Oct 31 2009

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Twitter Lists Pros/Cons and Paranoia

I really like the new Twitter Lists function; I already created about 10 Lists. (Go to my Twitter profile, and you can see them in the right column.) I have a lot on my plate lately, and I need all the organization I can get. It’s going to take some fine-tuning, but worth the time.

Before the Lists were rolled out, I somehow got the impression that not only could you create Lists to see all the feeds within that List segregated from your main feed, but that you could then tweet things that would only be seen by that particular List. Alas, not so. If there’s a third party app that does this for PCs, I’d truly appreciate someone pointing me to it.

Meanwhile, I came to a flat stop in my Twitter List enchantment when contemplating a List for tweeps/peeps who self-describe as either a child abuse survivor or a person with DID/MPD. On the one hand, they did self-describe, publicly. Somewhere. On the other hand, I’ve always felt a keen sense of responsibility for maintaining any survivor’s privacy to the extent I am able. Any List designated as “public” can be seen by anyone, and can be one-click followed by anyone. For these groups, that gives me pause, with good reason.

Over the last 15 years on the Internet, I’ve been targeted by (1) a guy pretending to be DID so he could talk to real DID people “to help flesh out the character in his novel”, which was not disclosed till much time had passed; (2) several ethically-challenged therapists (and at least one therapist wannabe) who “wanted some experience” with a DID client, without actually being their therapist; and (3) far too many people who get a thrill out of harassing vulnerable people. Also, I don’t have the issue of fearing someone (like a former abuser) might figure out who I actually am behind an online alias — but many survivors do.

So it made me a bit queasy to so helpfully, voluntarily, publicly, aggregate survivors for anyone to see and, perhaps, exploit. (At least don’t make it easy.) And that is where the public vs. private choice for Twitter Lists shines. I’ve made my survivor Lists private, and only I can see them. Even the people on the private List can’t see that they are on it. I tested this.

This works for me. Have you thought about these issues when creating your own Twitter Lists? How are you handling it?

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Permanent link to this article: http://thirdofalifetime.com/2009/10/31/twitter-lists-proscons-and-paranoia/


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  1. castorgirl

    Hmmm… this made me think. I have created a list called “survivors”, thinking that this was ambiguous enough, but maybe it isn’t. The people on the list have identified as being a survivor of trauma of some sort either through their twitter profile or their linked webpage/blog.

    I realise that I’m in no way important enough for people to try to find others through me, but it could be more of an issue for those with more of a following.

    Just to be safe, I’ll make my list private…

    Take care,

    1. Sarah Olson

      Hi CG,

      I also considered calling my survivors List something vague like “friends”, but then other friends would wonder why they weren’t on it. Making the List private doesn’t solve the problem of bad behavior by others, but at least I’m not giving them an easy target.

      Don’t sell yourself short in the “important enough” category. I actually did look at your List while I was thinking about mine. That, and just about everyone’s “who I follow” list I’ve seen pointed me to people I would have otherwise missed. That’s the downside to going private.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


      1. castorgirl

        I agree that the lists were a great way to find people you weren’t already following. In some respects its sad that we have to have this discussion – almost like it’s another way we are shown to be a hidden and vulnerable population.

        I have seen some people call their lists “blogger” or “mental health”… but that didn’t seem quite right to me. I suppose it was my librarian brain calling the list “survivors” – that’s what we are.

        Take care,

  2. Claire

    Oh excellent post, it also made me wonder if people mind being put in my ‘mentalhealthish’ category?

    I think mental health, talking about it, studying it, going therapy etc is a good thing but wouldn’t want people to feel pigeon holed by a tag I have put on people, so I know why I am following them.

    If that at all makes sense?

    1. Sarah Olson

      Hi Claire,

      It’s a tough call, and one that will never satisfy everyone on one’s list. Some people view their quest for healing as a badge of honor and commitment to a new life. Some don’t want to be labeled — with *any* label. My post was more to do with what unscrupulous people might do with the label, but this is another side of the same issue.

      CG above mentions that it’s sad we need to even have this discussion — that we are again being shown a value in hiding who we really are and from where we came. I felt that twinge, too.

      I’ve been very open, publicly, since before my book was published in 1997. Perhaps that distorts the amount of negative attention I’ve received. I only know it’s possible, and want people to not be blindsided by the jerks out there. I refuse to hide, but it’s what I chose.

      Thanks for your comment!


      1. Claire

        I suppose number 2 made me think a bit more, as I am a trainee therapist and wouldn’t want anyone to think I was tapping into their fountains of knowledge for a sneaky drink. I appreciate, admire and learn from those that share their life stories, but hopefully not in an intrusive way. I think this post serves as a reminder to be mindful.

        It is sad that we have to a discussion like this, but useful all the same.


  3. Wounded Genius

    Howdy, I read something similar to this in another article the other day – saying there’s no reason you couldn’t take a load of random twitterers and list them as “child @busers” or jsut about anything you like… not sure what the solution is. I guess with a “DID blogroll” you know that people are saying that’s what they are blogging about when you click through but for some the twitter page might be a way of talking about something other than DID… its a tricky one.. nice post.


    1. Sarah Olson

      Hi, thanks for your comment. I’ve been perusing your Couched blog archive for awhile. Lots of food for thought there, thank you for preserving it on the Web.

      I am building A DID-based blogroll, so I’ve been pondering this issue as well. The distinction I’m making is that, as you say, someone who openly blogs about being DID have put themselves out there. They would hopefully be password-protecting entries they did not wish others to read. But blogs have exponentially less reach than anything on Twitter.

      With Twitter, as far as I can tell, you have three options. (1) Separate accounts to have both public and private Tweets, (2) Protect all of your Tweets from all but invitees, or (3) Use one account for all purposes, openly.

      The difference though between Lists built on Twitter and a blogroll is literally millions of people can easily access a List with a minimal level of search, especially if one knows the right terms to search. Blog searches, in my own frustrating experience with them, are nowhere near as precise, or as easily perused.

      When I get a million hits on my blog, and it’s in the top 10 on Google Search, I’ll have to rethink it a bit.

      One thing I just learned is that if you don’t want to be included on someone’s list, you can opt out by blocking that person from your account. That helps if someone’s listed you in a malicious way, such as “Real Jerks”, you block them and you’re off the list. It’s still problematic if you like the person but you just want off their List.

      Thanks again!


      1. Wounded Genius


        I think another thing about lists that people maybe haven’t picked up on yet is that you can make lists of people without following them.. so I guess if you want to know who’s doing what with your account you need to check the lists you’re on.. you don’t get a notification like you do with a follow that Britny_XX_Spam_48 is stalking you so that you can quickly block their ass!

        I guess the rule has to be – if someone says they are DID or writing about it on their Twitter profile then it’s allowed – but if you just happen to know they also have a DID blog/are DID and you find their other online persona on Twitter, then it’s best to ask?

        Another layer of “Complication 2.0″


  4. Catatonic Kid

    try Seesmic re: 3rd party apps

    1. Sarah Olson

      Excellent! Thank you so much!


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