Uneven Information Distribution

That’s a mouthful isn’t it?

I really need to stop reading Twitter, but when your daily conversations are your dog and your mother, well…You have to find some way to participate in humanity and that’s my current way.

So, as usual, the part of Twitter I read, or one of them at least, is blowing up right now with big-time drama.

What the drama du jour is doesn’t really matter. But it brings up an important point, which is that we don’t all possess the same information.

Two of the things that are part of today’s discourse come up often when this happens.

One, is pronoun use. The person at the center of this current drama uses a set of pronouns you’d have to have researched to know about. And they’ve now deleted their account so there’s no way to even see their bio and what pronouns they’ve listed.

I don’t know this person. I occasionally have seen tweets of theirs shared by people I do read.

On a quick glance their name and profile picture, which is all you see when that happens, present female. So if I were as a casual commenter going to mention something I saw them say in passing, I’d refer to them as “she” or “her” or, more likely for me, “they” or “them”. (I actually may have done so here in the past since a passing thread of theirs led me to comment on an issue a while back.)

Often when these things blow up on Twitter there’s a thread of comments about, “And they didn’t even use [person’s] proper pronouns! See how we can dismiss their opinion immediately.”

Except, that’s not really what happened?

What happened is someone saw a thread of a thread of a thread and by the time it was on their radar the actual person who was the source of the original situation wasn’t important enough to get a detailed biographical history before sharing an opinion about the little snippet that made its way into wider discourse.

In this case that was about an employer of this person. So people might weigh in on how someone was outed as working for X employer and refer to that person as “she” because they have no idea who that person actually is and don’t really care about who that person actually is so just go by their name.

It happens. It’s not a deliberate slight or an intentional misgendering. It’s just going by surface information.

The other big gotcha of the current scandal is that the employer information was leaked by some entity that is “known” to be BAD, and so therefore anybody reacting to that information negatively is clearly supporting this entity and its agenda.

Except, again, at least for me, my first note of the current scandal was probably ten steps down the line so all I saw were people who knew the original person reacting to them being called out and I then looked up that person’s name to see why and saw that they worked for X company.

I never saw the original source of the information. Most people probably never saw the original source of the information.

And, even if I had, not being a part of that community I’d have no frickin’ clue that Y entity is bad. Now I know about them. But the “Ooh, you’re supporting Y entity by talking about this, way to be a…” is not the gotcha you think.

According to my Google search, Twitter currently has 450 million users. That person in the midst of this drama I think had 50K followers. I’d bet you that only about 1K of those followers were dialed into the proper pronouns and who entity Y is.

When things like this break out they break out to a much wider audience than the 1K who know all the nitty gritty details.

Calling people out (and again, I don’t actually have a Twitter account and will never have one again so I’m not an active part of this conversation) for something they don’t actually know is the height of absurdity on the internet.

You live in a bubble. We all do. You cannot expect the world to know everything you know. And you cannot expect everyone to–in a casual, fast-moving conversation–dive down the rabbit hole to find every little nuance. Not gonna happen.

Of course, even if everyone in the world read this post and agreed, those sorts of callouts will never stop. Because there’s some psychological factor at work there that’s always existed. Even pre-internet you’d run into it. Like, “Ha! You didn’t factor in obscure fact number 236 in your comment, you’re wrong!”

But I like to scream into the void at times, so…

There you have it. Just because you know something doesn’t mean others do and half of internet fights seem to me to be about that exact imbalance of information and people reacting as if it doesn’t exist.

Final note. Still not approving any comments by new posters on this blog. (If you’ve posted here before, you’re fine.)

Also, full disclosure, I had a family member who worked most of their career for employer X. On space exploration, by the way. And I’m proud of the work they did there.

(And honestly this whole drama has been a good reminder for me personally that a lot of the people who are angry on the internet would never like me no matter what, so why bend over backwards trying to please them in my writing…Hm.)

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 M.L. has also been a published author under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at] gmail.com.

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