Steph's Place

Social Media Mouse Maze

by Freda Wallace

Being trans on Twitter is like being the cheese in a mouse experiment. Often we are the bait around which so-called 'culture war' polemics are formed.

Let me explain...

Last month I had to delete my whole Twitter account. I had gained quite a few followers and was quite proud of some of the things I had posted, and some people said it helped them in some way. Sadly though, I was targeted by a few people in particular that kept making new fake accounts. I then blocked them, but they made new accounts, and they started to use my past Twitter posts against me by using pre-transition photos that perhaps I did not want ever to see again - and if I did - I certainly didn’t want to make them public!

So rather than just going through everything I’ve ever said, I decided to start again. I did think about not going back onto Twitter again, but I am slightly addicted to it just like everyone else!

Trans people (more often trans women) had become a talking point in the media, not because publications wish to inform the public but rather because they know the algorithm prefers a simple divisive narrative. The story centres around a 'take over' of women's spaces or fallacy that 'free speech' is under threat.

In reality, speech has never been more accessible in the history of humanity. What they actually mean is they don't like being called out. Essentially they want the freedom to offend, which l (perhaps controversially) would defend. What they cannot expect, however, is a free pass. Words make ripples, and some commentators have higher platforms from which to throw rocks.

Accountability is key.

The right-wing media likes to associate liberalism and, by extension, gender expression with the middle-class - a somehow entitled class who is too sensitive to the world's reality.

Anyone invoking a 'common sense' or 'straightforward thinking' as being aligned with the working class is manufacturing the argument that 'the left' are the destroyers of the structure of society.

This is a fantasy that feeds into the same narrative of a 'metropolitan elite', the exact dividing lines on which Brexit relied for its momentum. This also becomes mixed up in the anticapitalistic ideas of Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion. The political Right needs these to seem like well organised militant groups, but mostly they are nebulous ideas around which social media facilitated groups meet and protest. The aims and objectives are primarily obtuse.

Maybe we are at some sort of crossroads where an old idea of the world is giving way to the new, but it's hard to pinpoint any tangible change while living through it.

However, what is true is that young people are now more comfortable expressing gender, criticising the structure of society and rallying together to make that change.

So it comes as no surprise that old fashioned Conservatives want to oppose this. It's a basic fear of change being played out in the threads of comments on news channel's social media posts. Trans people are being drawn into these debates as evidence of a breakdown of the status quo.

This has the effect of news having to compete for attention with sensationalist stories, half-truths and misleading headlines designed to instil fear in people who have already been indoctrinated into thinking the world is going mad.

Maybe it is.

Maybe it always was, but the voices of reason have now joined in the clickbait for survival.

We all play along; of course, we’ve all weighed in with those people and done the takedown or pointed out where somebody is entirely wrong.

But who does it help, and what value does it have in reality?

In my daily life at work in my social circle, I don’t think about these things; nobody says anything negative to me. Sometimes people have asked questions, or they were overly curious, but I’ve never had any actual hate directed at me in public, only online. Ok, sometimes, but mainly from kids outside the shop who want me to go in for a bottle of mad dog 2020 or fags for them, and l say, no! Piss off, you little scrags!

I’m quite cynical about many of these online hate accounts anyway, especially when people can hide behind anonymous names and fake photos. Some people have an inner need to battle with people; it’s a sort of self-harm, a self-deprecating kind of hatred that we all seem to like to spectate.

It feels like a 'race to the bottom' most of the time.

I've never argued with someone on Twitter that ended with 'oh yeh, l was wrong - I see where you are coming from now - Lots of love. xx


None of us has.

It might be useful not to call everyone a t**t, though. Even if they do have 'l love JK Rolling' (SIC) in their biog!

What is this atrocity exhibition that we are all complicit in?

Of course, it’s not all bad.

We meet people online we and we connect with people. That’s the positive side; that’s what keeps me hopeful.

As someone who has been on the social internet from its earliest inception, I have noticed that the very same kind of people who used to bully me at school and college for being a 'computer geek' - because l could get modems to connect with universities, have taken over the online world now. So excuse me if I have very little time for the opinion-havers of 2021. I've heard most of their arguments recycled 100x over for each new debate.

Yes, Im old.

My biggest fear is not what people say online; I can turn that off.

What worries me is when that attack comes to street level because a gullible soul has started to believe trans people are a threat to them. It happens, and it will only be a matter of time until one of those attacks is directly linked to someone who has swallowed all the usual transphobic dog whistles. We interact in spaces online where hate speech is algorithmically rewarded. The more one dimensional a person is in their quest for followers, the more successful the account.

It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

If I ever do find the end of the maze where I can be free and not be that bit of cheese, that might be nice. It would be lovely one day not to have to think about, examine my identity or make some kind of justification for who I am online.

That day isn't here yet.

So that's why we fight for acceptance.

The people running the maze are making a killing.


Authored by Freda Wallace  @Freda_Needles

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