When I was a kid, if you really wanted to talk to one of your idols, it was a long process. You had to find their fan mail address, which could be very difficult if not impossible. Then you had to hand write a letter, find a stamp, get it mailed (at a mailbox), and wait…and wait…and wait…for a response that might never arrive. When I was a kid I wrote letters to Charles Schulz, Donald J Sobel, Dr Suess, Judy Blume, and a bunch more. I got a few letters back, though they’re trapped at my mom’s house. When I was about 11, I even wrote a fan letter to Scott Baio. He had a PO Box in Studio City for fan mail, which I found in a Tiger Beat mag. I never got even a form letter back. As a kid, I was sad about that. But now that I know what a gross, womanizing, Drumpf-loving goon is in RL, that sting is gone.
The point is that we only wrote to celebs we really liked a lot. It took a lot of effort and time. We did it because we were fans, and we wanted our heroes to know it.
Anybody with access to a computer or smartphone can Tweet at celebs in real time. Roughly half of said Tweets are complete asshole fodder. Telling people they suck and should kill themselves is Level One for a lot of these clowns. Unlike occasional stalker behavior from deranged fans (that no one really talked about until the girl from My Sister Sam was murdered by one such nutcase), modern celebs often get daily beratings. Robin Williams’s children were hounded off Twitter within 2 days of their father’s suicide. Those dicks that harassed Sandy Hook parents for “lying about their kids existing” started on Twitter. Twitter hosts murder threats, rape threats, doxxing (though I hear they’re better about removing stuff like that now), and a bunch of other things we used to think only criminals thought about.
Much like men who want to show their dicks to virtual strangers (remember when that was a crime committed by a random pervert wearing a long trenchcoat with nothing underneath), stalking via the Internet is more popular (and less criminalized) than ever. Ditto hate speech. Anybody else find it insane that posting a pic of a nipple can get your Facebook account deleted, but threatening to murder the POTUS or calling him the N-word won’t get you blocked from Twitter unless the feds get involved? I’m a staunch supporter of Free Speech, but with great power comes all the stuff Spiderman’s Uncle Ben talked about.
And like LSD, the internet amplifies and distorts the shit we see and do every day. While we all know that the internet is incredibly helpful overall–it also allows some of the worst behavior on the planet to be widely seen, or even applauded. The immediacy of social media and the ease with which we’re able to communicate with people the world over is being squandered, taken for granted, not truly considered for the opportunity that it is. A lot of that is due to people who live as if the Internet has always been there–for youngsters, it has. I started a Livejournal in 2002, in my early 30’s. If that blog was a kid, they’d be old enough to have a smartphone and be on Facebook. Yikes!
Not sure what my overall point is. We can use the internet for good or bad, to help people or bring them down. We can use it to educate, inform, or to spread misinformation either deliberately or through apathy or ignorance. Is there a way to encourage people to make better online choices? Or at least, is there a way to truly hold people accountable (at least morally) for the things they say and do online? No, I’m not saying we should curtail speech. Wednes don’t play that. But it’s obvious that plenty of online assholes are only being assholes online because of the anonymity the internet affords them.
For now let me just ask–if you’re only on Twitter to let female singers know that their asses are big, or to tell Jonah Hill that he’s a “faggy asshole,” maybe take some time to work on RL interpersonal skills before trolling total strangers. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your three best friends or your favorite grandparent, don’t say it to Lady Gaga. Besides, no one should ever insult Lady Gaga. She’s amazing!