Further Lessons In Social Media

Interestingly enough, being called a racist by a comic book creator on Twitter does crazy things for the traffic on your blog.  That blog post got more views in the two hours after I put it up than most of my posts have gotten in their entire existence.

I got a lot of nice responses from people, too.  I got them on Facebook, in the comments section of a friend's blog, and even in person.  But notice what's missing from that list; I didn't really get any on Twitter.

The comic book creator in question was Steve Niles.  It occurred to me that, while I was taking the high road by not naming him, he called me a racist in a public forum, so fuck that noise.

Anyway, Steve Niles and I both have public profiles on Twitter.  We also share a few followers, which means that there were more than a few people who could have seen both sides of my exchange with him.  And aside from one person making my tweet about my blog a favorite, no one said anything, either during or after.  Nothing like "hey, man, that's not cool" or "you're really taking this too far."

This was, I will admit, a bit disheartening.  I'll also admit that it was only disheartening when my wife pointed it out to me.  The only person to jump into the fray, so to speak, was a friend of mine from high school who seldom uses Twitter.

Here's the thing: I understand it.  The fact that people who know me and know Steve Niles in some way, didn't make any kind of comments is a product of the social networking system.  I know this because I've stepped into arguments between two people that I follow and watched as it quickly turned into an argument between one of them and me.

This all leads me to a list of reasons why no one got involved:

1) Experience.  Like I said, I've jumped in to defend someone before and been lambasted for it.  I'd probably react the same way if it happened again, but I know what a pain it can be.

2) It's arguing on the internet.  There are few things as stupid as arguing with someone online.  I say that as a man who is constantly sucked into exactly that.  Even worse, I'm so neurotic that I obsess over these arguments.  Just imagine how many times I refreshed my browser, waiting to see that the aforementioned Steve Niles had read my comments.  Imagine my disappointment when I saw what he wrote.

3) Fear/Denial -- Let's face facts, a big part of my shock about this whole thing stems from the fact that I really respect Niles' career as a comic book creator.  I would imagine a lot of people who follow him on Twitter feel the same way.  So when he has a moment when he acts like an asshat, would any of those people step in?  It's far easier to write it off as a one-off, that he's still the respected creator we thought he was.  Or, on the flip side, it's easier to just ignore it, for fear that he'll block us if we speak up, because that's exactly what he did to me.

4) No one cares.  It's no coincidence that a friend I've had since high school was the only one to take to Twitter in my defense.  My wife was going to, but I asked her not to.  These are both people I know well, and who care about me.  While I've met a lot of the people I interact with online in real life, I can't say that I really know them or they really know me.  A dust up between me and some comic book writer may make them cringe, but there's no reason to believe it will bother them to the point of getting involved.

5) This happened?  Seriously, I follow enough people on Twitter to know that it's often impossible to keep track of everything that happens.  And while I managed to talk about it over the span of a few days, it's entirely possible that people who follow either or both of us didn't see any of this go down.

Still, like I said earlier, it was disheartening, and feels like a lesson on social networks.  For all the lack of civility that most people see, there's an element that swings to the opposite extreme, particularly on Twitter.  It is the easiest way for us to connect with those we admire, and no one wants to ruin that.  I surely don't.

But, apparently, I did.