Tag Archives: trolls

Bullfighting on Twitter

This past Monday, I’d had it with Twitter. Rather than give up, I took the bull by the horns. Because that’s what we do here.

I deactivated my Twitter account @everydayepistle. Please follow me now @AimeeWhetstine if you like. 

matador, as seen in the Plaza, Kansas City

matador, as seen in the Plaza, Kansas City

Inquiring minds want to know. Why this change? Why now? Here’s the skinny:

1. Forgive me for being undiplomatic, but I hate Twitter.
Maybe I just don’t get it. People have explained Twitter to me as a cocktail party where you can chat with absolutely anyone. How cool is that?!

Eh. There’s something to be said for hanging out at a barbecue with people I already know. Dear Mr. Zuckerberg’s endless string of arbitrary changes is tiresome, but Facebook is more my speed. There’s context to Facebook—mutual friends, profiles, photos, a virtual paper trail of posts, comments, likes. Yes, some people present falsely, but only the hopelessly diabolical can keep up a Facebook farce for long. True colors shine through.

Meanwhile, Twitter is context-free. Commitment-free. A breeding ground for trolls and propaganda. It’s easy to hide behind 140 characters. Olé!

Unless you have a gazillion tweeting friends or followers, Twitter is also like an echo chamber. It’s you, standing alone in the arena, waiting for the bull to rush you. Your tweets disappear into the chaos of the crowd. Who knows where they’ve gone or who’ll read them? Who knows if anyone will read them at all or if you’ve just wasted two precious minutes of your life distilling a profound thought into an acceptable tweet. There isn’t enough time in the day, folks.

And yet, if I want to write, if I want to participate in social media, if I want to connect with people in the 21st century, Twitter is a necessary evil.

2. If I write it, my byline needs to be on it.
Ross Douthat has more than 21,000 followers on Twitter and follows 110. Peggy Noonan has nearly 75,000 followers and follows 85. Beth Moore has more than 300,000 followers and follows 50. Seth Godin has more than 260,000 followers and follows no one.

These are a few of my favorite writers. They don’t follow. They tweet and leave the following to others. They invest their time doing what they’re obviously good at and what I suspect they enjoy most. Notice it’s not Twitter.

They tweet with their own names—except for Seth who uses @ThisIsSethsBlog. It’s rather spiffy to use a cool Twitter handle, brand name, or blog title. It’s just that for me, for now, I want ownership and accountability. I’m no Peggy or Beth, but I want you to know who’s speaking and who you’re speaking to.

3. It’s time to clean house. 
The terrorist attack in Boston was less than two hours old this past Monday afternoon when a writer I was following tweeted something beyond irresponsible. I’ve told you here before that if you so much as breathe the wrong way on my child, Momma Bear will make an appearance. Well, kicking my country when it’s down isn’t a good idea either.

Liberal news outlets have carelessly, callously promoted inappropriate ideas since the bombing, but this writer was first to do it on my feed. I’d mistaken her for someone she isn’t. I’d been gored.

I've heard Spain is nice. Photo credit: Contando Estrelas

I’ve heard Spain is nice. Photo credit: Contando Estrelas

And you know what? It’s my bad. I’d assumed without knowing. I’d trusted without verifying. Her response to my calling her on the insensitive tweet showed she clearly couldn’t care less who I am or what I think or even how her tweet insulted citizens who still love America and emboldened those who hate us. (By the way, if you live in America and hate America, please consider moving. Abroad. Think of how much happier we’d all you’d be.)

That was the last straw. Within 24 hours, I’d closed my old Twitter account and started over, determined to make a fresh start. Ah, catharsis.

Between you, me, and the fencepost, I’d like to continue writing about things that are important to me, but life isn’t a popularity contest and Twitter doesn’t have to be a blood sport. Read and follow if you like. Block me if you don’t. I’ve got work to do. As myself. As Aimee Whetstine.

God bless America.

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Pasodobles Españoles by Pepe El Trumpeta.

I cannot be the only person out there with Twitter malaise. Can you relate? Or if you love Twitter, won’t you kindly share a tip or two?

photo credit: Contando Estrelas via photopin cc


Filed under America, blogging

Deliverables R Us

Ah, Facebook. Relational crucible of the 21st century.

freak out

freak out

Have you read about Julia Angwin, the woman who’s unfriending all of her friends on Facebook? She’s an accomplished journalist, author, and privacy expert who figured out what we all knew already: social media affords very little privacy. She’s created a micro-movement of readers who are kicking their Facebook friends to the curb. Really.

Then I read a post from a woman who disabled her account because she felt her time on Facebook was an indulgent, unhealthy grasp for the approval of others. Now tell us something we don’t know.

Of course who can forget evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar’s assertion that human beings cannot cognitively maintain more than 150 meaningful relationships? As if the nuances of friendship, emotion, and memory are static, quantifiable commodities. Your friend quota is capped at 150—and not one more! Dunbar isn’t on Facebook, by the way.

I’ve been on Facebook for 26 months. Usually it’s fun and silly, not to be taken too seriously. It’s a good place to keep in touch with people and share what I write. As with all things internet, if it’s private, you don’t post it.

Change is the only constant on the social network. 

You’ll remember my unhappiness with the bait-and-switch maneuver played out on Facebook fan pages this past fall. Well, just last week, I stumbled upon the mother lode. A dumping ground in my Facebook Messages called the “Other” box. Comes with a pay-to-stalk offer.

Theoretically, I assume everyone on Facebook has an “Other” box. You can check next time you’re on Facebook. Click on your Messages tab. To the right of the word “Inbox,” you should see it. “Other.” Is it there? Are messages in it? Mine was populated with freaky messages from strange men I don’t know who wanted to be my “friend.”

Here’s how it works: let’s say someone wants to send you a message on Facebook, but they’re not your Facebook friend. No problem. Rather than sending you a friend request, Facebook allows them to send you a message anyway—to your “Other” box.


change is the only constant, photo credit: celeste343

Now if that person who you don’t know wants to send you a message but doesn’t want it to go to the no-man’s land of the “Other” box, Facebook offers a salacious solution. For $1 Facebook will bypass the “Other” box and deliver their message directly into your “Inbox.” So, along with kind, harmless messages from your Aunt Sally, your kindergarten BFF, and your child’s piano teacher, you may see messages from strangers who paid $1 to stalk for access to you.

A single dollar. One hundred pennies. Small change for perverts, stalkers, and bullies bent on terrorizing the common folk.

Facebook, what are you thinking?!

I’m making a lot of assumptions here. But Facebook, in grand Facebook fashion, insists on making adjustments, tweaks, and monumental changes without much consideration for their users, so assumptions are all I have. My husband made the wisest assumption of all.

“Aimee, Facebook doesn’t see us as users or customers,” he said. “For Facebook, we’re deliverables.”

He’s smart, that guy. But he rarely follows my status updates. Figures he knows what’s going on with me already. So at lunch this past Sunday, I’m explaining the “Other” box to him and my son and how there are some people Mom doesn’t want to befriend.

“Here’s what the people in my ‘Other’ box are like,” I said, summoning my scariest, most gravelly voice. “‘Hey! I wanna be your friend!‘ And I’m like, ‘Hey! I don’t even know you!‘”

My son and my husband laughed at my theatrics in the middle of the Chinese restaurant. We role-played, taking turns being the scary “Other” people with the funny voices and the unsuspecting deliverables left to fend them off.

The bill and fortune cookies came too soon. Our table erupted as I read mine.

fortune cookie

The time is right to make new friends.

Hey, Facebook, ever hear of MySpace?

Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. Proverbs 18:24 NRSV

The Stranger by Billy Joel.

Do you use social networks like Facebook? How do you protect yourself?

photo credit: celeste343 via photopin cc


Filed under family & friends, humor

House Rules

This blog is like my house, and it’s time to set the House Rules.

house rules, here comes the fun

here comes the fun

You’re invited to visit. I hope you come by often and bring friends with you. We throw a mini party here with every post. All guests are welcomed to comment, regardless of their viewpoints.

Last week, some comments on my first syndicated BlogHer post got a little rowdy. The BlogHer community manager chose to delete several of them because they violated the BlogHer community guidelines.

In the meantime, I held all comments in moderation on everyday epistle to prevent a similar fiasco here.

While this protected my site from trolls, in a way it also punished legitimate readers who faithfully and respectfully express their views here. Those readers will be happy to know I’ve lifted the stricter comment approvals.

But I still want this to be a safe place to agree to disagree.

Following BlogHer’s example and friends’ suggestions, I’ve written community guidelines for this site. They’re available in the top menu under House Rules.

Ten things you should know:

1. There will be a diverse group of guests in my house.
All sorts of people read this blog. I want everyone to feel free to respectfully comment if they choose to dialogue.

2. There will be discussion about many different topics, including some you may consider controversial.
This is my place to write what matters to me without editor or client changes. God and country are important to me; those topics will appear in the mix of posts.

3. Sometimes there will be disagreement.
It’s unrealistic to believe we’ll all agree about everything. This isn’t Parrot Island. We have to engage in civil discourse concerning matters of disagreement if we ever hope to reach solutions for the challenges we face. Go ahead and state your case, just mind your manners as well.

4. There will be civility and grace.
If you can’t play nice and respect the intrinsic value of the humans involved, you need to go elsewhere.

house rules, do not block

do not block

5. There will be no profanity.
This is a blog, not a bar. Think of another word to use or expect your comment to be deleted.

6. There will be no bullying.
That means no personal attacks, mudslinging, name-calling, direct threats, implied threats, stalking, harassing, posting of personal information that doesn’t belong to you or has nothing to do with the topic being discussed, libel, defamation, blatant misrepresentation of another person or group, violations of privacy, or links to profane or pornographic material.

7. There will be no spam whatsoever.

8. I determine what is unacceptable here, and I’m not limited by the House Rules.
As the sole owner, content creator, and community manager of this blog, I reserve the right to change the House Rules and to remove unacceptable comments at any time and without notice.

9. A word to trolls.
If you are a troll, you may comment if you abide by the House Rules. Otherwise, your comment will be deleted. And if you send me hateful tweets, I will block you so I do not receive your messages.

house rules, olive & kickin

olive & kickin, as seen in Asheville, NC

10. Don’t like the rules?
Find another site with different rules.

Some of you may think this is harsh, self-aggrandizing overkill. Does a small, personal blog really need community guidelines?

I wish you were right. But last week’s experience prompted Momma Bear to law down the law.

This is my house. I will not allow it to be destroyed by abusive comments or overrun by trolls. Play by the rules or exit the party.

But let all who take refuge in You be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread Your protection over them,
that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. Psalm 5:11 NIV

The only Overkill here is by Men at Work from 1983, a very good year.

Have you ever been afraid to express your opinion?
What impact did that experience have on you?


Filed under America, blogging, writing & reading

Parrot Island

“A room full of parrots is no good.”

That’s what my friend Wading Across said in our discussion here about trolls. Hadn’t heard it put that way before. Hadn’t heard the song Somebody That I Used to Know until recently either. The comment and the song stuck with me.

parrot by rotorod creative commons license

scarlett macaw, image by rotorod, creative commons license

Admit it. We subscribe to news sources slanted toward our beliefs. We listen to commentators we like. We friend people on Facebook with the unspoken expectation they won’t offend us with their status updates.

We block or unfriend them if they do. We leave snippy comments or stop reading bloggers when they push it too far.

Creating a room full of parrots is a piece of cake. Imagine an island.

Welcome to Parrot Island! Your feathers are lovely. Your feathers are lovely. Your feathers are lovely! Margarita? Margarita? Don’t mind if I do. I do. I do!

Conflict is not my thing. I like to read and relate to folks who see things my way. The world’s all warm and fuzzy when people agree with me.

I don’t have to venture very far offshore before I’m troubled by the other side’s point of view. The surf. The waves. The water. Where’s the drop off? How far does it go down? Is there riptide? Who lives across the water?

Beyond the hype, beyond the labels working or stay-at-home, conservative or liberal, Christian or atheist, gay or straight, there’s a person. And possibly an opportunity.

Another writer with a razor sharp wit. We could spar over dinner. An old classmate who seems like a sibling now. We share years. A stranger who savors mint tea as much as I do. Pour me a cup. Or not.

I may never become best friends with the person on the other side, but we can still be polite. We can agree to disagree. We might even learn something.

flamingo by rotorod creative commons license

I am not a parrot, image by rotorod, creative commons license

Don’t get me wrong, dear readers. I treasure every sweet comment you keyboard as I’m certain do most bloggers.

People thrive on being in community with others who share common interests, goals, and beliefs. It’s unhealthy to remain in relationship with those who abuse you or trample your boundaries.

But I wonder if Wading Across was onto something when he said the folks benefiting the most are those who read all the positions. You know, the ones taking it all in. The ones listening.

And I wonder if their thoughtful comments of agreement or disagreement serve to promote understanding.

Novel concepts, listening and understanding. Might come in handy as we enter the heat of election season. Easier said than done of course. Because birds of a feather flock together.

Care to leave a comment? Don’t mind if I do. I do. I do!

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 NLT

Island music with Bob Marley and the Wailers: Stir It Up, little darling.

 What do you think can be gained by sharing and listening to different opinions? What can be lost?


Filed under America, blogging

How I Almost Became a Troll

i am not a troll

I didn’t know what a troll was until one came to my site.

His strong negative reaction to a post was a dead give away. He implied I should be arrested. Wonderful.

To me, trolls were strange, little garden statues. Wait, that’s gnomes. Told you I didn’t know what they were.

Let’s try that again.

To me, Trolls was a bar in the basement of a building across the parking lot from my sorority house in college. Smelled like beer. Had foosball tables and booths. Became the second living room of the sisterhood. The one where alcohol and boys were allowed.

That was Trolls, until Mr. Meanie came a calling on my blog. I was crushed. I feared he would key Cranberry Mary. Stick pins in a voodoo doll of me. Or worse.

My husband, the calming force in our home, told me it would be okay. The comment wasn’t that bad.

You know, he’s right. I’m small change on the blogosphere. I have it easy. Upon further research, I discovered there are entire sites devoted to dissing other people’s sites. Meanies, every one.

i am not a troll

Who has time for this? I can barely keep the wheels on my own blog, much less create another one to ridicule, criticize, or spew at people.

Then last week, a twist. I’d been following this Blogger who shall remain nameless. That’s Blogger with a capital B.

Blogger enjoys an enormous following. I like Blogger, but Blogger writes things with which I disagree about topics that matter to me.

I first read Blogger when a friend sent me a link a few weeks ago. In response, I submitted my comment of respectful disagreement.

The next week, I visited Blogger’s site to be rankled by another post. I submitted my comment of respectful disagreement.

Then last week, I read a post by Blogger on a popular website. Blogger was once again wrong (surprise). I submitted my comment of respectful disagreement.

This time something went horribly awry. The captcha bit me. The queue malfunctioned. My comment appeared multiple times. Like a broken record. On a major site. In response to Blogger with a capital B.

Immediately, I contacted the site to correct the mistake. Prayed no one noticed the fumble from small change on the blogosphere.

That’s when it hit me. Each time I read Blogger’s work, I get upset enough to lodge a complaint. No matter how respectful I am, my response is still negative.

i am not a troll

This may be Blogger’s modus operandi. Stir the pot. Salt the wounds. Elicit a response. Spike the stats. Who knows? Doesn’t let me off the hook. I was becoming a troll.

If you come here to my itty bitty blog, and what you read repeatedly upsets you, gets your panties in a wad, sends your blood pressure soaring—well, against all blogging wisdom about building an audience, I would probably suggest you not come back.

Lively discussion in the comments is welcome. But I bristle at my blog being a source of upset for readers. Challenge, maybe. Upset, not so much.

Don’t know if I’ll continue to read Blogger. Sure Blogger has impressive stats. But Blogger brings out the troll in me. That’s not acceptable. Trolls in my life will best remain a memory of a bar in the basement of a building across the parking lot from my sorority house in college.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:8-9 NLT

Choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep. What I Am by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.

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Filed under blogging, humor