Friday, 9 November 2012

Calm down dear, it's only Twitter-rage

An interesting week at Hedges Towers. To Sainsburys to buy some sparklers for DD's wedding in December. Approaching the fireworks counter, I was informed by the young assistant that I had to complete my shopping before I could buy them. Asked why - and was told that it was a safety precaution to prevent customers setting them off in the store. I am now officially the oldest juvenile delinquent on the block!

Also this week I managed to got involved in a Twitter-spat with two other writers over an issue that I expressed an opinion upon, I thought generally, but was instantly interpreted as a criticism. This is the first time it has happened to me, though not the first time I've witnessed spats taking place, in my role as usually innocent bystander.

Which led me to think about how we act towards one another on such a restrictive medium as Twitter. Are there unwritten rules of behaviour? Because if we want to participate and put ourselves out there, we are going to meet individuals whose opinions and stances differ radically from ours. How should we deal with this?

I believe there is a difference between disagreeing over a particular issue, and launching a personal attack on another Twitter member. I have never witnessed the latter, thankful to say, but I can completely understand why, in such a circumstance, one would want to create digital distance by 'unfollowing' the attacker. 

 'Unfollowing' someone with whom you happen to have started a lively dialogue over an issue, however strongly you or they feel about it, is in my opinion the equivalent of stamping your foot, storming out and slamming the door. I did it at 13. Maybe you did it too. I don't do it now because I hope I'm more 'grown up.' Thus I am happy to say: 'OK, let's agree to differ on this one. Good luck anyway,' and drop out of the discussion, which is what I chose to do in the spat I got involved in. 

Also, I always remind myself, whenever I am tempted to let rip, of what happened when I 'did' the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago. There I witnessed a rather nasty row take place, in public, between two very well-known children's writers. I remember thinking at the time: if that's the way you behave, then I don't think I want to buy your books. And I never have.

So what do you think? Should you speak your mind - whatever the outcome? How do you deal with Twitter-rage? I'd really like to know.

Next week: The PINK SOFA welcomes another wonderful guest.



58 comments:

  1. I'm with you on this one...just bow out gracefully (if that is possible in my case...not renowned for grace)

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  2. I once had a similar thing happen to me.It was when the riots were on the summer before last. I didn't say very much but had to when one person said they should all be killed. At first I thought she didn't mean it literally, but unfortunately she did. I gently suggested that might be a tad extreme and she went a bit mad. Suffice to say that she thought I was part of the problem.

    I did unfollow as I really didn't want to speak to that person again. Mostly I try not to, but sometimes you just have to draw the line. So that's my two penneth for what it's worth. And if ya don't like it, then I'll unfollow ya!!!

    That was a joke...honest. :)

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    1. Phew! I try not to even go as far as you, brave one. I have sat on fingers in case of: very extreme Right-wing American tweeter and equally extreme anti-religion tweeter. There's just no use. Not in 140 characterrs. I'd need days and days!! So I stick to pleasantries and the weather

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  3. I hate conflict of any description. Spats, angry people, grumpy hubbies....I walk away.
    Well done on acting sensibly on Twitter. People can be so childish.
    Some people need to act their age not their shoe size.

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    1. Quite. Tho' they don't. I have one writer friend who has 'strong opinions', and we do cross. BUT we always take it off Twitter, and sort it out. Trouble is, esp. for thee and me, people can't see our faces, so don't realise we're teasing or not serious. Or being, in my case, an oldie deserving of a bit of tolerance.

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    2. I have that all the time. I'm rarely serious and people don't realise I'm just a dotty old mickey taker :)

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  4. I witnessed a spat between two writers on a forum recently. I'm happy to say that as soon as one apologetically backed away, the other also gave apologies and the two were reconciled. I think that's what we need to do. Even if the other has irked us with how they've reacted to something we said, a quick apology for any offence you may have caused is usually a calming solution. It doesn't mean you're agreeing with them. It just means you don't want to argue.

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  5. I have always said that when you read a tweet or something on Facebook you read it in your own voice so you can make it cheeky or funny and it may not be the way the writer of it intended it to be. Sometimes I'll tweet something that's meant to be funny and then think it could sound cheeky so I put lol after it. I did have a bit of an argument over X factor when I said someone was good,I was told in no uncertain terms how they were awful,well it's a matter of opinion I think.
    I wouldn't have a proper argument on twitter there's no point really.
    I didn't know that about sparklers, I wonder who thinks up these rules?

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    1. I don't know who makes up the rules - some MAN somewhere: health and safety gone mad. Trouble is, as soon as I was told, I got an irrisistable urge to seize some fireworks and go let them off in the biscuit aisle!

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  6. Carol, I think both you and Anne have put it really well. I always feel that the written word has the power to create terrible conflicts because once something is in black and white it can't be undone. The other point is that there are one or two souls out there who feel it's ok to rant on Twitter and FB from their soap boxes (ok we all have them but best keep them in the cupboard most of the time). If you combine that with the difficulty of engaging in proper debate and conversation on Twitter (how to debate in 140 characters - hmmm should be a skill taught at school along with the 6 minute 20 second presentations) and on FB with the attitude some people have of feeling it's safe to be abusive when you can't see someone, then you have the ingredients of a big fat misunderstanding and conflict. My, do I ramble on? In a word or two, I think you did the right thing :)) I also bow out of arguments as soon as there i s any sign of rancour. About the sparklers? I'm speechless - as I am about so many things these days - no conker games being one of them.

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  7. There's a huge difference between disagreeing with dignity (which is fine) and getting all personal and spitty about it. And I do 'unfollow' people who get abusive - there's plenty of fab people to follow without getting embroiled with them!

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  8. The sparkler rule has been around a while, I can see the risk side of things with them and fireworks but some health and safety stuff has gone way to far.
    I think nowadays, especially with the online community, you do have to just walk away sometimes. It's tricky. Strikes me that not all but many people will not accept opinion or belief anymore - that there can be more than one. People won't agree to disagree. People (some) don't seem to understand there is no right or wrong answer, or more than one right answer, yknow?

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  10. I suspect that i know which spat you're talking about. As one of the people involved in that spat I have to say that I am still bitterly hurt by the fact that the person not only refused to accept that I was entitled to my opinion, but she then was rude about my husband and not only unfollowed me but blocked me so I couldn't even try and get some reconciliation. I hate arguments. This was the first time it had happened to me and I now think twice before responding to a statement of discontent. Why do people go onto Twitter and make bold statements if they're not prepared to discuss it?

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    1. Actually, you don't!It was me v 2 American writers I've not really spoken to before. The issue was over Kindle free promotions. I expressed my opinion,they disagreed , and took my opinion as a personal criticism of their actions. At which point I said....see above, and withdrew.

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  11. Jo, Catt and Ros (well, everyone so far - if Twitter was only you (and me - some of the time) harmony and peace would be the order of the day! At least you are reinforcing what I try to do - have only been on Twitter for 3 months, so still 'learning' the ropes

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  12. My motto is everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, so I tend to keep my opinions to myself. It's too easy for people to take things out of context online because tone is completely void from our postings. I guess I'm a little overly cautious, but I don't want people to take me the wrong way or get the wrong impression about me.

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  13. I reckon (um, Carol, are you ready for some TT stuff??!!) that Twitter, FB, or anywhere else on the internet is the same as arguing anywhere else - you say something controversial, or in disagreement with someone, and they get the hump. If you want to speak your mind, and I often do, then some people will get iffy with you. If you want to be a people pleaser, then no-one will get iffy with you. It's LIFE, not Twitter.

    I would rather eat my own spleen that add 'lol' to anything; instead I'll do a :) or a few exclamation marks, if I want to imply that something is in jest. But, for goodness sake, we're not all delicate little flowers who can't take a bit of disagreement or ragging, are we? Unfortunately, you get childish people everywhere. When I used to use FB a lot socially (before I started all this writing lark), I was friends on there for years with a girl who will remain nameless, though actually her name was Andrea. She used to moan about her husband all the time. One day I kinda agreed that he'd been a bit of an arse. She deleted and blocked me. I had no idea why. It was only months later that she sent me some long, frightfully intense message about how hurt she'd been about 'something I'd said about her husband'. I couldn't even remember it.

    I think my point is that if you want to be jolly nice and call everyone hun and put loads of xxxxs after everything you write, then everyone will like you and not be nasty back. S'up to you. As for the sparklers, I expect they knew a delinquent when they saw one. Oh, and that's a joke, not meant to be taken seriously, meant to be funny, okay!!!!!

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    1. I was soo waiting for this!! I take issue with your 'people pleaser' description, as it hints that one might not be being sincere. I think it's more a case of trying not to cause controversy - which, ok, you're right, is, for the strong-viewed like thee and me, almost impossible. I keep myself very much in check on Twitter, because part of being there is to attract people to my books, as well as chat and meet interesting people. And ...see penultimate para of blog!

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  14. I like lively discussions on twitter and other venues, but if the person does not treat you with respect and attacks you personally I'm not sure they're worthy. There is a level of maturity required to participate in such discussions. If you don't posses it you should steer clear.

    I witnessed a misunderstanding on twitter the other day where, what looked like a very lovely lady began throwing around the f word. She had taken a very mild comment as an insult and became really worked up over nothing. I didn't unfollow since the attack was not geared toward me, but if it had been I'd unfollowed Overreacting Ophelia in a heartbeat.

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    1. Overreacting Ophelia! Brilliant! Stored up and will appear in my writing sometime in the future!!

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  15. I had a problem with some on Twitter and Facebook last year which eventually lead to me making the decision to not only unfollow and unfriend them but also to block. I feel much more relaxed on there now without worrying that I will inadvertently upset this person.

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    1. Sorry about this! Not pleasant, and should not happen. Mind you, when you hear of some of the things that happen on Twitter,I think we seem to be quite lucky!

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  16. Makes one wonder if some people only spend their lives on FB and Twitter because they can't form real life relationships without blowing up at people! Also, you get the 'arguers on the internet' who dare do it because they're hiding behind a book cover, or a cartoon, or some other symbol. Probably just a bunch of social misfits. I use Twi to talk to interesting people and flog me books. If I want to argue with someone, I'll go and wind my husband up :)

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    1. I do wonder. I'm beginning to think of using them a bit less - mainly because I have to get on with the book. And at the end of the day they aren't 'real' relationships! (as the responses of some of the above clearly indicate).

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    2. I'm planning to only do one Twitter sesh a day from next week, instead of practically bloody living on it! I've been neglecting some of my 'real' friends with whom I only connect on FB because of it - I mean, how many RTs do I really need to do a day??!! - and also I want to write more than I have been. Oh, and the house is pretty grubby, too. You know those kitchen cupboards I said I was going to clear out in August, when I finished my last book...??

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    3. ....having said that, last night I got one of those spam messages that people who don't know about Twitter etiquette send - some bird had sent to all her 900 followers "Thank you for following. Could you please read and review my story, and perhaps vote for it, too?" I didn't know her from Adam. I replied. "Would you like me to edit, proofread and illustrate it for you, as well? And maybe lend you 50 quid? This is a Twitter follow, not a relationship." She wasn't very pleased, and went to great length to tell me how bitchy and venomous I was, and that everyone else had done so. Yeah right, je pense!!!

      Usually I ignore, or just point out, politely, that this sort of message is widely considered to be spam and probably not a good idea - usually that's fine!!! I was tired last night...!!

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    4. You know what, given that as you get older, you get mouthier (see me) by the time you're my age, you're going to be the sort of person mother's warn their kids about.
      Mother: Eat your cabbage, or Terry Tyler will GET you!
      Kid: (screams) Noooooooooooo

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  17. I got nasty comments from some anonymous on my blog once. People can be really childish, but it's their problem! I think we have to put our heads up and go on. It's the best way to show that few mean words won't make us give up!

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    1. You can always do what I do: have a comment approval app. It means people don't get to see their remarks immediately, but you do, and you can delete anybody you don't want. I took the @Robot' thing off, because it's hard to do on a phone - but my blog is personal, and I refuse to let anyone post on it if they're spam, promoing or just plain nasty.Your blog thingy should have an app. Blogger does.

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    2. I have the @Robot thing on but I haven't blocked the anonymous users. That was the only time someone has said something nasty during the 15 months I've had a blog.

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  18. With just a few words and no facial expressions, hand gestures or ways to give a different tone of voice (OTHER THAN SHOUTING) it's not surprising that simple differences of opinion can soon become fierce arguments. Trying to back out of rows and rants as soon as possible is probably the best course.

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  19. Some people are simply incapable of 'discussing' anything no matter which medium of communication they are abusing. However, via twitter, that delightful podium for rhetorical dribblage, many use their brazen narrative the way any coward would use a flick knife...stab retreat..stab retreat...pointlessly attacking with little, if any, reasoning behind it! Of course 140 character limitation can tilt inference on occasion thus leading to misunderstandings as it did with myself once. To briefly expand upon this shame I hold, it's suffice to say that I was the victim of an extremely feisty bottle of red wine. It seduced me with its dark and dusky flavours fogging my senses and twisting my opticals thereby causing me to misunderstand a tweet. Earlier I had referred to a certain gent as a ‘fellow blogger.’..his acidic reply as I read it was..’Not wishing to be considered a snob but..’... ( I knew then this wasn’t going to end well )...’After over 30 years of writing I feel I am of a more elevated position than ..blogger!’.... I could feel him spit this word out so, whilst retaining my dignity and demonstrating my own social worth as a ‘blogger’, I replied... “Seems you have attained such elevation by being so firmly placed #upyourownarse”. The following morning, as small Demons clog danced in my head, I re-read his tweet...to find it was quite innocuous really and very tongue in cheek. I did attempt to apologise, whilst stuffing myself with a huge wedge of humble pie, but am left to presume that his ‘unfollowing’ me was indication enough that he was not a happy bunny...oh dear.
    In essence, I think ‘Twitter’ should be treated much as Lot’s wife was...with copious pillars of salt and should any one vent their angst in a particularly one sided or aggressive manner, I find matters can be easily and quickly resolved...via incisive use of a hashtag...( possibly ).

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    1. Oh my this made me LAUGH!!!thanks you for your wit, style and frankness!! Please do NOT ever give up being 'you!!

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    2. Brilliant! "as small Demons clog danced in my head..." just love it!

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  20. First time I've read your blog Carol. It's very interesting. I seldom have disagreements on Twitter. Maybe I'm too bland, maybe my followers are. I did have occasion once to take on a Twitter bully who took delight in coaxing others to 'discuss' usually silly topics, and then berated them unmercifully if they disagreed with him. I'm very happy to report that by the time we finished, he unfollowed me. One of my happier experiences on Twitter.

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    1. haha. Brave person! I'm always aware, as I stated, that I do want people to look into my books, so mustn't be too much of a grouch! That said, I hope I wouldn't stand by if someone was 'bullying'.

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  21. Interesting blog, Carol. Why should dealing with people on Twitter be any different to meeting them face to face? If we all remember our manners, respect each other's point of view - no matter how much we disagree with it - & make it a rule never to make personal attacks, then Twitter can be an excellent tool for reasoned debate. After all, life would be boring if we all agreed on everything!

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    1. But it is - coz fo what you stated. I was analysing a chat I had recently with my best friend - we were being very 'sarky' with each other - but smiling, helping ourselves to biscuits etc. Facial expressions say so much. Twitter does not (yet) give us the opportunity to see the smiles, winks, and 'tongue in cheek' stuff!

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  22. Carol, I got involved in something similar to Mandy K James, and was shocked when I got verbally attacked by a well established author, and writing tutor.

    I haven't unfollowed her, but we don't talk on twitter anymore. It was 'her way, or no way', and two other writers involved did unfollow her, but personally I hate spats. Life is too short. I am however, very careful with my words now.

    I love Twitter, previously I'd heard bad things about Facebook for this sort of thing, but never on Twitter. Judging from your comments though, it appears to be a bigger issue than I thought...


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    1. It is a problem! I think we need to agree to disagree without getting personal. Maybe some people are insecure, and feel threatened by alternative views. Have to say, apart from certain individuals, I err on the light banter!!

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  23. Why treat anyone differently on Twitter than you would if meeting them face to face? By applying simple & respecting each others POV, we can all use Twitter for pleasant chats & lively, well-reasoned debate.
    Great blog!

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  24. I avoid all this by hardly ever having deep virtual conversations. And definitely not talking to anyone who looks as if they might be a ranty, right-wing fundamentalist. Impossible not to get irritated sometimes, though. Always best to walk away and count to ten before hitting the send/tweet button. gx

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    1. This is one way, and you are not alone - see Kelly Hashway. But I think one misses out on the rough and tumble of a good discussion ( with selected people, of course, like me who won't let it get personal).

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    2. Is anyone feeding the fish? And help yourself to biscuits!

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  25. I joined twitter in the hope of learning how to get my point across in 140 characters or less & have discovered that even after several months I am making slow progress. I don't know why lol is so frowned upon because I find it indispensable. I am rarely serious and ironically I do laugh out loud a lot it maybe its a snort! Ha! Lol! Anyway, it has helped to keep sometimes ambiguous comments from being taken seriously. I have tweeted and not added it & can see how it might be misinterpreted as a holder of an arid sense of humour. I don't unfollow people easily, benefit of the doubt, but I am tempted sometimes when something is said that I find offensive. I may mentally add a lol and it doesn't seem so bad. Wow! I can't understand why I have issues with being limited to 140 characters, do you? Lol :p

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    1. IU've only been on Twitter since Aug, and 140chs is limiting - tho a good discipline. I think you gradually build up an impression of the people you can be 'opinionated' safely with. Others, I also qualify with a # or something

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  26. Carol, I know you'll be worried because I haven't written anything on this blog post for a few hours. (!!!!) Agree so much about the problem being that you can't see facial expressions so much - same with texts. I'd also like to applaud Maria, above, for naming the person who was arsey with her! Hurrah!!! Name and shame !!! (Or perhaps not, or some people who don't laugh when I tell them off for spamming might name and shame ME!).

    Just wanted to add something ELSE to this - when I was quite new to Twitter and dead green, not knowing about these troll types who just want to get you into arguments, I was accused by this stupid bint called Kerry P Smith (I think) for faking my reviews. I was very polite about it, and bothered to justify myself (I hasten to add, for the record, that none of my reviews are fake, that everyone who has reviewed my books have read and enjoyed them, and I find people who do fake reviews or buy them totally pathetic). I didn't, however, rise to the fight, and eventually she gave up. Unable to get me going, she resorted to writing a review on Amazon, slagging me off and saying that my reviews were as she'd said. Amazon removed it. I looked at her review persona - on her wish list were many books entitled 'how to write a best seller' and stuff like that. Oh, the temptation to have a go at her on Twitter.... I kept a discreet and professional silence, though!!!

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    1. How unpleasant. Seriously. - I'm always baffled by people who are this unpleasant - and this is certainly a prime example. There is so much crap in the universe - better to try to amuse or encourage rather than destroy. Though in your case, I may make an exception.....

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  27. Twitter is, or should be, fun. 140 characters makes it difficult to have a discussion of any depth (though I recently had a multi-national discussion on Sharia Law that was fascinating!), so I find it better for light topics. It is a good way to virtually 'meet' people in real time, which is nice. I find that the authors I really enjoy use their Twitter accounts to make me laugh a good deal of the time, though a thought-provoking statement isn't out of the question.

    As far as unfollowing... I'm of two minds. Anyone truly unpleasant doesn't often get a follow in the first place. I have had to unfollow one person who insisted on taking offense at the most general statements at random times. There is little hope of reconciling with someone with such a mindset, so I reluctantly unfollowed after months of patience. Generally it just plays into their scenario in which you are the unreasonable person, and I am far too contrary about playing into anyone's preconceived notion to be comfortable with that. :)

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    1. Thanks Autumn. I think that's probably a wise policy. As you sy, unpleasant people don't usually build up a lot of followers - tho sadly, they can cause damage even so.

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  28. It's funny (or not so funny) how people can get on these social sites like Twitter. It does happen often. We each read a comment or something someone has posted and the way it reads in our heads can be very different to what the person means. People can take unnecessary offence or if they disagree with your opinion can get defensive and stupid out it. I've noticed this on forums that I have been joined to at one time or another. It's stupid really because places like Twitter should a place to socialise and enjoy yourself and make new connections. Interesting post, sorry to hear you had a spat people can take things to serious it's good to have a discussion and have differing opinions, that's what makes it interesting.

    :)

    Kate

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    1. Quite! Never argue on Twitter - NO I DON'T!!!

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  29. Wow!!! Fifty three comments, Carol! That is something! I don't think I've ever had so many. Well done for giving us a thought provoking and stimulating post!

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    1. Remember, about half of them are me replying, though!

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  30. I handle twitter by being extra nice and curbing my natural urge to be sarky and a smart alec. I find this way I don't get into any squabbles - I am even thinking of carrying this technique over into my real life. But then again - nah.

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