How to best deal with Cyberbullying in Twitter Chats

7,125 billion people live in this world - we need to talk more

For crying out loud, the world is a dangerous place. People who use twitter sometimes talk in chats about all sorts of topics, like for example last night we met to talk about “diversity” in a chat called #CultureTrav, organised by Nicolette who lives in New York City and Jessica who lives in Amsterdam. Imagine these as gatherings with people from all over the globe that come together for a massive talk. If you travel often, and not stay in one place for long, this is an excellent opportunity to talk to a wide range of people and hear different opinions. Not so long ago we couldn’t have talked to strangers and would probably have never met them. The challenge is to understand and deliver in a few characters, but after a while everybody figures out ways to do it.

We were all happily chatting away, I was talking to one person at the time, when out of a sudden, and I didn’t see it coming at all, another one joined in, and I became
the victim of cyber-bullying. It can happen to everybody really, as I want to show you. A person I will probably never meet in real life got into my head and hurt me. That was scary, I got ice cold, it was not nice, and it felt wrong.

I am not using that persons twitter name, but changed her first name into Alice and changed the name of the others for this article. The ones from the hosts and my own stay as they are.

Excerpt from the Chat

@AGuyfromUK stated: It may not count as "diversity", but anywhere that's different from the UK counts for me, even if it's monocultural itself.  #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: The UK is pretty diverse, even if there are (sadly) too many who don't want diverse #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: been thinking about this for 40 years. I not sure it's always "diversity" we Brits object to as much as it's "change". #CultureTrav

Alice said to @DoroLef: I’m curious as to why you have this belief? #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to Alice and @AGuyfromUK: Calm down, no need to defend the UK, I love that place. But honestly don't you read the papers? #CultureTrav

@WomanfromUSlivinginAfrica said to @DoroLef and @AGuyfromUK: I despair over my own country, the US. The whole Donald Trump phenomenon really caught me by surprise. :(

@DoroLef said to @WomanfromUSlivinginAfrica and @AGuyfromUK: Let us hope for the best #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: That said, there are many in the UK who baulk at someone even slightly challenging the norm. #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: Curiously of course, for every traditionalist there's a couple of 'eccentrics'. As a culture, we thrive on diversity! #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said @AGuyfromUK: Hmmmm, reading the papers, it is alarming how xenophobic/racist people are (same goes for all countries really) #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: Remember that is just the vocal minority. Most people, honestly don’t really care as long as they are not affected #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef and Alice: There is a newspaper for every belief, and people tend to read only according to their own mindset. #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said @AGuyfromUK and Alice: Not a good idea, I recommend reading several from different countries #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said @DoroLef and Alice: Trouble is we don't know easily which are the reputable news, which the tabloids, what stance they have ... #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK and Alice: My theory is if I read articles from the UK, from Germany, from USA & Oztralia, it is a good mix #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef and Alice: Yeah, trouble is we're an insular nation by nature, so even finding foreign news is harder than it need be #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK and Alice: You know there is this thing called google, ha ha #CultureTrav

@SomeoneElseFromTheUK said @DoroLef @AGuyfromUK and Alice: and plenty of newspapers and @Channel4News

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: Note how high the 'I don't know' pot is in all the polls around the #EUReferendum #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: we’ll wait and see; referendums are dangerous for any society. Who makes the effort and seriously studies all pros&cons?

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: geeks like me :p but I, as always, am an outlier. :) Many people will vote 'negatively' - i.e. 'against' a person or idea. #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: Same here, and that makes life so interesting. I really want to understand things #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: which is I think one reason we're so open to, and enjoy, travel. #CultureTrav

Alice said to @DoroLef: I don’t appreciate an entire nation being deemed racist because of the media!

@DoroLef said to Alice and @AGuyfromUK: I feel deeply offended right now. I’m a decent and considerate person. Please don’t talk to me this way #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to Alice and @AGuyfromUK: You should have followed the whole talk here, I reckon you missed something, right? #Cuturetrav

@DoroLef said to Alice and @AGuyfromUK: You got that wrong. Heavens, please don’t be so aggressive. You nearly make me cry with your behaviour #CultureTrav

While I chatted publicly on twitter Alice switched to private messaging, first she unfollowed me, than she followed me again, remembering that otherwise she can’t message me.

@Nicolettte_O said to @DoroLef @AGuyfromUK and Alice: We love to see open & honest conversations, but don’t wish 4 anyone to feel personally attacked.

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: Every time I go away I become bit more understanding. My big dream is to make travelling compulsory for pupils #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: I think that's a good call. Many schools do foreign exchange visits, but France is much different to, say, Ghana. #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: Not too sure but these exchanges are sort of elitist right. It should be available for all pupils #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: agreed. Elitist? Hm, possibly; I'm not sure how many schools do it or how widespread it is? #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: I know about exchanges from Germany to Australia and New Zealand that cost EUR 10,000, not everybody can easily afford this.

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: eeep! That's expensive. The ones I know here cost £300 maybe? So that'd be about 500/600 EUR, granted they only last a week though.

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: I was talking about school exchange for one year #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: Ahhh righty. Now those, I'm not aware any school does over here (though it happens in Universities). #CultureTrav.

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: I had work relations with these exchange agencies in New Zealand and Oz. Couldn't believe these fees #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: I'm guessing they were just charging what they knew people would pay ... what did they get for the money? #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: The flight, school, stay with family, insurance and orga of the trip #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: Do the family get anything, like a money incentive, to host? #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: I reckon they will get something for it too, not sure. The fee seems fair; trouble is not everybody can pay this #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: Shame it's not subsidised by the school, then, but I suppose even the school wouldn't be able to afford it for so many #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: and that is why I dream of making it possible for everybody, it is a big dream I know #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: a big dream, but I think it has the potential to change the whole of society in the long term ... #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: This was a lovely chat, like a proper one. Very exhausting to put thoughts into 140 characters #CultureTrav

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: no problem, always happy to chat. Grammar & spelling go out the window a bit in 140chars, that's my only problem! #CultureTrav

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: Good night, talk to you soon

@AGuyfromUK said to @DoroLef: night, sleep well :)

@DoroLef said to @AGuyfromUK: You too.

Private messages during the chat from Alice and my answers

Message from Alice: My tweet isn't aggressive, it is a response to you making a comment I find offensive. I am asking you to explain why you felt this way to determine if I could understand where you were coming from but you seem to have made a decision about a nation based on something in the paper. The last thing I want is to upset you but if you put a comment like that out there then you have to expect some people might feel inclined to challenge which is all I am doing.

Answer from @DoroLef: I am so disappointed. This is like bullying me. What is wrong with you? Wow, how very ugly of you. You should read the whole twitter threat from the chat, and you will see what we were talking about. Why do you behave like this? You don't know me. You don't know anything about my dreams, beliefs or whatever. Travelling is about being open minded and interested in different cultures. We were talking about diversity today in this chat. I have no idea what made you react like this. This is so sad and I'm very hurt.

You were blind and full of hate in this moment, you unfollowed me only to realize that you have to follow me to dm me. Oh dear.

This is sad, and shouldn't have happened.

Message from Alice: I think you clearly cannot have a debate. I am not remotely ugly or bullying. I unfollowed because it is clear we are miles apart but didn't feel it was appropriate to continue in open forum. I rather think it was your comments that seemed very judgemental of Brits.

Answer from @DoroLef: You can't stop now, but come up with more accusations. How can you say this? What makes you think like this? You are offensive, this is wrong. It scares me to be treated like this. As you know we are here on the internet, this is all wrong, everybody should treat everybody with utmost respect, and not attack others and come up with accusations without reason.

For the future (and in general) I beg you to think twice before you jump to any conclusions. It is really hard for me right now. I feel vulnerable, and I shouldn't be bullied by someone who doesn't know me. You were obviously not interested to follow what has been said.

Message from Alice: I'm finding it rather astonishing that I am being accused of jumping to accusations!

Then Alice blocked me on Twitter. And with that I was silenced. She took away the chance to talk further. I felt helpless, alone, frightened. It is hard to explain, and I am shocked that this affects me so deeply.

How to deal with Cyberbullying in Twitter Chats

What I don’t understand is that when I told Alice that I wasn’t comfortable with her behaviour, she didn’t stop. Why? Why has she taken it into private messaging when we were in a public chat on diversity? Why did she not unfollow me, and ventured off into the cyber world without ever talking to me again, she unfollowed me, followed me again, so that she could message me privately and unfollowed me again. This is all erratic behaviour, she must have been in a total rage, and I was very scared.

How on earth does Alice know that “I made a decision about a nation based on something in the paper” when she doesn’t know me? Why does Alice accuse me “that I clearly cannot have a debate” when she is the one who didn’t talk? Why didn’t Alice feel “it was appropriate to continue in open forum” and why does she think my comments “were rather judgemental of Brits” and after all she wrote why was she astonished that I was uncomfortable?

I have no parents to tell that Alice made me feel bad, so what am I to do? I am writing this, to make people aware that these things happen to adults too. Alice made false accusations which I simply don’t deserve. This is wrong. It is important to talk about things like this and it would be lame to ignore it. People can’t run around talking about how open minded they are when they are obviously the opposite. Listening to people is hard, I know.

Does Alice know what she has done?

Now it is the day after. I wake up feeling miserable, there is this feeling that the whole world knows what happened on twitter. I get a few messages asking me how I felt after the “trouble” I had on twitter last night. These are  meant well, I really appreciate it; at the same time it shows how many people followed this. I start to cry again. 

I wonder if Alice even remotely understands what she has done, and whether she probably does this to others too. I will never find out. She hasn't had the guts to handle the situation in a decent way. It is easy to falsely accuse and hurt people and then to run off. It takes strength to admit not to have thought things through. There is no cure for cyber-bullying, as usual, but we are all in this together and together we can keep Twitter a friendly place. I hope I can inspire you to stay strong when others accuse you wrongly of whatever it is. Today, I’m afraid to join another twitter chat, but I will overcome my fear. I truly believe that most people are friendly and interesting.

Have you experienced cyberbullying? What can we do to avoid situations like this?

From Berlin with love