Twitter is no different. Bigotry flourishes on Twitter, since it offers the bigot the benefits of anonymity along with instantaneous, uncensored self-publication. It’s the place where their political minds can be as foul as they want to be — without the expense or reputational risk of showing their face at a Richard Spencer rally.
Twitter doesn’t merely amplify ugliness. It erases nuance, coarsens thought, turns into a game of “Telephone” in which original meaning becomes hopelessly garbled with every successive re-tweet. It also facilitates a form of self-righteous digital bullying and mob-like behavior that can wreck people’s lives.
A disappointing grasp of the medium, for sure. It’s hard for even the most best among us to twit thoughtfully. Nuance requires effort, discipline. The lazy twitterer can blame twitter, but his failing is that he’s lazy. A good mechanic doesn’t blame his tools.
Stephens’ problem isn’t twitter, but people. They’re awful. They’re stupid. They’re mean, nasty, hateful and just plain awful. With some experience, one learns to shrug off the myriad awful twits, because there is neither an intelligence test nor a sanity test to purchase a keyboard.
So some blithering idiot responds to a random twit by @-twitting you some platitudinous idiocy? Toughen up, Brett. Ignore it. The world is filled with such people, and always was. Now you see it because, for the first time in your life, they have the ability to display it before your eyes? In a flash, it will disappear, as its replaced by the next twit, which may be just as awful, worse or, on the rare occasion when someone willing to put in the effort to put twitter to its highest and best use, absolutely brilliant.
That’s what we wait for, that one stroke of brilliance. We suffer the stupid so we don’t miss it. Most importantly, the stupid disappears, as if it never happened.
But then, lamenting the vicissitudes of youthful aimlessness, David Brooks includes this terrifying paragraph in his homage to “no trespassing” signs.
All the while social media makes the comparison game more intrusive than ever, and nearly everybody feels as if he or she is falling behind. Recently I came across a website with popular message tattoos. The ones people chose weren’t exactly about carefree youth. They were about endurance and resilience: “I will break but I will not fold”; “Fall down seven times, stand up eight”; “Don’t lose yourself in your fear”; “The only way out is through.”
Unlike the twitters, Brooks refers to tattoos. They’re not just for sailors anymore. For reasons that elude old-timers, young people find tats and piercings to be cool, which apparently trumps any concerns about permanent self-mutilation.* Some think a butterfly on what used to be called a “private part,” before vagina inspection parties, is cute. Whether they’ll think the same when the grandchildren show up is another matter.
But Brooks isn’t talking about a “meaningful symbol,” like that Chinese character you were told means “strength” but actually means “squid.” Instead, the body has become a canvas for insipid platitudes that reveal their hosts transitory angst. What was once the fodder of Saturday Night Live gags has become not merely a daily affirmation but a lifetime one.
Don’t lose yourself in fear?
Well, okay. Of course, fear is what keeps us from walking in front of cars, too, but you can’t fit that on a fortune cookie. Yet, this is important enough to some young person that she will have it permanently emblazoned on her body with “no regerts”?
While Brooks may discuss, albeit in a way that enables every misery-denier the opportunity to reply, “not me, David, not my kid,” the empowerment of prolonged if not permanent adolescence, the lie of following one’s passion because the world can never get enough Digiridoo players, and that a Ph.D. in gender and deviant sexual studies has a bright employment future, is probably a huge mistake. Yet, we tell ourselves the lies we want to believe to justify doing what we want to do. Why not? Aren’t we entitled?
But putting it in ink on your body, whether tequila driven or after the deepest introspection ever, has become so embedded in acceptability that Brooks notes only the depth of despair reflected in the platitudes and not the fact that these will forever be part of their lives.
Brett, it’s just the twitters. Of course the vast majority of it will be awful and stupid, nasty and brutish. Don’t blame the twitters for offering every blithering idiot the opportunity to @-twit you. Even if you don’t see their lack of nuance and depth of thought, even if you ponder how they still know how to breathe, at least it provides the necessary catharsis for the terminally stupid so they don’t explode and make a huge mess.
Would you rather every twenty-something strut about with the brilliance of their twit permanently inked as their tramp stamp? The awful twit will disappear into the ether momentarily. The insipid tat will be there forever. Stay on twitter, Brett. Do it for the children.
Plus, begging off the twitters is so over, and doesn’t work anyway. Just wait until the Social Justice Defense Council bans you, and at least you can get martyrdom out of it. And unlike a tattoo, it goes away soon enough.
*In my youth, long hair was cool. But then, we could always cut our hair.