Tuesday, January 06, 2009

When Twitter mobs attack

A blog friend had the most shocking thing happen to her a few nights ago. One of Thordora's daughters was up late and she was having trouble getting her to stay in bed. In a moment of frustration, she posted a wry comment on Twitter about wanting to smother her, and then, I imagine, went off to get her kid to sleep.

One of her followers — someone who initially didn't seem unbalanced, though she's maybe a bit overly earnest, if you know the type — started spiraling into some kind of weird anxiety fit that turned into a self-righteous frenzy. This person replied something like, "To the person joking about killing her daughter, I don't find you funny," and within an hour had escalated things, had worked her Twitter follower list into a mob. They somehow found Thordora's home address, and several people made calls to child protective services in her city. By an hour after that, the cops were knocking on her door to check on her kids, who at this point were sleeping peacefully in their beds.

This whole response was so extreme and absurd that the accusations would be laughable if they weren't so serious. But it's not funny. Someone's reputation has been maligned, and the evidence against her was no more than a stray, off-color remark made to a relatively small group of people. I've known Thordora for years now, and she's not the kind of person who follows just anyone who follows her. [I, however, am that kind of girl. I'm easy like that.] I suspect that the lunatic was someone who she felt was trustworthy, to a degree. Or, at least, probably someone who was more like her than not.

I feel terrible for Thordora. It's not fair, and I hope it goes away soon. And it's made me rethink how connections are formed online. How well do you really know someone whom you've never met? It seems like people can get to know you pretty well through your blog, but god forbid you say motherhood isn't always unicorns and rainbows. Is that the answer, to always keep things light and superficial?

21 comments:

ep said...

parenthood is no picnic, and no ron howard movie, either. Do i have to worry if the neighbors are going to bang on my door if I yell at my kid? I hope not, because that's going to be a lot of knocking...I'm so sorry for your friend, and hopefully she will get past this soon. this is no reflection on her parenting, but more on how the internet soapbox-ing can get too extreme for some folks. Can you get cited for sending out a false alarm?

TFO said...

There are a whole lot of assholes in the world. And a lot of people who just make bad choices, out of self righteousness, egotism, or a host of other aberrances. Look after your leathers.

Christina said...

What a clusterfuck! I've been on the internet enough to see lots of good intentions to "help" people go awry. OTOH, yeah, you DO need to pay attention to who you 'friend' and what you say on those networks.

Kelly O said...

But how do you know ahead of time whether someone is a Christina (whom I met online and I adore) or a lunatic who will call the cops on me when I say I want to strangle my husband (not that I ever say that, baby, xoxo)?

Nylonthread said...

I'm finding the whole ordeal horrifying. One comment on Thordora's follow-up post that rang pretty true for me was that the Twitter-"follower" was focusing the situation all on herself, i.e., She discovered a damsel in distress and She was going to be the heroine. By amassing a mob and "rescuing" the endangered child, the follower would bring positive attention to herself. That sort of self-delusion is scary. Dragging Thordora over the coals is unforgivable.

And, I think you can get fined for a false 911 call! Someone ought to.

Christie Lanning said...

Twitter. I once made a comment about being extremely unhappy about my baby still being up at 2:30AM. I got some pretty nasty replies to that. You can only say so much in 140 characters, and so much of the time, things can be taken the wrong way. And there are people who look at one remark, one small thing and make a huge decision based on that. It isn't right and it isn't fair. Some people just have to feel like they are saving the day.

onthecurb said...

Oh man, that just stinks. I know the type and that type amasses more of the same type. I do hope your friend is able to move past all of this bullshit. Man, that makes me angry.

I have actually rethought some tweets before publishing them, thinking someone might take my "frying pan over the head" comments seriously. No more "butterflying the wanker" comments from me.

::Cops banging on the door, "Sir, sir, is your penis intact?! We received word from the internet that your johnson has been prepared for grilling!"::

Renaissance Woman said...

That is just plain crazy! I mean really...I would hope that people who would follow her blog would read enough about her to know she was simply having a moment of frustration. A moment, which ever parent in the world has I might add. And shame on the people who are involved in this crazy situation.

I am very sorry for your friend. She was using her blog as a way to express feelings and frustrations...but she wasn't making any declarations. I believe in being cautious about kids and would never want a child hurt. That said, I would never have assumed something terrible was happening from that simple statement. Shame on these people...they need a life!

Patois said...

Wow. Maybe Twitter won't be the death of blogging after all.

Kelly, I clicked through all of that and was just stunned. Sorry this happened to your friend.

thordora said...

Thanks hun. :)

What's been eating at me, as I read comments in various places from her supporters are all these shocked and horrified comments about my blog.

I don't follow anyone if I don't like their content on their site. Period.

Also-the accusations that I use "vile language"-FUNNY AS SHIT.

I made a boo boo, and have learned. Now where were they when I was up all night with the same daughters, holding her as she cried and puked with the flu?

I have a sudden new respect for Dooce, I can tell you that much.

Kelly O said...

Vile language like curse words, right? In real life, I curse like a sailor. I don't online because I work somewhere that can and will block websites because of language. I don't want my blog or the blogs I read blocked, so I rarely curse without sputtering *'s and @!!'s.

Kelly O said...

And Christie, those people who felt the need to judge you because you didn't manage to barf up a rainbow when you were exhausted can go eff themselves.

MB said...

people are stoopid. for some reason that thought just keeps running through my head.

spleeness said...

There is no way that alarmist can be a mother. Or have a sense of humor. Unbelievable. And as Thordora said, if someone doesn't like a site's contents, just don't read it. No one's holding a gun to their head. Oops, I said "gun," now someone may call the authorities on me, see who I've got bound and gagged in front of a computer.

Great mob photo, btw. Extremely appropriate.

Jane @ What About Mom? said...

First visit to this site, and wow, the whole "you're a bad mother, maybe I'm a bad mother, they're bad mothers" is sure going around.

I just wrote about going with my friend to her mandatory court appearance for leaving her kids in her (locked, not running) car for 12 minutes while she ran into Best Buy.

The couple who called the police were really smug about the whole thing. (And we speculated that possibly they didn't have kids of their own.)

Sonia-who-doesn't-blog-anymore ;) said...

When you find out the answer to that one, let me know! I'll blog again! I always kept it honest about my parenting challenges, and when my husband and I were given some pretty fantastic gifts from family, one of my readers went OFF in a frothy fit of fury. Saying that I used my child to get what I want out of life, and that I was a whiner. It wasn't apparently the honesty of my parenting situation that sparked upset, it was that my husband and I had a break and were very blessed with a vacation from friends who are very much family to us. And/or that my mom has horses, that we get to ride and care for.
The majority of my online friendships have been great (I'm looking at you Kelly O.) but that one buttmunch getting in a froth can really screw things up. I really feel for your friend, and I hope the dust settles soon!!

Kelly O said...

Sonia! I miss you. I really, really do. :(

Navajoagogo said...

Gawd! That is horrible and so scary.. and big brotherish! I feel horrible for your friend. Glad to hear that my switching to facebook was sort of good thing..

Chris said...

Two observations:
-The 2.0 world lacks crucial context & nuance
-the 2.0 world blows offhand remarks out of proportion because they become permanant
So we've still got some virtual evolving to do, I suppose.
I agree with you Kelly - it makes me edit myself. I keep things rather shallow because I constantly assume a potential future employer might read what I rattle off the top my head in a few seconds. Scary to think that a brief random thought is captured like a mosquito in amber for all time.

Sonia-who-doesn't-blog-anymore ;) said...

Aw, thanks! I miss you too, but I can always check in and have a *look* at how things are going. :) Still not brave enough to try blogging again. And I'm OCD about getting my biz going, and working outside the home in a new job while my boy is in school. Would ya look at that?....... I went and got me a life! LOL! That provides a lot of blog fodder...... hmmm.....

Unfit Mother said...

Oh lord!
(finally catching up on reading)
and just when I was considering "coming out" on my blog and quit anonymity.

Maybe this explains why she hasn't made a Facebook Scrabble move...