I was checking my direct messages on Twitter yesterday. I have it set up so that anyone can message me, even if I don’t follow them, so that I can be contacted by potential clients, bloggers asking for advice, fans wanting signed photos, that sort of thing.
One message was a photo.
‘That’s weird,’ I thought to myself, ‘is that just a hand?’
I looked again. It was a cupped hand, palm up.
‘What’s he holding?’ I wondered, ‘is that Caesar salad dressing?’
(Not salad dressing.)
So my question here is, what the actual hell?? In what world is this is a normal thing to send a woman you have never even spoken to before? What part of someone’s brain tells them that this is okay?
I do get my fair share of messages from men on all my social channels. Instagram is normally just hellos – clearly the sophisticated channel – and Facebook insights tell me that the marriage proposals I receive there are coming primarily from Nigeria. My favourite Facebook message is still the one that read ‘I’ve shown your photo to my son and he agrees that you would make a good mother.’
Well I’m glad that’s all sorted then.
There is something about Twitter though that seems to bring out the nastier side in people.
Like the guy who casually asked last week ‘how about having a sex video together?’ Oh sure, let me think about that…
I’ve had all manner of penis related imagery obviously, or pictures of women at the mercy of several – sometimes these are not even by private message but just as a reply to a tweet, where anyone can see it. Somehow this feels even worse because then suddenly I become responsible for my followers having to see it too. When it’s a direct message I can just ignore it. It’s just spam, I’m sure everyone gets it, it’s fine.
Except it’s really NOT FINE is it??
Every time I receive an offensive message I report it. The message that comes back from Twitter reads like this:
This doesn’t feel good enough to me. This feels like one of those non-apologies that people make when they’re not really sorry. ‘Oh, I’m sorry you were upset by what I said,’ rather than ‘I’m sorry I said it.’
There is something about the tone that makes me feel like perhaps I’ve overreacted, like I’ve ‘chosen’ to be offended and that maybe I should pipe down.
The minimum age requirement for Twitter is 13 and Twitter says that if they become aware that a child under 13 has provided them with personal information, they take steps to remove such information and terminate the child’s account. However, unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t ask your age when you sign up, so how on Earth they would ever find out is a mystery.
And so there are our children, using Twitter, exposed, quite literally, to images they have not asked for. (And yes, of you can have it so that people you don’t follow can’t message you, but that doesn’t stop you being sent things or seeing things in your main feed.)
AM I overreacting?
Is there really very little Twitter can do or do they, as the provider of the service, have a responsibility to protect their users from this kind of sexual harassment?