Creeps, Hockey Twitter & How to be a Better Human

You’re a man. You wake up sorely hungover from a great game the night before. Maybe you’re a hockey writer. Maybe you’re an enthusiastic spectator. Maybe you’re a Twitter GM. Doesn’t matter. You wake up and the day feels brand new because the high has not yet come down. 

You run your fingers through what you hope will eventually become a beard. You go and empty the tank. You make your way into the kitchen. It’s like any other weekday morning. 

You’ve got your Cheerios, and you’ve got the highlights on the NHL Network. Life. Is. Sweet. One scoop. Chew. Look up. Commercial. The ideal time for a Twitter scan. Let’s see what I missed last night: 

Analytics guys talking numbers
*swipe*
RT of an article about fights in the NHL
*swipe*
Frank had a really good bacon egg and cheese this morning
*swipe* 
GIF of player’s game winning goal

NICE. Let me RT that. Man, that was a good game. 

Couple more scoops. Couple more words from Weekes and Petrillo. 

Bzz.

You’ve got a DM! Cool. It’s from a really prominent figure in the hockey community. You know this, because you’re following him, and his follower count surpasses the 20K mark. He’s kind of a big deal. 

“Nice RT. That was a great goal.” 

Man, this is great. This friendly man with no agenda recognizes my love for hockey and wants to start a conversation based off of it. So cool. 

"I know! It was a beauty. I can’t wait to see more from him this season.” 

“I like your avatar too, by the way. Shame the image got cut off."

“What?” 

“Hahaha. I’m only kidding. Do you want to chat sometime? My number is: ” 

That doesn’t happen very often to the average man, does it? No. Because I think it’s safe to assume when two men engage in conversation about hockey, whether it be on twitter, Facebook, email, text or whatever other platform we’re spoiled with today, there is no hidden agenda. They’re talking because they have one thing in common: they both love hockey. It’s what brought them to the hockey twitter community. It’s why they stay. It’s why they’re active. 

Hockey is a great sport. Full of fire. Full of intensity. Passion is of unlimited supply and any seat is the best seat in the house. We love the sport. You got that, right? I said "we."

Women love hockey, too. 

And we love the hockey community because it's a platform where we can, like you, converse about the one thing we have in common. It’s why we’re active. It’s why we stay. And for the most part, it’s been great. Until people* started coming out addressing the fact that they’ve been harassed by prominent figures in our sacred hockey circle. Imagine that. In a world we all so love, there is immorality. 

*I’m going to stop saying women are getting harassed. Because yes, it has been all women who have been coming forward and, as illustrated by my opening example, it is not so common with men. But women being victims is not the problem here. Women do not have control over this. And I think I can speak for all women affected when I say they did not choose to be victims. The problem is those harassing them. They’re affecting an entire community. I’m not for posting another piece on “poor, helpless women. Still abused and under appreciated.” No. We’re not helpless. And we are strong enough to not require a pity party of any magnitude. This is being written for the few bad apples, to maybe help them understand where they went wrong, and for the community, to help educate them.

So what do we do? A few people have come forward, they’ve resigned, they’ve apologized, they feel they’ve done their part. Which in a way, could be good. From a very narrow perspective, it could be good. Some of them may mean well. Some of them may have seen the light. 

But their apologies and their actions toward a greater good will not prevent future predators. So, again, what do we do? Punish the wrongdoers to make ourselves be heard? Banish them from hockey twitter? I mean, we could. But again, that won’t do anything. Because even if we somehow rid the problem of creepy men on hockey twitter, we can’t rid the creepy men in our lives on a day-to-day basis. Hockey twitter is a microcosm of what happens in the hockey world, which is a reflection of the actual world we live in. These problems are not new. And a prominent hockey writer, reporter, manager, you name it, will still find a way to be creepy offline. And they have. And they probably will continue to do so. So the question again: how do we put an end to it? 

I have two possible solutions. But before I go into them, I just have to point this out: this current outcry, and these current events, shine a bright spotlight on creepy men – NOT ALL MEN. Many of the men I’ve conversed with online, many of whom I’ve met under the linkage of a passion for the sport, have been respectful and evolved as individuals. I don't know if any of them saw me as a sexual figure in conjunction to being a fan, but they provided no such indication and engaged appropriately. Unfortunately, as we know from Darwin and our history books, some evolve at slower rates. Some take a bit more time to learn. Some need a tutor. 

Which is part of my two part solution. The first part is changing the dialogue. The second is a crash course: 

I. Changing the dialogue

As mentioned before, something I very firmly stand by is the fact that we need to stop painting women to be victims. Yes, again, all victims in recent events ARE women. But not all women are victims, and if we keep addressing the issue as women being treated unfairly, there will be a direct psychological impact. 

If we said “creepy man harasses community” instead of “creepy man harasses women,” that might make a difference. Why? Because women being treated unfairly is a problem older than my parents’ grandparents. And THEIR grandparents. It's tired. And you know what? It actually was a HUGE problem back then. It’s problematic now, sure. But nowhere near to the same degree. So why are we still acting like victims? Why address an issue the same way we would’ve addressed not being able to work or not being anything more than housewives? It doesn’t make sense. We’re not victims. We’re not helpless. This is no longer the norm and we did not choose this. 

And we certainly don’t want to start another war of men against women. We just want to enjoy hockey twitter without those less evolved and slightly stupid. If a man recognizes his creepiness as plain creepiness, and “unfairness toward a human” instead of “unfairness toward a woman,” he may be more inclined to change his ways. He might become a better person. But not all people are so easily malleable. So here is the second part: 

II. Provide a crash course

Not being creepy really doesn’t take a genius. That’s why so many men have excelled at this. But common sense ain’t so common, and so I’ve listed "8 Ways to End Creepy" for those that need to see it in fine print. 

1. “No” means “no.” There does not need to be any further explanation. It never means “yes.” It never means “maybe.” And it most certainly NEVER means “try again tomorrow.” If a woman ever changes her mind, she’ll contact you. 

2. Don't think a DM secures privacy just because both parties' followers cannot see the conversation. Always keep in mind that anything you say can and will be screenshot and saved. Deleting a conversation will delete it from both users, sure, but a screenshot only takes a quarter of a second to take.

3. Think your thoughts. Have your urges. Keep them away from Twitter. (There are plenty of websites designed for satisfying those urges. This really shouldn't be a problem.)

4. If a woman agrees to meet you, do not assume she is looking to hook up with you. She might be. She might not be. She might not decide that until a fifth of the evening in or three days before. Rule of thumb: if the two of you strictly spoke hockey in private conversations, stick to hockey upon meeting them. A face-to-face conversation could enhance those conversations. Don't steer it in any new direction without consent.

5. And that's the magic word: consent. Some of you may imagine it. Some of you may try really, really hard to think it's there when it isn't. I'm not going to tell you how to go about dating, and I know that asking "Are you sure?" before every single proposed action may be more of a turn off than reassuring. But guess what: You have a good career? You're a known, respected figure? Protect that. Risking a woman being turned off to save your career and reputation seems better than risking your job. Stick with being reassuring. Once you've graduated from being creepy, you will understand how to read people – only then can you explore your options further. And when you do, please refer back to #1 if you run into any problems in this area. 

6. Don't follow a woman based on her avatar photo. If you're a man with urges you haven't quite yet learned to control, don't do it. Yes, she's beautiful. Yes, you're wondering what her agenda is with all that cleavage taking up 50% of the frame. But refrain. Follow her if you find her funny. Follow her if she has retweetable material. Don't pounce and dive into her DM's not knowing anything about this woman. Get to know her. Once you're on friendly terms, only then should you DM her. And keep #2 in mind. 

Women, don't follow the good looking men just because they're good looking men either. I don't know many women who can get as aggressive as men on Twitter, but I don't want to omit the possibility. And I don't want to be hypocritical by addressing the men alone.

7. "Favorites" are not open invitations. This person literally just found your tweet to be a favorite of theirs. They enjoyed it. They liked it. Be flattered. Don't assume she/he wants to sleep with you because of it.

7a. Sometimes, a "favorite" is a passive way of flirting. Very. Basic. Flirting. As in "I just want your attention for the time being" flirting. Again, once you've mastered how NOT to be a creep, you can toy with this as well. But remember: basic flirting is miles away from being perverse and aggressive.

7b. If you have your suspicions about someone and their degree of creepiness, you can do two things: you can check out who they follow and what they favorite. I'm serious. Now, don't make any concrete conclusions or assumptions from this alone. But if a man favorites tweeted photos of half naked women, follows half naked women and the like, you can get a sense of what he's into and what he looks for out of the Twitter experience.

8. This one is directed toward women: If you feel in your gut this guy is no good. No matter how prominent of a figure he is, do not engage. If there was one creepy remark, there will be two. If there were two, there will be four. Just stay away. The more you engage, the more they think it's okay, regardless of whether you comply or react. A response is all they need to continue the conversation. Don't give them the benefit.

And there you have it. If you need a lesson in how to not be a creep, (can also be filed under “how to be a better human”) just bookmark this page and refer back to it whenever you question your actions. 

Again, it’s not all men. It really isn’t. I think it’s unfair to go on twitter rampages and accuse these men of treating women as sexual objects. I mean, at the end of the day, men will be men. And it can be difficult to draw the line of appropriate conduct on Twitter, because it is a social platform, yes, but a "hockey LinkedIn," if you will. Many great connections can be made there. Many jobs can be attained (and have been.) But many careers can also be damaged. 

When a prominent hockey figure follows you, tweets at you, DMs you – it’s a great thing because we’re further stretching a conversation about hockey, and that’s all we really want. 

We’ve all evolved so much in recent decades on the subject. We’re in a good place now, collectively. When a prominent male hockey figure DMs me, I assume he does so to talk hockey to me. And you know what, 75% of the time that’s exactly what it is. Anything that follows is consensual. But again: there are those few bad apples. Before we ban them, let’s try to educate them. Because at the end of the day, this isn’t about women. Women are not helpless, are not under appreciated, are not looked down upon. Just because a FEW men do disrespect them, doesn’t mean women are back to the pre-feminism days. Fixing the problem starts with addressing the problem correctly. Creepy people on twitter is the problem. Extract those, educate those, fix those, and we’re a step closer to a day we can go back to just discussing hockey.