Like many people, I consume social media on a daily basis–mostly Twitter with a healthy side of Facebook. Several years ago, my brother pushed me to join both, and I resisted with all my might. “I don’t like people!” I cried, digging in my metaphorical heels. After he pestered me for a week or so, I reluctantly gave in. I started slowly, just dipping my toe in the social media pool. After a few months, however, I was all in. I started tweeting and Facebooking with abandon, enjoying the freedom of saying whatever the hell I wanted whenever I wanted. In the beginning, I spent more time on Facebook, posting the results of all the FB quizzes I took every day. Believe me, I was fucking annoying with that shit. Then, for whatever reason, I gravitated more towards Twitter, probably because I got heavily into politics after Obama’s election, and Twitter is more real-time than is Facebook. In addition, someone on Facebook reported me for ‘inappropriate content’, and my account was temporarily suspended.* I hopped over to Twitter and didn’t look back.
At first, Twitter was like crack to me. I was a heavy user, and I felt as if I was involved in a community. I mostly followed people who were into politics because that’s what my passion was at the time. It was exciting to talk about these issues with people from all over the world. Then, after PBO’s reelection, I started to sour on Twitter. Why? Because most of the political talk wasn’t an actual discussion–it was the same old people saying the same old thing. No matter what PBO said or did, people would react in the same way they always did, depending on who they were. Conservatives hated everything he did, of course, and wanted to see his birth certificate, too. Progressives were never satisfied, always wanting PBO to go further than he did. If they were feeling generous, they said he was a good Republican president. If they weren’t, they called him an Uncle Tom and worse. PBO stans thought he couldn’t do anything wrong. Any criticism against him, they declared it was because of racism or Republican obstruction. I’m a huge supporter of President Obama, but that doesn’t mean I think he’s perfect. There are things he’s done/not done that I’m critical of, and I think that should be OK. What I realized, however, is that the people who were complaining about W. being a dictator weren’t mad because he was one, they were mad because he wasn’t their dictator. So, the people who voted for the angry black man** were furious because he meant what he said about trying to work with Republicans.
Back to Twitter. Slowly, over the years, as it became more popular and commonly used, the tone changed. Instead of being a place where I’d just hang out, chatting with people about everything from politics to cats, it became a place where people harangued other people pretty much 24/7. Now, because of my childhood, I have critical voices in my head that never go away. One of them used to be so bad, I dubbed him The Dictator and rued that I would ever be rid of him. He said the meanest shit to me, and it took everything I had to fight back against him. I couldn’t always do it, and there were days when I considered it a success that I managed to go to the grocery store. I was eleven the first time I contemplated suicide, and I thought about it every day of my life for thirty years. At my worst, I had to stop myself from killing myself while doing ordinary things like driving on the freeway. At my best, it was just a fleeting thought in the back of my mind. In the past five years or so, it’s not been a daily occurrence, but I still think about it at least once a week. The Dictator is gone, but I still have these low voices in my mind murmuring, “You can’t say that. You can’t do that. What would people think if they knew you thought that?”on a regular basis. Twitter has become an echo of those voices, and it’s one reason I stopped blogging. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.
Trolls, Hypocrites, and Sanctimonious Assholes, Oh My!
Everyone who uses social media knows what a troll is: someone who deliberately stirs shit up just for the hell of it. Twitter cares more about amassing users than it does about the experience of said users, so it’s hard to get someone banned from Twitter. There was someone who was stalking me and some of my friends on Twitter for years. He was vile, hateful, and persistent. He attacked one of my friends almost every day if not every day. I saw him every few weeks to a month, and it was hurtful and embarrassing every time he showed up in my TL, especially if he included other people in his derogatory tweets at me. This was a relatively mild case of trolling, and it still made my stomach hurt every time I saw his tweets. The big problem with trolling is that anyone even semi-famous will get trolled on Twitter. Again, Twitter doesn’t give a shit about it, so most people just have to deal with it the best they can. What can you do? Block, block, and block some more. You can report the trolls to Twitter, but chances are, they won’t do anything about it. My friends and I finally got our troll blocked, but it took roughly two years to get Twitter to do something about it. If you’re a famous person and get millions of nasty tweets, the probability that you’ll block anyone who is even questionable is high. Therefore, someone who’s making a valid criticism may get caught up in the block-fest through no fault of his/her own.
Here’s the thing, though. As unpleasant as trolls are, they are not the reason I’m personally souring on Twitter. For me, it’s the increasingly strident tone of many of the ‘woke’ people I see on my TL. One of the best things about Twitter–that anyone can say anything–is also one of the worst things. I don’t like the term political correctness, but I also don’t like that some people on my side denounce the idea of a thought police as other people being too sensitive. People on my side are becoming increasingly proscriptive about what is and isn’t acceptable to think. For example, it’s not OK, apparently, to say that Donald Trump has mental health issues because it’s hurtful to people with mental health issues. There are so many things you can slam him for, these people say, so why question his mental health? Because it’s clear that he has mental health issues. At the bare minimum, he’s a narcissist. At worst, he’s a sociopath. Many of his other issues stem from this, and to say it’s ableist to mention his narcissism is misguided. It’s not ableism if it’s true. In addition, we’re not helping anyone by pretending Trump’s mental issues don’t exist. “What’s wrong with being more sensitive to other people’s plights?” Nothing. Except, oftentimes, the person who’s supposedly on the side of empathy and sensitivity displays neither.
Even as I’m writing this, I’m choosing my words very carefully. I’m thinking of all the things that have been declared problematic on liberal Twitter, and my own negative voices are telling me to STFU because I’m going to piss off all those other woke liberals. There’s a group mentality going on that I am uncomfortable with. I saw it in the Democratic primaries with Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters slagging on each other past the point of ridiculousness. I know much has been made of the so-called Bernie Bros, but as a Bernie supporter, I saw a lot of Hillary He-men (yes, I just made it up. Deal) being total assholes as well. Then, once it was clear that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, I reluctantly threw my support behind her. I really loathe Bill Clinton, though, and I tweeted that he was a big stumbling block to my supporting Hillary. A semi-Twitter-famous PBO stan quote-tweeted me (which I FUCKING hate because it’s just playing to your followers) and said (paraphrasing), “Totally agree! Enjoy President Trump! YOLO!” My rage flared, and I angrily tweeted back, “I’m still voting for her, but I don’t have to be a cheerleader. Calm the fuck down.” What I wanted to tweet was, “I have been voting Democratic since before you were jizz in your father’s ballsack, so STFU”, but I managed to restrain myself. I have been biting my tongue on Clinton for the entire election, and when I made the mildest criticism of her, I got that shit.
That’s representative of the sanctimonious assholes that permeates liberal Twitter. It’s too easy to become a part of a circle jerk in which everyone just sits around agreeing with each other. Partly, it’s because of what I mentioned before–the prevalence of trolls makes it easy to ignore valid critiques. If people are calling you a fat, stupid cunt for making a joke tweet about the WWE,*** chances are, you’re going to stay away from the topic of WWE forever and ever. In addition, it’s a dopamine hit every time someone favorites or retweets a tweet. I’m not going to lie. I’ve crafted a tweet with the hope of getting many retweets. Anyone who tweets knows the disappointment of a killer tweet being greeted by crickets. I’ve also been known to go on a multi-tweet rant from time to time, and those usually get me some love. The problem with that is that I’m speaking to the choir, and very rarely do I have someone who disagrees with me responding to these rants. So, while they feel good to write, they amount to little more than public masturbation. I’ve seen too many of these masturbatory rants in which the main goal is to show how much more aware the person tweeting is than the other plebes. The tone is often shaming and scolding, two things which have never changed anyone’s mind. Even when I agree with the person’s point, I’m turned off by the sanctimony. There are too many dicta about how others should think and feel, and if someone diverges from that thinking even the slightest, suddenly s/he is a sexist, racist, homophobe, ageist, ableist, transphobe, etc. I’m not denying that these isms exist–indeed, our society is steeped in them. However, I think the terms get tossed around too often, and they’re losing meaning.
As for hypocrites, most of the time, the hypocrisy is unconscious. Liberals are vociferous about the abuse on Twitter, but some of them engage in it themselves. They see someone they don’t like say something questionable, then they camp on that person’s TL for hours and sic their followers on the person. I’ve found myself having to defend people I don’t like because I’m appalled at the way they’re being treated by people purportedly on my side. You cannot be pissed about people hassling you in your TL if you do the same to other people. This is so basic, I don’t understand why people don’t get it. Of course, I am not defending abuse of liberals on Twitter, but I also can’t defend liberals doing the same thing to people they don’t like.
Writing Through the Fear
These are some of the reasons I’ve pulled back from talking about important issues on Twitter. Nuance is lost, and most people don’t actually want to have a thoughtful discussion. Twitter’s very format discourages such interactions, anyway. These days, I mostly tweet GIFs and cute cat pics, which, come to think of it, Twitter is perfect for. I’ve backed away from politics almost entirely, and it’s mostly because of my experience with it on Twitter. The biggest reason I need to cut back even further on my Twitter consumption, however, is because as I alluded to above, it’s hindering my ability to write. Whenever I read my TL, I’m inundated with shoulds and shouldn’ts, and the millions of ways why my thinking on sexism, racism, transphobia, ageism, ableism, etc., is wrong. When I try to write about these issues, I freeze. And, since I do my best thinking through my writing, not being able to write makes me very unhappy. I noticed I’ve become increasingly bitter the longer I’ve had to bite my tongue about my dissenting ideas. That’s part of the reason I started this new blog and have committed to blogging five times a week. I’m hoping I can break through the self-imposed wall I’ve erected. It’s also why some of these entries may be a little rough. I have a tendency to over-edit to the point of letting perfectly decent posts molder indefinitely in my draft folder. At this point, I’d rather publish them even if they’re not terrific than keep putting it off until I don’t do it at all.
I’ll be real with you, though. It terrifies me because I’m so conflict-avoidant, and I have a pathological need not to offend/disappoint people, especially people I respect. However, I’ve reached the point where I’m disappointing myself for not speaking my truth, and that’s even worse. I know that I add a different perspective to many of these issues, and when I’ve managed to speak out on Twitter, I’ve had people DM me saying they agreed with me but were too afraid to say it publicly. Liberals afraid of other liberals. It breaks my heart, but it also makes me mad. We’re supposed to be the party of inclusiveness, and, yet, we can be as dogmatic as our conservative counterpoints. This blog is also my way of trying to change that, one post at a time. There’s not much I can do about the shamers and blamers on Twitter or the negative voices in my head, but the one thing I can do is fucking write.
*I’m pretty sure it was someone from my high school because most of them have turned out to be right wing assholes. I did a mass unfriending after my Facebook account was reinstated. I don’t regret it one bit.
**Looking at you, Bill Maher and Michael Moore.
***Don’t ever do that. WWE fans have no sense of humor and are really mean.