The mood has been so spectacularly chaotic in the last week on Twitter—the website where so many of us spend too much of our precious time on this planet—that it’s become noteworthy to document some of it in one place.
Just in the last week or so:
- A woman named Daisey Beaton was canceled for tweeting “my husband and I wake up every morning and bring our coffee out to our garden and sit and talk for hours.” Her crime was not taking into account the feelings of people without gardens, coffee, or husbands. This kicked off a whole cycle of people griping that they don’t have the privilege of a relaxing morning; people doing parodies mocking those people; and people doing armchair theory about the entire situation in subtweets:
“Never tweet” has long been a piece of advice to avoid becoming Twitter’s “main character,” the person on any given day who is getting dunked on by all corners of the social media network in a free-for-all. For a long time, for the most part, if you were a random person (a non-famous person without many followers and without a public-facing job) tweeting about innocuous things (nice things in your own life), you could be reasonably sure—unless you said something so bad that it broke through to mainstream, viral Twitter—that you would be unlikely to become a main character or otherwise canceled. No longer.
“I did not expect that response on the tweet I posted. I was shocked at the initial backlash that it got because I didn’t know how someone could take my tweet and turn it into something negative,” Beaton told me in a direct message. “i think that hurt people, hurt people. when they saw my tweet, their first response was to try to tear me down because they don’t have what i have, or just because they could use some more happiness or love in their lives. i also think that when us as humans don’t love ourselves, we often times don’t love other people, and seeing other people happy is hurtful. and people lash out because of that.” That’s a charitable outlook, to say the least.
Here’s what else happened:
- People parasocially attached to an account run by someone who pretends to be an orange cat named Jorts got massively mad when he told someone to go get their own groceries instead of angrily confronting an Instacart gig worker. This amounted to days of “discourse”—the word people use to pretend they’re philosophers and not one of the half-billion people on Twitter.com—about ableism, the gig economy, ADHD, and labor. All of this resulted in the very real headline: “Feline internet celebrity Jorts the Cat slammed over ableist Instacart comments” on “We Got This Covered,” a website I have not heard of until now.
- Someone accused a professor of using books as props, because that professor tweeted about giving books away to students (the instigator at least apologized and deleted all his replies).
- A 23-year-old Meta product manager posted a video about her day to TikTok, which the meme account @TikTokInvestors reposted with the caption “$META bagholders in shambles.” In the video, the woman documents a pretty boring day for what amounts to a pretty standard big-city tech company job: she does a bullet journal, gets breakfast and lunch at work, then goes home. Replies to the reposted video include “Might need a Xanax for how stressful her life is” and “these videos piss me off. I can’t believe working conditions like this exist.” The (pretty gendered!) subtext from the discourse on this one is that this person seemingly lives a charmed life, makes a lot of money to do nothing (in contrast to the many working class employees at tech companies who are deeply mistreated and underpaid), and is part of the reason why Meta is seemingly burning huge sums of money and its stock is tanking.
This isn’t even counting the people who were publicly shamed but probably deserved it, like the guy who said Brooklyn was more dangerous than Afghanistan while doing a 48-hour stunt where he pretended to be “officially homeless in NYC” (same dude who went to Afghanistan just to “goof off” during the Taliban’s takeover of the government and had to be evacuated), or the tech entrepreneur who took an Uber from NYC to Philadelphia and acted shocked when it racked up $120 in tolls and fees.
The cathartic ability to tell strangers they suck from behind a screen has been a well-documented feature of Twitter, and the entire internet, for a long time. Being annoying and self-absorbed is one of the easiest, if not the only, way to gain a huge following online. Just ask Elon Musk, whose main character syndrome has gotten him into the greatest Twitter pickle of all time: being potentially forced to buy a company that’s going through stock plunge after plunge and, based on the last week, some kind of volatile social collapse.
As algorithms shuttled us further into echo chambers, ranking systems showed us nothing but what those algorithms deem relevant through targeted data collection, and “communities” dissolved into pools of millions of people we’ve never met or will never have a real interaction with, this is what we get: people howling that you’re not taking into consideration their own glass bones and paper skin. Everyone is simultaneously trying to protect themselves from falling for a milkshake duck, and trying to win some nonexistent prize by posting the most incisive commentary about a stranger they’ve never met nor will ever meet.
The difference now is that while huge swaths of Twitter continue to participate in a zero-sum take contest by beefing about celebrities and culture, many people also find themselves unable to avoid arguing with or about completely random people posting about the banality of their own lives. Most of the above examples (Elon, Lord Miles, and Uber’s best paypig not included) are people being earnest to an uncomfortable degree, with their biggest mistakes being that they decided to do it on a platform designed for misery and outrage as the default.
It’s understandable that people might want to see Meta employees, working for a company that’s eroded society in tangible ways over its 18 year existence, feel a mote of shame. At the same time, it’s normal for a 23-year-old to write “work, workout, vibe” on her to-do list. The dissonance arrives when you think too hard about how someone with this list might also be pulling the levers that destroy the world. Maybe the key is to not think too hard about it—and ultimately, to not performatively post about it.
Social media that’s not fun, or entertaining, or even at the bare minimum possible to keep up with, doesn’t have much of a future to look forward to. As Musk inches toward his Friday deadline for sealing the deal with Twitter or else, it’s hard not to think of the last week on the platform as frenetic, dying gasps of a user base that doesn’t know what to do on the website anymore.
The logical response to all of this is ‘Log Off, Idiot.’ I say it to myself every day. But Beaton told me that she, for one, will never stop posting. “This definitely did not make me want to stop using social media or use it less,” she said. “I chose not to engage in any kind of communication with anybody that was responding negatively to my post, so therefore, I didn’t let the negativity affect me at all. in return, I feel like I’ve made thousands of new internet friends with all of the people who have been so kind the last few days.”