I have seen it said a lot that Twitter belongs to the regular folks, the people who search for endless entertainment between the porn bots and the people begging for followers. Twitter has a lot of problems, primarily in taking harassment seriously, but it is also a great way to engage quickly and completely with people we might not normally engage with. Famous people often come with an unsaid agreement that their privacy is for public consumption. That makes many feel entitled to their attention and their time. They forget that these are people, and that when they are online it’s a bit of a razor’s edge, battling the gross and finding the sweet and awesome. They are barraged daily. They are sent hate and harassed. (Seriously, Twitter, get it together.) They come to Twitter to engage, to promote, and to provide an opportunity to ask questions and do damage control. They are not there to be your punching bags. No one is.
I’ve talked about spheres a lot. I stand by the idea that a famous person has every right to protect theirs on social media, despite the fact that it is expected they give up a little privacy. Their anxieties and mental health matter just as much as ours do. We all should create spheres that make us comfortable, whether it be a conversation about fan fiction, a Pokémon Go gathering place, or a place to catch up on the news. If someone is being awful, that block button is there for a reason. They don’t owe you anything when you come to them just to critique their appearance, call them names, or even ask the same question a million times in the hope that you’ll get noticed.
Here are the top five rules for talking to famous people on Twitter:
1) The golden rule has always bothered me a little. Some people like being treated like garbage, so telling them to treat others as they would be treated is a little tricky. So I say, that we should simply treat other people with respect at all times. It doesn’t matter if you hate X celebrity for a movie they did, or the fact that their nose is a little bit crooked, or that they are a woman and happen to breathe air. Like all people, they are still worthy of respect. Lack of respect is a reflection on you, not them.
2) Compliments can be creepy, as creepy as insults. Just because you give them out, it does not mean that the famous person is entitled to respond. Sometimes, engaging with the complimentary ones is inviting as many problems as the aggressive haters. Be mindful that your world is not full of people who would like to stalk you. If the celebrity doesn’t respond, be aware that your compliment probably reached them, but don’t keep poking at the person. Aggressive kindness is still aggressive. It turns you into the enemy, and I’m sure that was not your intent.
3) Pressuring a famous person to tell you their secrets is a bizarre use of social media. I don’t want to know how you lost your virginity, how many people you’ve dated, or your darkest secret, and I’m sure you don’t want to post that on social media. (Unless you do, then, you know, remember that the internet is forever.) If you have questions, remember why they are on social media – ask about their work, ask about a project they did, or any behind the scenes stuff. If you want to ask about their stance they took on an issue they posted about, then do that, too. Take your cue from them. It’s not complicated.
4) If that famous person blocks you, even if they are being a douche about it and whining because someone pointed out their behavior is problematic, they still have a right to that function. The celebrity could be the crappiest person on the planet, but they still have a right to block. It is not going against the first amendment to block you. Should I repeat that to those of you in the back? The first amendment means that you *should* be able to protest without being thrown in jail. You should be able to speak up at all times. This does not give your free license to go into someone’s home or business and start screaming how they’re wrong, stupid, or silly. They have every right to ask you to leave, and owe you nothing. You want to be heard? Stop supporting them. Stop buying their movies. That is your choice. There is a difference between government suppression and saying something and the person you said it to deciding that they want to block you or ask you not to come back to their house. Even if the person is being awful, following rule #1 means that should they block you, you know that you were in the right and they are in the wrong.
5) Think before you speak. Twitter is a fast-paced thing and we often post before we think through the end result. Things don’t always translate. Take just that extra second and consider how it might feel if that thing were said to you by someone with the handle of bigdaddylongtime, or whatever anonymous handle you prefer. Accountability should be our everyday lives. Sadly, it is not. If you want the conversation to continue, hold yourself accountable. Imagine if we all did that. Game changer.
Bonus: Your parents, whatever combination or lack of combination therein, are the ones you call mom(s) or dad(s). Mommy and Daddy in regards to celebrities is creepy. Yeah, I said it. Can you stop? I’ll bake you cookies if you do.
I know to a lot of you this feels patronizing, but I see it over and over again on Twitter. I see people claiming that they have a right to time and attention. I hate to tell you this, but you don’t. No one does. I don’t have a right to anyone’s time. Neither do you. My intent is not to patronize. It is to remind the people who aren’t aware that behind that screen there are people – wealthy, privileged people who get to pretend and play in a way we will never, but people all the same. Hating them sight unseen is not healthy or kind.
I encourage you all to protect your spheres, as well. Engage with people who support you. Comment on the things that make you feel better. Surround yourself with healthier options. If that celebrity makes you ragey, quit following them and quit buying things that they are in. It’s that simple. At the end of the day, you can only be responsible for you. And I believe that we genuinely have the power to make things in this very difficult year just a little bit better by being even a fraction more respectful.
Respect is free. Let’s invest together.