The Twitterverse Psychosis

A reminder that the Internet is a Wild West filled with idiots

The Twitterverse Psychosis
Image provided by author.

Others have noted that public-facing social spaces on the Internet have been in slow decline, with increasing numbers of people turning instead to private and protected spaces like Discord communities. Whether those spaces are bastions for the sort of safe vibes I prefer isn’t the point: people are tightening up around the core community styles that they most prefer. This might be negative, positive, or someplace in-between. What I do know is that it’s understandable.

I recently posted something about the Rittenhouse trial, pointing out that I was tired of seeing posts about it on my feed. There’s no way to completely and easily remove a topic from showing up on Twitter (that I’ve found) and I started to feel triggered by having to look at the little murderer’s face every time I logged in-especially given how biased in his favor the Judge seems to be.

What happened next was icky.

I logged in the next time to find a dozen or so messages waiting for me; people had found my tweet and were actively engaged in targeting me over it. Some of the comments were merely mean, but a few were violent and threatening. The thread seemed to go: if I didn’t like it, maybe I (and all “liberals”) would be the next to look down the barrel of a gun.

I’m no stranger to the more miserable sides of life, and I’ve encountered plenty of evil people in my time — too many, in fact. And yet I’m constantly surprised when this sort of thing happens. I think that I am incapable of believing that there are so many fundamentally bad people out there. But there are. There really, really are.

The “free speech” movement is growing, both in the United States and around the world, a sinister cover for a violent extremism that’s terrifying because it’s the sort of extremism that’s becoming mainstream. I’m the first person to say that protected spaces should be held in which unsavory topics are freely discussed, and where people can voice dissenting or questioning opinions without fear of being hounded. But the dark truth is that the majority of people who are pushing for free speech the loudest seem to be the people who are actually the worst.

I’ve locked down my Twitter account to the extent available to me on that platform and I blocked the commentators, reporting the worst of them. I also deleted my tweet because, in a public space, making a comment like that frankly isn’t safe. If I were to make a comment that my progressive followers disagreed with, I could see us having a discussion. I could see them being disappointed in me; I could even see them writing me off as a friend. But, you know what, I could never envision them actively threatening my death, or laughing at me because I was feeling discomfort and pain.

But these e-bullies, these conservatives and their increasingly rabid followers? Yeah… they would happily do me harm if they could, and they delight in trying to cause pain to people online. They find it funny. And that’s what I think is the most haunting about all this. People who do bad things because they believe they’re in the right are dangerous. People who do bad things because they enjoy it, because it gets them all wibbly-wobbly inside… they are the sort of humans who will lead our world to its doom.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

Subscribe for my regular newsletter. No spam, just the big updates.