Ironically, I had written this here on the blog only on Monday morning, January 20:
I started my Twitter writing account back in August because I felt I had to have one. Increasingly, though, once again, I am not seeing a real point to having a Twitter account. You are more likely to get yourself in big trouble with a perhaps poorly worded tweet than actually reach people who are genuinely interested: it is all about “piling” up followers.
Wow. When you are proven right… and so quickly. On Tuesday, this from some writer I had never heard of before was retweeted into my timeline… and it contains, confirms Dictionary.com, an “extreme” vulgarity:
Due to one (so-called #writingcommunity) author sharing that vulgar reply, I witnessed a (ongoing) piling on in terms of hundreds (perhaps in the thousands by now) of (often far less profanely civil) responses to a writer (who had only just somewhat more than 1,300 followers) for clicking “tweet” with this:
My initial thought was had she announced she didn’t like it because it could be an ADVERB – gasp! shock! horror! – that tweet might have made little “noise.” I had never heard of her before either. I don’t really agree with her view as she writes it; but I think I know what she is trying to say, although her choice of words to convey it is inarticulate and easily ridiculed at best (as we see).
However, her opinion is not my point here. Rather, it is the response, which has been a ridiculous and ugly overreaction. It has been like seeing an ever-growing f-cking mob of bullying kids rounding on and taunting the unpopular child on the school playground.
Those involved – particularly, the (supposed) writers – should be ashamed of themselves, but they are not, of course. As near as I can tell some appear to think they are taking some stand for “free speech,” etc. (Presumably everything ever written on Twitter by all of them is “perfect.”) Some of the other
non-profane more literate replies I have seen also include dozens of similar fingerwaggings (apparently great thinkers can’t be bothered to scroll to see if the same point was made previously) at her about how those who use the “F” word are “more intelligent” (studies say), have a better grasp of language and are more fluent in English (studies say), and are even more trustworthy (science says)…
Knowledge of taboo words and the regular use of those words are two very different things. I might very well have an encyclopedic knowledge of vulgarity, but I might also have the tact necessary to regulate my language in social situations. In other words, just because verbally fluent people have the ability to cuss with the best of them, does not mean that they will do so.
I admit I do use that vulgarism on the odd occasion – usually (as many do) when I am exceptionally angered. I have also written it (when I have felt it was appropriate) in novels. So you have no idea how thrilled I am to be reminded by intellectuals on Twitter of just how f-cking brilliant I am.
Yet omitted among those and all of the other replies I saw is indeed anything about simply showing restraint and decorum. Which should be no surprise. Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, wrote at NBC News in October that this is Twitter we are “talking about”:
People swear there even more than in “real life” — one in 13 words on Twitter is a swearword, usually a form of f—.
So if the current US president (who has already said “motherf-cker” in at least one speech, back in 2011) decides to use the full-on “F” word in a tweet, no doubt we will all be treated to threads from the same self-imagined linguistic geniuses about how its use demonstrates his remarkable intellect, his deftness in the use of language, and his obvious trustworthiness, right?
It was disgraceful. It was also a punch in the face reminder of what I had despised about Twitter and why I had decided to back away from it some years ago. I have now locked my new account, and while I will still use it somewhat in “private” mode that is about all.
I am not providing free content in order to be some corporation’s potential online “cannon fodder,” while enabling them to obtain more ad views and keep people on the site. Write the “wrong” thing – even about the “F” word – on Twitter, and what happened to that previously little-known writer could happen to anyone. She could be any of us.
UPDATE: January 24: More here: The Way Forward.