Consider a Less “Social” Society
On July 24, 2018, my final tweet read:
Talking to my buddy @bramsec (Eric Abrams) about the state of humor and Twitter … and you know what? Fuck this. I’m out. I’ll see ya’ll later. Catch me on @Instagram. #deactivated
The post was referencing the then-recent James Gunn/Disney debacle, wherein the famed director had been fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The reason: some salacious (and meant to be humorous) comments he’d made on our most beloved social media platform. Gunn’s temporary canceling — he’s since been rehired in what I deem a major score for free speech — came on the heels of Roseanne being scrubbed from her revived sitcom, also over a bad joke. She, perhaps by choice, perhaps not, has yet to resurface.
As a stand-up comedian, the axing of two very successful comedy-centric individuals had me spooked. These were big dogs put out to pasture in an instant. That sort of thing tends to scare a litter runt like me.
To be honest, I’ve been called out plenty on Twitter. But my perceived missteps never affected me financially. That’s thanks to my perpetual, albeit unintentional, level of anonymity. A lack of fame is a veil for financial protection. But there’s always the chance — or at least the hope — my profile status will one day suddenly change. And if or when it does, the trolls will start digging. The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah and SNL’s Melissa Villaseñor both faced heat over old, borderline questionable tweets when they made the overnight transition from the shadows to the spotlight.
So…I was done. Why take the chance of having my own words used against me? I wasn’t even sure if I’d ever tweeted anything that could be weaponized, but I sure as hell wasn’t about to start digging through my timeline to check.
Many of my colleagues were going on deletion sprees. It seemed everybody in entertainment was. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson erased some 20,000 tweets. I’m only aware of this because it made the news. Learning that some people’s accounts were not only being scoured for incriminating evidence, but also monitored for how much of that evidence was being trashed, was more than disheartening. It was frightening.
As fear continued to creep in, I started to reflect on my Twitter experience as a whole — what took place during the day-to-day. I quickly realized that folks in the entertainment biz weren’t the only ones having a tough go of it. It was everybody. Thoughts were no longer met with discussion, but degradation. Debates were devolving into digital bar brawls. When like-minded individuals aligned on perspectives, they considered one another brilliant. Anyone at odds with them were demonized. Virtue had somehow transformed into dogma, ideology into science, and opinions into hard facts. Hopping on Twitter to check in with the culture was like attending a biblical stoning to see “what the public was up to.”
So, my patience with and interest in this online community had been exhausted. It was time to shut the whole fucking thing down. I headed straight to my Twitter account settings.
It may have been an impulsive move. Maybe the real growth here would come from pressing on, and not pressing “Deactivate.” Perhaps learning to live with Twitter like a malady, versus cutting it out like a cancer, was the way to go. But that’s not where my head was at.
The extreme summer heat that day surely didn’t nurture clear thinking. It was only noon and the outside temperature in Los Angeles had reached 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Ninety-four degrees with 56 percent humidity in a goddamned city whose blazingly judgmental social climate already has you sweating bullets. Had I instead been sitting on the front porch of a log cabin in Vermont, amidst a cool, whispering breeze, with only the sights and scents of forest trees surrounding me, I might have acted otherwise. But I wasn’t, and I didn’t.