To be frank I don’t know how Twitter is going to cope without me. People will just have to pull through somehow without me tweeting a picture of a baby hedgehog or linking to some Funkadelic. Never mind all the important “research” I do on Twitter. None the less, everyone will have to manage as I am making the weeniest symbolic gesture of boycotting Twitter on Sunday.
A conversation has begun that is a long way from over. Women – the majority of social media users – should not be subject to rape and death threats. And yes thanks, I know the difference between disagreement and a description of dismemberment. We want the company hosting these threats to be less lackadaisical and able to respond faster. We provide the content and can it take it elsewhere. There are other platforms out there and Twitter has felt past its peak for a while anyway.
The perception that this is merely the concern of some self-important newspaper columnists who will collectively flounce depriving everyone else of their wit and wisdom is one I understand. Simply though, this idea wouldn’t have any legs if all kinds of people were not disgusted when online misogyny is made visible.
Plus, as protests go it’s about as easy as it gets. You have to NOT do something instead of doing it! If you don’t want to be silent then tweet Simone De Beauvoir all day and shout back at the abusers (troll is not the right word). All is fine.
There have been previous discussions about misogyny online but this has hit a nerve. We watched a week of Twitter dithering and the police making the right noises but unable to achieve much.
What has been eye-opening is the outpouring of hostility to the very notion of a boycott. The ongoing discussions about the technical difficulties abound and the essential complicated ones about free speech will continue. But what remains is the simple and essential fact: right now it possible to threaten rape and kill women online without any consequences. Behaviour can and does change. When Lord McAlpine successfully sued prominent tweeters for libel, Twitter woke up a bit.
The past week has opened a can of worms. Some of the worms get off on each other. This strange goon squad of sub-Clarksons, bedroom anarchists, useful idiots and hardcore woman haters gives most of us the creeps and they will be slithering about on Sunday.
In cyberspace, as in the real world, they will not prevail. The boycott is a bunch of people going quietly Travis Bickle. We “ain’t gonna take it any more”. Join us or don’t. The boycott has already worked. Because Twitter, the company, is nervy and watching its back. Hello? That’s how it feels when strangers abuse you en masse. Personal apologies to high-profile women feel nothing but patronising. A 24-hour boycott has made us talk much more openly about what could happen, what is happening. That’s all. Funny chaps us women? Because once we start talking, we won’t stop.
[“Woman Having A Problem With Her Laptop” on Shutterstock]