In the wake of the Manchester bombing, words swirled around me in the miasma that is traditional and social media, and they made me angry. Angry, and upset, at seeing how a vile, cowardly scumbag had used the precious, bright life he was given to pick on those who were younger and weaker than himself; angry, and upset, that he had robbed others who were living and enjoying a pop music concert of their lives; angry, and upset, that he saw fit to vent such hatred and cruelty onto his fellow human beings who had not done anything wrong to him.
And for a moment, I was so angry that I wanted to Do Something. So, I went onto Twitter.
Two days before, I had started getting hundreds of followers who tweeted in Arabic, and I followed them all because that is what you do when you are not famous and want more Twitter followers fast. I admit that I did not actually read their tweets, or their profiles.
In the wake of my anger, I started reading tweets and profiles. Some tweets made me uncomfortable, and I unfollowed them.
In the heat of the moment, I then began to look out for, then unfollow, every one with the word 'Allah'. That turned out to be practically every new follower, even the ones who had photos of non-religious subjects. I had had it up to my ears with the Abrahamic religions at that point, so I also unfollowed the ones who
tweeted in English and other languages that they followed God. Then I decided to not follow anyone religious, so that meant looking out for Shiva/Ganesh etc...
And as I unfollowed, I started to actually see a glimpse of who my followers are. It was then that I took a closer look at the Arabic-language DMs some of them had sent me.
A quick look on Google Translate informed me that a plumber was asking me if I wanted plumbing done. So I Googled on, and learned that while in English, you would tweet something like, 'Thank you for following me. Have a lovely day', in Arabic, what I got was sort of like, 'may the sun shine always when you are out and may roses grow under your feet and may the scent of a thousand blooms accompany you as you walk and may Allah bless your day.'
Although I still am still happy with my beliefs and religion, I was unsettled at how frightened I had been by my followers' Arabic-looking tweets, even the silly, innocent ones, just because they were in a script that looked Arabic. Some of them were not even tweeting in Arabic, but languages like Farsi and Urdu. And all this, because of something I had read and heard over the telly.
So I tried to refollow the followers who did not tweet about misogyny and ethno-religious-nationalist shite (it is obvious when you use Google Translate, even if it is slightly silly), but then learned that Google only allows 1000 follows a day, and that in every few hours, one may only follow a few hundred people.
So what have I learned from all this?
I have learned that words hold much power, especially if one enjoys using a platform to
proclaim them. I have also learned, however, that it is actions which have power over words. I may not be able to control others (I do not understand why some of them followed me), and I have no wish to control them, but I can control myself. I can decide what I do and say, and therefore, it is my responsibility to ensure that I do not do or say anything impulsive, especially in a fit of anger.
All I did was try and cut people out on social media. Now imagine if I had tried to do that in real life, in a place like the UK, where there aren't that many Chinese people. I'd be Billie No Mates, really. 三思而后行 'Think Thrice Before Carrying Out an Action' has never been more apt.
I am going to continue following my followers who tweet in a different language to mine while taking care to read Twitter bios and tweets carefully first. You should do the same, too. You never know, you might end up with millions of Twitter followers.