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OPINION - Choose Your Words Wisely

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Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpoilerTV.

Several years ago, I wrote an editorial hoping to shine a light on a serious social media problem, the actions, and behaviors of what was dubbed toxic fandoms. (Originally published March 30, 2017) In it, I talked about how the problem was driving not only fans of television from social media but also the stars themselves who had reached out to fans. And sadly, the situation has grown infinitely worse. However, I do have hope, I've been seeing lots of talk on Twitter and other social media platforms recently about the vitriol and toxic behavior out there and I hope some of the strongest comments speaking out against it have started positive change and discussions.

In reading these comments I've come to the following conclusion- when posting on social media we should all take care to choose our words more carefully. I think what we are all being given is an abject lesson of "the pen (in this case the keyboard) being mightier than the sword." People posting without stopping to think of the power behind their words can do great harm. It's something we have all been guilty of from time to time, in our zeal to express our passionate beliefs about a show, performer or ship we love. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of it too and am making a concentrated effort to be more considerate and kinder when I post. I have apologized for previous mistakes but want to be clear that while I am apologizing for causing someone discomfort or displeasure, I will not apologize for my convictions, I will just be more careful in expressing them, trying hard to stay in my own lane, so to speak.

For example, in my original editorial, I used the wrong word to label the problem. The problem lay not with fandoms, but with individuals within a fandom who chose to act harshly and were themselves choosing the wrong words. People who believed they were right, you're wrong all the time, because you don't agree with them or believe as they do. And if you do disagree with them, and post it anywhere, that's when the most toxic individuals would band together with personal attacks, name-calling, and worse, physical threats. As hard as it may be at times, perhaps the best response is no response because often attacks are done to provoke a response and hence an argument.

To me, their behavior is the definition of bullying, which is ironic because the word most often misused these days in social media seems to be the word "bully." There is a difference between expressing an opinion different than someone and defending that opinion and being a bully. Sadly "bully" is often a label placed on a person with a dissenting opinion by those displaying the most bullying behavior. Before using that word to label someone, read what they're saying carefully, maybe even reach out civilly and ask them to explain what they mean or get to know them before believing a label someone else may have given them. This happened to me recently when in a tense exchange with someone, I stepped back, looked at my own words, and reached out in explanation and what resulted was a great, civil discussion that changed how we looked at each other and understood each other's differing opinion.

The right words can support, encourage, bring joy, laughter, and happiness. The wrong words can insult, hurt, attack, belittle, wound, be harmful and discourage even the strongest soul. Hence, why we are seeing more and more stars pull away from social media. With Twitter especially, being the global community it is, we all need to choose our words more carefully and consider that what a word means in your country may mean something else entirely in another country or culture.

One other thing to consider when choosing our words is to remember that stars, writers, producers, showrunners, etc. are people too. That words can hurt and upset them, and just like us, they enjoy hearing praise or support for the jobs they do or causes they support. I think what I wrote in my original editorial still applies.

It's fine to tell a writer/producer or showrunner you don't like or care for a storyline or a certain character. What's toxic is constantly bombarding them with hate-filled tweets like, "kill this character" or "I hate this character" EVERY time they're online or anytime that character is mentioned in an article about the show.

Unfortunately, one of the fallacies of social media is its immediacy, and when a star or executive doesn't respond to one of the thousands of tweets or messages they likely receive daily in a timely fashion or with the answer the fan wants to hear, they're often greeted with anger or vitriol. That fan may choose to respond like a petulant child because they believe they are entitled to a response. Just because someone is on Twitter does not mean you are entitled to a response or to attack or insult them just because they don't respond to you. Remember, they don't have to be there at all, they're there because they choose to be, often taking the time after a long hard day on set or doing promotion for their show or taking time away from their families to talk to fans. When they do choose to respond, they deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect.

The writers, producers, directors, and actors on any show on television work extremely long, difficult hours to bring episodes to our television or computer screens. And no matter how long, or how hard they work to bring us the best possible episodes of our favorite shows they will not please everyone with every episode. Many fans often forget that people associated with these shows take time out of their very busy lives, away from their families to come onto social media to talk to them, because like anyone, they enjoy hearing if they've done a good job or not.

There is not an easy fix to the problems of social media today. Sadly, editorials like mine and all the other wonderful posts and comments I've seen out there recently may go over the head of individuals who need to step back and take a breath the most. Yet, as I said, there is hope as I'm seeing a lot less toxicity in my Twitter timeline. If just one person takes the wise words spoken recently to heart and changes, then that's the first step, that's progress.

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