Laura Pevehouse Thomas

Tempting Fate and Twitter Trolls


While giving social media 1×1 coaching sessions at Assosciation for Women in Technology’s 2009 Women’s Business Conference, I found myself telling someone that I’d never met a mean person on Twitter.

It got me to thinking this morning (in the shower, of course): are there really no trolls on Twitter? So, later in the morning when I remembered it, I asked my twitter friends if that was really the case, or was I just lucky?

Sounds like I’ve just been lucky. Not only did many tweet back to tell me they are out there, with a quick search I found them documented on Flickr, reported to GetSatisfaction.com and escalated to Twitter executives.

So why have I, and apparently at least one other person, not run into them? Maybe because of the very opt-in nature of Twitter. If you don’t like what someone has to say, you simply don’t follow them. If they try to talk to you via @ replies, you can just ignore them or block them if they get rude. You can choose exactly whose tweets you wish to receive on your phone, if any. And, you can choose whether or not you want to receive e-mails whenever someone signs up to follow you or direct messages you. Heck, you can even chose who gets to direct message you because it is limted to who you follow.

If you are trying to track a topic on Twitter, I can see where spam, trolls and general noise could quickly mess up the signal, though. Jon points this out as a problem with hashtags because Twitter hashtags are completely open, so anybody can post on them. It was evident today, too, as Skittles tried to experiment with turning their web site home page into a Twitter search results page. Since I’m rarely trying to follow a trendy topic, that’s probably a reason I haven’t noticed it so much. Even when I’m enjoying the Oscars or some other television event with one eye on Twitter, just watching the tweets of the peanut gallery I already follow is more than enough.

Some folks are very big on following back everyone who follows them. While I want to be as friendly as the next person on Twitter, I just couldn’t go that far. I’m not there just to pile up numbers, so I’ve been selective about who I follow (although the selection process is not set in stone or always that rigorous).

The point I’m trying to make is that the power is really in your hands. I have probably tempted fate by bringing up the troll topic. I hope not to be besieged by mean-spirited people who take this as an invitation to crawl out from under their bridges; but, if they come, I’ll just ignore or block.

And, I’ll continue to tell folks how I’ve met some of the nicest people around on Twitter.

2 comments on “Tempting Fate and Twitter Trolls

  1. The Skittles Twitter experiment went horribly awry because people figured out it was an unfiltered feed and anything they typed with Skittles in it ended up on the company’s home page. You’ll notice the page defaults to its Facebook presence now…

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