Mid-January, I made a small tweet I didn’t really think about. It was of a quote I once heard, likely from a professor I can’t remember, but the words stuck with me for the years to follow. I had to butcher it significantly to fit the Twitter character count, but the gist of it comes down to:
Never make fun of someone for mispronouncing a word because it means they learned the pronunciation through reading.
It rang true on so many levels, and I think that’s why it resonated with so many people:
1. Reading is good! You can learn a lot from just picking up a book.
2. Making fun of someone is bad, regardless the capacity.
3. English is hard!
Since January 22th, when I made that tweet, I’ve gone on a rollercoaster of new experiences, including small scale Twitter and Facebook virality, something I never thought would happen, and especially not from a tweet poorly structured and quickly composed. But, I guess that’s how going viral works–you can’t predict it or force it.
At first, I was happy to see all the “hearts” and retweets on Twitter. A couple hundred were cool, vaulting this tweet into my most successful tweet category (previously, it was a response tweet to @JaredLeto, which he retweeted, and gained approximately 40-60 “hearts” and further retweets). But I was proud my most successful tweet was done so on my own, and not because of a celebrity’s fame.
But, then weird things started to happen. About two months later, I woke up one morning with approximately eight new Facebook friend requests, along with some message requests. I wasn’t sure if it was related to the tweet, until I saw the same people following me on Instagram and Twitter, with a connection to that tweet in particular. Friend requests are harmless, but the messages were what really made me uncomfortable. Things like “Hi princess, how are you?” all the way to “I love you.” My stomach twisted into knots.
Now, it might seem like I’m exaggerating. This is hardly “going viral” and only a few people broke the barrier to communicate with me, but did so in a very unacceptable way. And that’s what it comes down to; unsolicited messages of a personal nature has crossed the line, especially when I feel somewhat blindsided by the sudden popularity of a two-month-old tweet.
Since then, I’ve been dodging Facebook requests and messages, and filtering who I allow to follow me on Instagram. I never thought I’d be so uncomfortable about something like keeping my images public. But I don’t want the actions of a few to ruin the relationship with an online community I’m a part of. That’s why my Twitter is still public, my Instagram is still public, and I haven’t felt compelled enough to delete the original tweet. I’ve seen so much dialogue brought to light because of my tweet, and I don’t want that to stop. It’s important, on so many levels, to discuss the importance of reading and the reminder that bullying is bad, regardless the situation.
A lot of good has come from this one tweet, especially when a friend tagged me in this picture posted on Facebook:
The individual who shared a screenshot of my tweet is blogger Fabulous Chase, and yes, there are over 6,000 shares on Facebook. Of my tweet. That’s on top of the over 6,000 retweets and 6,500 “hearts” on Twitter. The screenshot has also been shared on Instagram, with less interaction, but still. I’ve experience some of the downfall of going viral (on a very small scale), but even better, I’ve created a dialogue about reading and bullying, and hopefully helped people along the way.
I don’t know what exactly the point of this post was. Part sharing a quote that means so much to me, to a different audience. Part recognizing there are very boundaries that can be crossed, even in a digital setting (especially in a digital setting). In the end, hopefully more people can take away something from this, whether it be inspiring and educational, or a lesson that people behind a computer screen are just that: people.
What do you think? About the quote, about “going viral, and about interacting with people you don’t necessarily know? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!