events while discussing someone/something. Off hand:
- I don't want to directly refer to this person, because he poses a danger to me, and I know he is monitoring my account via alerts or outright spies, and I don't want to tip them off.

- I don't want to directly refer to this person because I know if I do, people who read this
are going to go confront them over it, and I don't want that to happen because I care about them/I know they'll retaliate/I'm just generally mindful of how antsy the average twitter user is to form a mob and get way out of control and never want that to happen to this person.
- I legitimately don't know the name of this person, and I am actually referring to them as specifically as I am able already.

- I know that the audience I am addressing is unfamiliar with this person, and it's just more efficient to say something like "this guy I work with."
- I don't expect to ever deal with or think about this person again, and am more likely to remember this event than the person it involved.

- I don't want freaking stalkers trying to pin down my identity by playing amateur detective with a list of people I'm familiar with.
- I was told something in confidence, and wish to protect my source.

- The person in question has a handle that's like 20 emojis or a smiley face or Jo279268392 and I can't be bothered to transcribe it.

- This person has like 20 handles and is using a different one every time I
have cause to mention them.

And similar logic applies for not naming specific dates, events, etc. Plenty of everyday, commonplace, not at all sinister reasons to communicate vaguely that it's a nonsensical thing to criminalize.

Here's the other thing though. The sort of person
who makes the word "subtweet" part of their regular vocabulary has a tendency to see "subtweets" everywhere, and the distance from there to full-blown paranoia is like, 2 centimeters.

If you're constantly looking out for signs that people you know are secretly talking about you,
you are going to start reading messages about yourself into statements that have nothing to do with you pretty damn frequently. If you go the extra mile and start looking for them in statements from people you don't even know you're going to find them all the damn time. I've seen
so damn many horrific, knock-down drag out fights on this website because two people in the same social circle alluded to totally unconnected but superficially similar events around the same time, and everyone jumped to the conclusion that they were discussing the same event.
The whole time I've been writing this thread, I've been deathly worried that A- I'm stepping on a huge landmine because some random person's feed is coincidentally going to have this thread show up on it in close proximity to someone freaking the hell out about "subtweets" and/or
that someone's going to read this shortly after dealing with a miscarriage and that example I plucked out of the blue is going to be hugely upsetting to them (and OK seriously, if you ARE such a hypothetical person, tell me so I can apologize for bringing up such a painful thing)
People REALLY underestimate just how common it is for two people to have vaguely similar stuff going on in their lives, and Twitter's whole structure has this extreme distortion effect of really really shrinking the apparent size of the world down while simultaneously presenting
whatever random glimpses into other people's thoughts you've opted into following as all anyone's talking about, so the actual impact or visibility of any given little bit of information gets magnified to absurd degrees.

Rather famously at this point, I have had a huge number of
of people, from a diverse assortment of disconnected social circles, doing all kinds of weird obsessive crap like compiling detailed timelines and setting up dedicated message boards to discuss and monitor my evil plans, because they are just 100% absolutely convinced that some
offhand comment I made 3 or 4 years ago was some kind of secret encoded attack against some random person I'd never heard of until the "retaliation" started, and I have to assume those same people are still periodically finding ways to read between the lines for fresh "subtweets"
to rally the troops, because I swear I get a fresh volley of attacks over the same paranoid misread every few months, and I can't imagine what else could fuel that sort of grudge for that long. (Oh and here I seem to have broken from my initial plan of not referencing anything
I''m actually aware of, so cards on the table- this specifically comes at me primarily from Kiwi Farms posters/people who take crap they make up about me at face value, some specific group of serial harassers that targets trans people and to the best of my knowledge has no real
collective-agreed upon name, with specific people of note either constantly changing handles or going with keyboard mash stuff I can't recall offhand, and less commonly, the social circles of both the stranger referenced above, and for some baffling reason, an unconnected friend
of mine, all ultimately in reference to me once using the name of a charm-happy D&D monster as a pointer to some person or group of people using highly credible go-betweens to spread life-ruining rumors about random people, which I certainly hope is enough detail to assure you I
am still in no way talking about whatever personal hell you are presently being put through on this site as you are reading this).

THAT whole tangent, come to think of it, segues nicely into the next deeply unhealthy behavior on my list, whisper networks-
Hey look, there's a thread from a few months ago where I already sat down and broke down how whisper networks are utter garbage as a means of warning people that people are unsafe, but a super great way to ruin lives, ruin careers, protect powerful abusers, and discriminate.

So!
Next on the chopping block is, appropriately enough, the whole concept around blocking.

Block LISTS of course, are a huge problem, which I've more than amply covered here- secretgamergirl.tumblr.com/post/172476575…

Even just regular manual, I don't want to deal with this person here, so I'm gonna
hit block blocks have so much potential for misuse and unintended harmful consequences it's pretty damn disturbing if you stop and think about it.

I mean, really think about this one. If you say something to me that I don't like (or to a friend where I can see it, or when I just
stumble across it, or when I misclick, or twitter bugs out, or a popup window is still loading and I start typing something and activate the single-input hot key for doing this (yes, that's a thing), I can, with barely any effort, permanently remove your ability to ever deliver a
message to me of any kind, nor see/hear anything that I should ever say, again, permanently. That is, when you really stop and think about it, REALLY not a power that I nor anyone else should possess.

Like, if the internet weren't a thing? That is not something I could even do.
If we're physically in the same location, I can't really do anything to not hear you or keep you from hearing me. Partial obfuscation through whispering or speaking a different language, sure, but I can't selectively make you not exist to me. If one of us has a magazine column,
the other can avoid reading that magazine, but I couldn't keep you from reading it if someone else bought a copy and showed it to you. And permanently isn't a word that should ever be used lightly. I mean, to put it into perspective, you don't go to prison PERMANENTLY if you kill
another human being, generally. It REALLY varies based on where you live and the specific circumstances and all (and of course if you're white, etc), but it's like, 10-20 years under a lot of circumstances, or way less even (like, WTF is up in Georgia? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_p…)
And there's a hell of a lot more than a single "are you sure?" prompt for that sort of thing, too.

But... this is twitter, so we have blocks, and we all have to use them constantly, because there's no real moderation, so despite being a terrible and disproportionate response in
all but a handful of circumstances, it's the ONLY response we really have access to, and so we all use it way too often and too readily. I mean, personally speaking, at this particular moment, it looks like I have... 1465 accounts permanently blocked. That number actually seems
crazy low too. I mean, short a digit low. I know for a fact that I've added like 2 or 3 hundred to that list in a single day before, so apparently a whole lot more than that are gone. Still, I really don't think there's 1465 people who are sufficiently dangerous to me to warrant
that. I'm way more of a lightning rod for serious harassment than most, but I'm pretty damn sure I could get by with just, like, a dozen. And of course the irony is, it's not really worth it to block that dozen at all, because the ones who really need it are the ones who really
aren't ever going to respect it, and have laid the groundwork to always be able to spy on me or send messages through one-off disposable accounts anyway. BUT I'm a human being stuck having to use twitter, so I have no choice but to block a ton of DDoSing nazi accounts, which then
normalizes blocking all the nazi accounts that just send regular one-off abuse, and the dedicated transphobes who do the same, and the dedicated transphobes who DON'T do the same, and the accounts who follow me and seem fishy enough to likely be spies for someone I have blocked,
strangers set to private so I can't do background checks, people who are being really cruel to friends of mine, or who my friends just swear are "bad news" and I'm taking them on faith, dudes who just can't stop mansplaining or making inappropriate jokes, or keep tagging me into
threads with people I don't like... I want to say I haven't personally done all of those, but I'm pretty sure there's been at least 1 time I have for every item on the list. Oh and the people who have me blocked because I see other people people tagging them when I'm getting mass
harassment from unknown sources. And I'm pretty restrained, relative to most people I know. I have friends who were upset with me saying something on a single occasion who blocked me in a moment of anger. I know people who do all of the above but use that blockchain thing to also
throw splash-blocks on anyone following the proper recipient. And of course most of us have expressed that gripe that there's no way to tag blocks with a note on why you applied them so if you have cause to wonder if one was an overreaction later it's a hard call to make. Then of
course this all gets even stickier since there's this massive taboo against ever going "hey, apparently you have my friend Clint blocked? Was that an accident? Is there some bad blood between you I should help you mediate?" And the whole sloppy mess just creates this environment
where wounds can never really heal, relationships can never really be repaired, social circles are perpetually shrinking, fracturing, and hardening into little niches... and hell that road leads to the theoretical original purpose of BlockTogether, where anyone who crosses anyone
in your personal inherently-unhealthy-or-why-would-you-ever-consider-this social circle gets automatically shunned by everyone else in it.

Meanwhile in a past life, back in the web 1.0 days, I personally used to be one of those people who never blocked anyone over any service,
not because I was one of those "everyone can always talk everything out" problems, but because I'm the sort of person who keeps ending up on the moderation staff, and needed to know if people were messing with just me or with everyone. And the main thing I took away from those
days is that even under the worst of circumstances, when you have a range of tools at your disposal, permanent bans are an escalation step you almost never reach if you're escalating responses responsibly. Even straight-up malicious trolls usually cut the crap after being smacked
a couple times with a rolled up newspaper, and when we DID have to escalate up to a full on ban, those could safely be dropped after, like, an hour. Maybe a week or two in a really extreme case.

That logic doesn't necessarily translate to twitter because, again, there's no real
authority to enforce more lasting consequences, and the block button is the only tool you have, but I'm pretty confident that if I could set things up so that (again with a dozen or so very big exceptions) every block I ever placed expired after something like 2 weeks, I wouldn't
see any uptick at all in the harassment I had to deal with. Anyone who's going to set an alarm for when that timer runs out can spare the wait and just register a second account to come at me, anyone who's already using a one-off is going to lose interest, anyone I accidentally
blocked would recover just fine, and if I were the sort of person who used blocks as a way to buy distance over petty disputes or fleeting moments of anger, that would presumably be enough time for everyone to cool off and start patching things up. If not? Block another 2 weeks.
Seriously, I think the climate of this website would improve tremendously if people would generally agree to some combination of making a hard and fast personal rule to only block spammers and hardcore fascists, and/or set up some automated script to just automatically remove all
blocks (ideally with some dedicated blacklist function for the ones you REALLY shouldn't), or just committed to manually clearing their lists out every month or so (making exceptions, again, where necessary).

Of course, technically, blocks aren't the ONLY tool twitter users have
because there's also the final item on my long rambling list of things twitter has normalized to the general detriment of everyone's mental health- The mute button. The one that's functionally identical to the block button, except that the recipient can still read your posts (a
distinction I have never heard of anyone taking into account, and honestly can't think of a good use case for), and the fact that it's impossible to tell with any certainty if you're muted by someone (which I see cited an awful lot).

I'm going to come right out and say it here,
if you mute someone instead of blocking them, you are acting in pure malice, and I have zero tolerance for it. There's a token exception here for the theoretical intended purpose, where you don't actually want to block someone, but just can't deal with listening to them that day,
so you're temporarily shutting them out without wanting to cause the sort of awkwardness you'd get by temporarily unfollowing someone or straight up temporarily blocking them. Although frankly there's a massive UI failing in making that a toggle and not something with a maximum
duration. Again, I'm specifically addressing the "permanent block, but no indication it's up" use case here. Which again, I'm willing to just condemn across the board.

First, in keeping with my general formatting here it's not a viable fix for the problem it theoretically serves
If someone is just bombarding you with hateful messages, you want it to stop, and you don't want them to know you've blocked them, a regular ol' twitter block does the job just fine. It doesn't send a big "you have been blocked" message, it doesn't even block new posts displaying
for them if they have your profile open unless they hard-refresh the page. So one-time lasting incidents will run their course anyway, and someone really persistent is most likely going to either be switching accounts anyway out of habit, or committed enough to notice you're not
reacting anymore.

What it turns out it's really great for though is psychological warfare.

I've had several friends over the years who quietly decided at some point or another that they no longer liked me and rather than confront me with whatever issue they had like emotionally
healthy people, or send a really clear if rather absurdly dramatic "this friendship is over" signal in the form of a proper block, they all just hit that little mute button and carried on.

So here's how that played out from my angle. For whatever unknown period, I just didn't
notice anything was amiss. Twitter tends to be a very indirect/one-way medium. If people agree with or like something I say, they'll just hit those fav/RT buttons 99 times out of 100, and get lost in the resulting sea, so a total lack of interaction is hard to notice as such and
not simply a lack of really direct interaction. Eventually though, stuff piles up. Like, if Dan says "Can anyone recommend a movie for me this weekend?" and I respond "Ooh, have you seen WolfCop?" and an hour later they go "Anyone?" that's a bit telling. Or Dan breaks a lifelong
habit of dutifully faving every response to every comment by failing to do so when I'm saying "Hey, congrats on getting that promotion!" Or if some conversation breaks out between Dan, Evan, and myself, where Dan is clearly ignoring everything I'm saying, I'm going to pick it up.
But then what? I don't know for sure that Dan decided to mute me. He could just be getting flooded with messages and missing mine, Twitter could be randomly bugging out in that way that generates false "shadow ban" worries, Dan could be ticked off at me that day and just ignoring
me the old fashioned way, and even if I do assume I've been muted, that could have happened any time between the day I noticed, and the last confirmed interaction I had with them however many weeks/months/years prior. Hey, this is really upsetting and alarming. A regular block
would be too of course, but it would also be a clear message I'd notice immediately, and be able to work out both that it definitely happened, and roughly when, thus likely why. Here though? Who knows!

So naturally, being the sort of gal who legitimately can't stand the thought
of ever upsetting anyone, however inadvertently, when I do notice something like this, my first instinct is to just straight up ask, "Hey, have I done something to upset you?" Which of course, if muted, is a question the recipient won't see.

In a lot of these instances, Dan has
been a close enough friend for me to have his phone number/skype info/discord handle/whatnot, which helps rule out a lot of technical issues, but then you can never really be sure, if those aren't your primary communication channels, that someone might just not log into that/have
that number still/remember to log into that e-mail account more than once a year, or they might have forgotten your handle/number/e-mail and not know it's you, so, again, you're stuck in that weird distressing limbo- Is there an issue between me and Dan or am I just really having
a real hard time getting ahold of Dan?

Personally, I've dangled on that sort of hook for over a year at a time, on more than one occasion, and that is far more than enough time for that sort of doubt and uncertainy to really just eat away at a person's mind in dangerous ways.
So just recapping all this- Don't play weird head games with people using Schroedinger's block button. In general, try to really hold back on blocking people as anything but a last resort, and maybe clear old blocks out now and then so people have a means to apologize or let crap
go, don't rely on secret whisper networks to distribute or learn about who's unsafe or untrustworthy unless there's a damn good reason you can't discuss it in the open, and above all don't ever let yourself fall into some paranoid mindset where you start thinking everything you
see on this horrible website is secretly referring to whatever it is you're personally stressing out about. None of that is healthy behavior, and yet all of that is stuff I've seen listed as good practice for staying safe.
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