Open letter to a disruptive Twitter user

To the person who decided that he would respond to my Twitter feed today:

Yes, I tweeted on Monday that I had booked tickets to see the new play, Teddy Ferrara, at the Donmar Warehouse. I did so partly because the Donmar’s so small that it can feel that securing a ticket can be an achievement in itself. It was also prompted by the cast including an actress whose work I admire, and whose friendship I feel privileged to enjoy.

So I decided to share with my friends and others who follow me that, at some point in the future, I would be seeing the play.

And yes, I know that the play has LGBT themes. And that perceptions of the play have been decidedly mixed. And that the reasons for the criticisms have varied, from story events to characterisation to dialogue.

I also know that some audience members agree with those reviews. Just as I know that others, including friends of mine who have seen it, disagreed with them.

All of which I am sure I will discuss with those same friends – once I, too, have seen it. After all, talking about the merits of a play before you have experienced anything about it is not the greatest endeavour for anyone concerned.

So I am open to discussing the play.

But not yet.

And so, when you tweeted a reply to mine two days after I posted, telling me why the play is (in your opinion) so bad, I was not particularly amenable. Particularly as you don’t follow me normally, so had been attracted by the content of my “I’ve booked tickets to see it” tweet and nothing else. Indeed, looking at your Twitter feed – in lieu of knowing anything else about you – I get the impression that this may not be particularly abnormal behaviour for you.

The thing is, you read my tweet saying that I would be going, and decided to impose your view before I had even stepped anywhere near the theatre. Your actions were designed to shut down the possibility of coming to an independent conclusion about the play that was in any way different to yours. You decided to exploit your experience of having seen a play to try and suppress a stranger who had not yet had that opportunity.

This is not the behaviour of a constructive theatregoer. Or indeed, of a constructive member of any stratum of society.

I rarely block people on Twitter. Generally it’s easier to just ignore the people who deserve to be ignored. But when you inject yourself into my Twitter experience, unwanted, uninvited and intent on disrupting my theatre experience, I’m going to exercise my right to not listen to you.

And please, if you are reading this, consider changing your behaviour. As it is, your actions make it less likely for your targets to constructively engage with you, even once they are in a position to discuss from an informed position. For example, even if I see the play and find my own personal opinion being even closely aligned with yours, you have made yourself the last person I would want to discuss it with.

I know that writing this blog post may seem like I’m getting angry at something I should not get worked up about. I’m not angry. I’m put out, yes, but that’s about the sum total of the ire this event has provoked.

What has spurred me to write this is that outside the world of theatre, there are other branches of the arts where behaviour like this is out of control. Where a few antisocial people go after, harass, threaten and provoke genuine fear in others, just because they happen to have expressed opinions which the harassers have decided they don’t like. Such events around women in video gaming are getting the headlines, but there are other examples that don’t yet have the same level of publicity as the high-profile harassment cases have garnered. Such behaviour has, touch wood, not yet taken hold within the theatre world that I hold dear. But if we say nothing to the small infractions, it does not take much for such antisocial behaviour to take root and flourish.

But – and this is especially important – nor do I want this to become a witch hunt, or a call to name and shame. Hence why this post contains no links, and why I will not be opening comments below it. If anyone tries to hunt you out, to call you out individually, to seek some form of retribution, then they would be doing the same to you as you have been doing to others. And that really would make me start to feel angry, so I hope nobody is foolish enough to go down that road.

So to you, my solitary disruptive Tweeter, I conclude: I may unblock you at some point in the future. I don’t like having a long, permanent block list as that is antithetical to the way I want to run my Twitter experience.

But please don’t take any unblocking as an invitation to behave like a douche again. Thank you.

Published by

Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.