I’ve tweeted this before (here), but it has been eating at me, so let me repeat what I’ve said before in this blog. The way Twitter (and all of social media) is setup, any publicity is “good” publicity. In other words, whether a thing is retweeted (re-shared) to approve or disapprove, its reach and influence grow regardless. Whenever you retweet you are spreading a message, you are promoting that message and the person behind it.
Too often I see people innocently quote-replying some tweet to tell us how much they dislike it. They unthinkingly conclude that the priority is to dunk on this person or tweet because it is offensive, wrong, triggering, etc. But here’s the rub: you have just blasted that message to your entire timeline. Before you quote-replied I (and perhaps most of your followers) was happily ignorant of the existence of the tweet you were replying to. The act of quote-replying—even when disagreeing—means your timeline, the same timeline you would like very much to know that you do not approve of the tweet you are replying to, becomes aware, and awareness means, in all likelihood, they too will quote-reply, setting off a chain reaction of quote-replies and rage tweets that have the ultimate effect of spreading the very tweet you disapprove of.
The way certain vile and toxic accounts are able to game this stimulus-response system to grow their accounts very much reminds me of the way parasitic organisms infect and takeover the bodies of unfortunate insects, forcing them to involuntarily do their bidding. The reaction is instantaneous and unthinking; in the moment you respond to the offending tweet you become a zombie controlled by the other party.
Try timeline hygiene. Be more cautious in what you retweet; try to put distance between stimulus and response; be especially careful with quote-replies, these seduce you into thinking you are doing the right thing, after all, aren’t you just telling off some idiot who tweeted something offensive and awful? (Yes you are, but it doesn’t matter, you have been had.) Most especially, ask yourself: Am I doing this fellow’s (the person who tweeted trash) bidding? If you absolutely must respond, do a screen-grab, or paraphrase the offensive tweet. Whatever you do, do not quote-reply.
I say all this knowing full well that you will do absolutely nothing about what I’m speaking of. You will zombie retweet.