Reframing Thought 01/18/21

I was thinking about this thing I used to see all the time on Twitter. One of those rhetorical nuggets that’s so good, so pithy, that it gets circulated around the tribe until it becomes a natural part of the every day vocabulary. “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.”

On its face, this makes a lot of sense. For example: I couldn’t walk up to the biggest, ugliest motherfucker in a bar and tell him to kiss my ass. He’d more than likely beat me up, if he felt like I was worth the time at all. But let’s extend this metaphor out a bit. What if Big & Ugly heard from a friend of a friend that I had said he could kiss my ass? He might go looking for me. He might wait until I’m at the wrong place at the wrong time and confront me about it. It’s possible he just forgets it.

Extend it further: Big & Ugly hears a snatch of conversation at the bar. Apparently, I’ve been going around saying that big, ugly motherfuckers ain’t shit. B&U doesn’t know me. He has no idea what I’m like. I didn’t insult him directly, but let’s say he’s particularly vindictive. He makes a mental note to maybe one day talk to me about that.

Finally: Big & Ugly is talking to a friend at a bar, and that friend says that he’s heard tales of a man around these parts who has been disparaging people who are big, and also ugly. This friend can’t remember exactly what this person said, but he can remember it was bad. So Big & Ugly, instead of handling the situation directly, through his fists or intimidation, decides to track down the person. He makes it his personal mission to make sure that this asshole doesn’t get a black eye or a few busted ribs: he wants to make sure this person’s life is destroyed.

This metaphor has already stretched itself beyond credibility, but that’s what social media does to us. I’m not against swift retribution for direct slander. “Talk shit, get hit,” as they used to say. I personally have only ever hit someone once for talking shit. And I had all my friends with me. Dude was completely outnumbered. It was easy to be brave. I still feel ashamed about that.

But that kind of “justice” is quick, it’s reactionary, and it makes sense in the moment. As soon as you take the time out of your day to attempt to wreck someone’s shit, especially if you don’t know them, especially if they haven’t done anything to you personally, that’s different. There’s a reason we have 1st- through 3rd-degree murder.

I want you, if you’re a person who has typed “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences” into a Twitter box, to say that out loud a few times, and realize that you sound like a fucking psychopath.

What I’m really hoping for, at a certain point, is that people will snap out of this fugue state that they’re in. I wondered aloud to a friend on the phone last night what the average Twitter Psycho’s morning routine looks like. Do they wake up that pissed off? Is it like a video game? Do they sleep well?

It seems like a rough way of living, to be honest. I’d feel bad for them if they weren’t so cruel.

Tomorrow we’ll get back to some writing talk, but today I’d encourage anyone who’s currently suffering from Twitter Derangement Syndrome to take a day off. The news isn’t going anywhere. Go outside, get some sun. Exercise. Eat a nice meal. Play some video games. Hell, you can even read a book! Then come back to the platform and take a look around. You’ll immediately notice that no one on that site is “okay.”

I wish you good health, both physically and mentally. See you tomorrow.

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