What the hell is everyone doing? And more importantly, why is everyone doing what they’re doing?
It’s Wednesday evening and through the lens of the people I follow on Twitter–a collection of people I know well, kind of know, don’t know but what to know, and absolutely can’t stand–I’m convinced I’ve never seen it this bad.
If an alien were catapulted to Earth–landing directly in front of my laptop–and was told to make sense of the Internet that I personally consume every day (mostly Twitter and a collection of posts from a collection of websites), that alien would most likely communicate that the overwhelming takeaway was “winning.” People feeling the need to win. And by winning, not an outright win–a win, by way of getting someone else to lose.
Shitting on other writers has been a part of every writer’s rise–big or small, daily or perhaps just once. It’s because there aren’t that many people on the Internet talented enough to win, outright. The Internet as a whole isn’t getting better at writing, people have simply become savvier at staying relevant. So if you can’t do it, skills alone, what’s the next best thing: strategically positioning yourself in a place where–when it’s time to pounce–a blow is delivered that proves advantageous in terms of people continuing to care who you are. In one tweet, you align yourself on the right side of an issue, people see the way you align yourself–thus proving yourself trustworthy–intelligent, even–to a specific group of people for whom you seek to impress. It’s not that you necessarily are achieving to take someone’s spot as much as you want a seat at the table.
If you have the right people in your corner on the Internet, at the right time, you can be a star. But gaining the trust of those people–being invited to that table–can take a long time. So why not force yourself in, using someone else’s face as a stepping stool.
But it all comes back to this idea that no one knows what they’re doing. No one knows why they’re doing it. And no one really knows if they’re any good.
When you write something, the goal is that your perfectly-crafted web posse will have your back. And if someone critiques you, that same perfectly-crafted web posse will defend you, regardless if your piece was good or shit; if the critique of you was accurate or unfair. That’s not happening because anyone particularly knows or likes anyone, it’s just that–at some point–it’s everyone’s turn to be judged. And everyone’s scared to get destroyed, because the culture now is that any slip up can prove fatal.
You write a piece that’s not quite up to snuff and bye power group chat, bye exclusive email chains, bye retweets, bye cool party invites, bye followers, bye freelance work, bye relevance.
There’s no longer a space to improve as a person, publicly, online. Somehow, we’re at a point where you best have every opinion perfectly formulated by the time you’re ready to be a published writer. Instead of growing up online, it’s currently grow up–then go online. Which is funny, when you remember we’re all constantly acting like children.
Being right online used to be the top priority, which in itself is terrible. But we’ve evolved well past that. Now it’s people seeing you be right. Or, more accurately, publicly identifying those who have been deemed “in the wrong.” The days of Twitter being a masturbatory vehicle simply to say anything that’s on your mind are long gone. Now it’s a never-ending process of climbing a moral and intellectual ladder–a ladder that doesn’t really exist–by way of constantly figuring out which side of history on each argument you should stand on, as quickly and loudly as possible, all in the name of publicly disassociating yourself from the wrongs while thirstily cozying up to the rights.
It doesn’t have to be like this. It shouldn’t be like this. The same person should be allowed to critique, get critiqued, excel, and make mistakes. But when we all become so insecure in our abilities–and thus scared to lose this voice that we never thought we’d have–the increasingly rancid performance art eventually becomes a reality.