Saturday, January 23, 2021

The rise and the fall of a Twitter star

Having some sandwich on NOLA roadside
Everything that starts eventually comes to an end. Well, maybe not everything. But social media - indeed do. I created my Twitter account in 2009 March when a leader in my previous company suggested we use Twitter to share what we are working on. I have had some good times on Twitter since then, as can be seen from my various blog posts on my Twitter life.

1. The Facebook Era (2009 - 2015)

Although I kept posting on Twitter since 2009, it was just my monologue most of the time. I rarely had people interacting with me. It was also partly because I rarely interacted with others as well. Facebook was my primary social medium by then. I was quite active on Facebook, and during my peak, if my memory is right, I had almost 2000 "friends" on Facebook. Most of the people were those I have met - at least briefly. My Facebook profile had all my photos until 2015. I decided to deactivate my Facebook account in 2015 (More details on why I deactivated my Facebook account). Interestingly, five years later, I am now writing a similar post for Twitter. The reasons and circumstances have some interesting overlaps and differences.

2. The Gap (2015 - 2016)

When I deactivated my Facebook, I did not know how long I could "live" without Facebook. For that reason, I did not announce on Facebook before leaving in December 2015. However, I successfully kept it deactivated for more than half a decade now. At some points, I had to log in briefly for some reasons, for example, to get some contact details of some friends I have only on Facebook. But overall, every time, I deactivated my account quickly after the conversations (which lasted, maximum, a day or two). I quickly learned to live without Facebook, and even when I went back briefly for a valid reason, I did not feel the urge to stay longer. I started to miss a way to keep connected to the friends I made along the way. I began to use LinkedIn for that. Of course, LinkedIn is supposed to be more professional, and I don't get to see those friends' photos. But at least I had a way to keep in touch. It was also, in a way, more comfortable to ask people I meet in conferences to add me to my LinkedIn rather than my Facebook. Not that I had trouble in adding friends I made in conferences to my Facebook. I use LinkedIn as an extended CV. As such, I never really posted anything there that shouldn't be in a CV or a professional portfolio. Indeed, I often felt the gap Facebook left. But I was also quite busy with my Ph.D. and my life. I had no time to worry about losing a social medium.

3. The Trump Era (2016 - 2019)

Trump's rise from a businessman to the president of the USA was highly attributed to Twitter. In 2016, many people had started to see Twitter in a more positive light. Even many global politicians began to see any publicity as good publicity. By late 2016, more active Twitter users popped up. Even Sri Lankan leaders and politicians started to get involved on Twitter. In 2017, a Brazilian friend echoed my sentiments on how local politicians were trying to replicate the Trump model. Twitter witnessed a sharp rise in interactions. I noticed many of my Facebook friends started to get active on Twitter, ditching Facebook altogether. K-Pop stans started to get popular on Twitter, sharing fancams. Some of them were trolling the politicians (mostly rightwingers) in their own game (More details on K-Pop fancams on Twitter). Still, it was 2020 that made me get more involved on Twitter.

4. The Era of Darkness (2020 - 2021)

2020 brought us a deadly pandemic, followed by travel restrictions. It also forced many of us to live home alone; families separated for various reasons, including travel restrictions and educated decisions on avoiding risky inter-continental flights. We all started to work from home from March 2020 with no end in sight. Except for some occasional trips, roadside walks, and hikes (sometimes with my colleague who lives in the same street), I was home alone 24/7. I rarely had human interaction for the past year (except via the Internet), which was strange. Lisboa had turned me into an extrovert. I like people; I like humans. But for the past several months, I avoided human contact as much as possible to adhere to the social distancing. As my only active social medium, Twitter often helped me make some friendly chats with friends, amid all these lonely months.

Like we come to Twitter to make friends, some trolls come to Twitter to bully others. They create sockpuppets (More details on sockpuppets on Twitter) to harass people with opposing viewpoints. Recently, with the help of my friends, I spotted a vile middle-aged man who created (at least) three sockpuppets to bully and harass successful women. I posted a Tweet warning these bullies to stop - without mentioning the names, but with sufficient information. I noticed he stopped harassing the women after that tweet. Could it be a coincidence, or perhaps, as a Twitter mutual, he saw my tweet and stopped bothering them, fearing I would doxx him? I would not know. Together with some of my friends, I found and reported several such bullies and sockpuppets.

For instance, there was a bully who was sending violent graphic death threats to women online. We reported and took his account down. Later, I learned from those ladies that those death threats were meant as a joke, and he was their friend. Ok, now we are trivializing death threats. OK. In 2012, Amanda Todd, in a saddening public YouTube video, sought help, "I have nobody. I need someone," after being bullied in real life and online. No one paid attention until she took her own life a month later. Someone could have stepped in and at least pointed her in the right direction. Perhaps, made sure no one bullied her?


I watched a Chinese movie, based on a novel influenced by some bullying scandals, 少年的你 (Better days, 2019) on a flight. Sometimes, someone stepping in at the right time could save a life. Violent public tweets/posts can be triggering to unsuspecting onlookers. Such insensitive jokes distract those who want to step in to stop legitimate harassment. These jokes also waste law enforcement and Twitter moderation team's resources. Therefore, I would argue against making death threats or violent tweets even for a joke.

5. The End

Twitter suspended my account yesterday after apparently receiving several reports of violation. I never have DM'd anyone except friends (Twitter mutuals) - that too, just friendly chats. No illegal, creepy, weird, violent, or adult DMs. So I could quickly rule out DMs as I never sent any DM of bizarre nature. It must be my tweets. I also use only one profile (@pradeeban). No sockpuppets, anon, or fake accounts. As such, no one could accuse me of creating multiple identities. Sockpuppets are a massive problem on Twitter, and I was fighting precisely that.

I have gone after some fake humans on Twitter. One dude who hasn't even completed his high-school exam has faked a Ph.D. and is holding leadership positions in Sri Lanka. Unqualified people in top posts will be hazardous to the nation. We exposed him. Perhaps, he had a rationale to report me for the repeated tag. As a public figure, he is not free from criticism, which is our responsibility to ask for the truth. But, I don't think Twitter can differentiate these. I also have gone after some fake "influencers" (More details on how these influencers ruin Twitter for everyone). However, it is unlikely that these fake people reported me. I posted the tweets against those fakes months ago. They wouldn't have to wait for months to report me for that. That makes me believe that it should be one of the bullies that we targeted recently.

I have appealed to Twitter on this suspension. Usually, they would ask me to take down the offending Tweets. I will know by then which of my tweets were of the violation that prompted my account's suspension. I never had real enemies on Twitter. I might have earned a few by poking my nose into issues that I thought warrant my intervention. Some of those bullies, sockpuppets, and fake people I offended could easily have formed a group to mass-report me, giving me my own medicine. :)

Now, there is also this very real possibility: I kept posting YouTube videos on my timeline, and perhaps some people found that annoying and reported me for those as well. But those are on my profile. Right? But who knows? We will not know until Twitter gets back to me. If Twitter gives me back my account, I will see you all again on Twitter. Otherwise, thanks for all the good times. If I have ever argued with you on Twitter, it was just I was talking whatever that I believed was right at that time. I don't really consider any of the Twitter humans as my enemies. My sincere and unconditional apologies to you if my arguments or tweets in general made you feel bad or hurt you. It was never my intention. I don't want to be the bully myself while I was trying to fight the bullies, fake people, and sockpuppets online.

ළමායි/சிறுவர்களே, be nice to everyone in real life and online. These are difficult days. We are all bound by a deadly pandemic, and often online interactions are our only human interaction. Everything that starts eventually comes to an end, I mentioned in the beginning. I might not get my Twitter account back. But I am just a worker ant in a red ant colony. My absence will not change our fight towards a kind and fair social media in Sri Lanka, free from bullies and sockpuppets. We are in this fight together. ස්තුතියි/நன்றி.
Jan 27th: I have got my Twitter account back tonight after the appeals. (More details on this update).


  1. I will miss you, Sane twin bro! </3

  2. Just came here to say hi. Hope to see you again 🖖

  3. Just came to say hi. Hope Twitter gods will revoke their decision 🖖

    1. Thanks machang. Hope they will do eventually. Otherwise, we will move to Parlour App. Lol, just kidding.

  4. We miss you bro. Let's wait and see now who is behind this.

    1. Yes machang. Mass-reporting me and removing me was a mistake whoever did it. Whether it was the "fake Dr" or those sockpuppets and bullies I was going after (we don't know yet), the fight will continue. I already heard the fake Dr got more backlash lately.

  5. Hiooo man, hope to see you back soon.

    1. Thanks machang. We should have been more careful when we went after some big heads. Social media mass-reporting is all numbers game.

  6. Looking forward to having you back man. Sucks that this happened :/

    1. Thanks boss. In any case, I am sure you all will take a good care of Twitter as always. :)


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