I got dissed on twitter the other day. Or lets say I felt like I got dissed the other day. I know it shouldn’t matter but it did. I know it shouldn’t hurt, but it did. I know I shouldn’t care and yet, for some reason, I did.
Here it is. Doug Benson (@DougBenson) comedian, podcaster, movie guy asked me to stop including his name in tweets after I tweeted several things in a row to him. He didn’t send a giant fuck you message and it certainly wasn’t a personal attack. I’m sure that he could have been cruel or viscious about it, but he wasn’t. He even sent it as a private message so it wasn’t out in front of everybody and that was nice of him. In fact, it was pretty bland as these things go (and even included a smiley face), but, oddly, inexplicably, it hurt just the same. When I got it, I was really excited because I had an email from “Doug Benson”. This is a famous guy I find entertaining and I thought I was having some interaction with him. I’ve seen his movie and listened to his podcasts and followed his tweets and even tweeted to him. This is so cool. Oh, wait. He’s telling to to stop pestering him. Aww man.
Seems that I’d been treating Twitter like a walkie-talkie and really, it’s more like smoke signals. It’s not so much a conversation as it is a poster in the sky that says, “This is what I say”. It isn’t asking for a response. It’s just a thing. Do I respond to billboards by the highway? No. Do I send a letter to somebody who posts an ad in a magazine that I read, no. So why would I think that @DougBenson and I were having a conversation?
Mostly, I think it has to do with who we are; how we’re built. Biologically, we are wired to respond to statements and questions. We have a natural tendency to reply. It’s normal, Hell, even our cats answer when we ask if they want some turkey. But, here’s the difference. Twitter isn’t being said to me. It isn’t even really said to us. It is said to the stream and doesn’t expect or even want a response. It took me a while to figure that one out.
The concept of not caring who hears what you say is foreign to me. When @DougBenson told me to stop including his name in tweets, I was hurt at first. But then I thought, why be hurt? He didn’t mean it that way. He just wasn’t interested in what I had to say. Why would he be? I supposed or assumed that there was a conversation going on because I was listening to him while he made personal or intimate comments on things in his world and those things created an air of familiarity (as opposed to listening to a public speaker like a politician or a clergyperson). Just because I assumed that relationship, didn’t mean he was listening to me. Emotionally, it was a strange sort of rejection while feeling stupid for not getting it sooner. I suppose its semi-pathetic of me to even care about it enough to be hurt. And yes, I know, I’ve spent a 1000 times more thought on this I should have. The intellectual mind knows but the emotional inner core brain still cares and still got stung.
We are wired to socialize and Twitter seems like socializing. However, Twitter is not socializing, it’s broadcasting. It fools us into thinking we’re interacting with others but we’re not and when that reality intrudes it can be a little startling, unsettling, even disappointing.
I imagine that it would be like a guy who was interested in a girl and over time he’d heard her talking to friends, seen her around, invested some time in the process and developed an attachment, even assuming some sort of relationship existed and then when he finally spoke to her, not only did she not know who he was, but she was a little bothered by the interaction, maybe put off or creeped out and she asked nicely not to be bothered again. She didn’t do anything wrong, but the guy still felt rejected even though no relationship actually existed. He had fooled himself into thinking there was one. Twitter does that. Facebook too. You can’t have 200,000 friends. In fact, we’re not biologically wired to have more than a small handful of personal friends and another 50 people who we know well enough to trust or count on or at least not want to kill them or run away from them. 7 million years of evolution created us as tribal creatures. Once a tribe gets too big, it usually split into smaller tribes because the resources of survival were harder to supply in bigger groups. Sanitation, pollution, disease all got worse in bigger groups. So though we’re hardwired to want friends and form tribes, we’re also not really capable of having 66,420 friends.
We can have 1.6 million followers but that doesn’t mean we want to hear from or talk to them all either. And think about it from @DougBenson ‘s point of view. He’s got 1.6 million followers. (correction: Doug has 69,000+. 1.6 million is what Kevin Smith has. That’s a whole different story.) If 10% of them (6,900) decided to all respond to him on the same day or ask him a question, or make 6 comments. He’d be buried in tweets and all he really wanted to do was let us all know he was appearing at the Laugh Factory in Cleveland and there were still some tickets available for the show.
Also, I should be clear. I didn’t just say hi to the man 6 times. I made 6 progressively more vulgar comments about Rue McClannahan on the day she died based on an on-ramp like comment that Doug made. I thought I was being funny but I was also being crude and every time I directed my comments to @DougBenson, his name got attached to my comments in front of 69,000 people all of varying degrees of offendability. So now we have three really good reasons why he would say, stop doing that.
Recapping, those reasons would be:
1. Why would he care what I had to say.
2. He hasn’t got the time to respond to even a fraction of his followers and that’s not what twitter is about anyway, and
3. I’m accidentally smearing shit on his name.
OK, so what does that mean moving forward. I’m not going to stop the twitterverse from being what it is. I’m not even going to be able to make a minimal impact on how other people view twitter and frankly, why the fuck would I care. But I follow a handful of comedians or comics or personalities and how I interact or don’t with them has been affected by this little message from @DougBenson “DougBenson: Please stop putting my name in your posts. Got like six in a row from you dude. Cheers. “ I’m now mindful or rememberful or whateverful that Doug Benson or Patton Oswalt or Kevin Smith don’t know me from Adam, don’t give I shit about what I have to say, are probably really tired of people who think they’re funny sending what they think of as funny comments and just in general trying to make some kind of association with a famous person in an attempt to be larger than we are. And that doesn’t have anything at all to do with Doug or Patton or Kevin. This time at least, it’s all about me.