So, I'm on Twitter. @TheStevenWeber. (The "The" was only because there are a number of "other" Steven Webers. Anyway:)
It's fun and it's fast. I liken it to hurling dumbass jokes from the window of a moving car, which I used to like to do in the days before the Internet.
I can "tweet" while I'm waiting for a stop light to change, when I'm on hold, or waiting for another drink to arrive (or sometimes all three of those things at once).
I "tweet" funny things, I "tweet" provocative things. But mostly I "tweet" vulgar and inappropriate things.
And I enjoy that, as do (I assume) most of the 40,000+ folks who "follow" me.
And I more than occasionally interact with "followers" in a casual, usually loose and blatantly silly way, though sometimes things can get heated.
Like if I make a political statement. Then, whoever is within earshot and happens to hold an opposing political view might feel inclined and, this being Twitter (and also America), perfectly free to respond to, say, a derogatory comment about, oh I dunno, Jan Brewer.
Or a bad joke about John Boehner's tan.
Or something provocative about religion (oooooh!).
And it's their prerogative to respond. Twitter is a public forum, a virtual town square, and there are no requirements save having some kind of electronic device upon which to type your deepest -- or shallowest -- thoughts.
But because I have a modicum of celebrity (and to prove it, check out my IMDB), I've been advised many times to limit any interaction with "the public"; to in fact cease to interact in a direct way at all. An example of this type of impersonal interaction with the fans would be the standard "I'm on the set this morning and the doughnuts at the craft service table are glazed -- my favorite!". Clearly impersonal, utterly inane and who could possibly give a shit? (I'm sure I'll hear from a few teed-off glazed doughnut devotees).
But I've always liked interacting with an audience. I like knowing people are out there. A performer without an audience is no different from a guy alone in his bedroom doing imitations in front of a full length mirror (another thing I used to to before the Internet and occasionally now when I find myself in the fitting room at H&M).
And sometimes when I make the mistake of carrying a prickly exchange too far, extending it beyond its justified shelf-life, things become especially uncomfortable. The safety, anonymity and distance the Internet provides becomes a license for bad, bad behavior. Buttressed by the facelessness of cyber interactivity, people feel perfectly at ease hurling unprovoked personal invective at each other.
Twitter is delightful for its lack of complexity allowing anyone to express anything from a grunt to an algorithm, the 140 character limit alternately providing ample room for the idiotic mundanity or just the right amount of constriction to ensure structural economy and possible creative genius. But woe to you if you have a higher-than-average profile (get out your handkerchiefs, friends): the now empowered Average Joe and Josephine can finally -- what -- interface with their favorite celebs? Take revenge on them for their overacting? Have some fun at their expense? Get back at Daddy? Make the monkey jump? Jump, Monkey, jump! (See? Too far.).
All I know is, I made the mistake of engaging a Twitterer in some heated banter which resulted in a third party entering into the puerile posturing and making a not-so-subtly veiled threat to my bodily health. If I wanted this type of situation I'd hang out in a dive bar dressed as a Kardashian.
Obviously, if one chooses to be in the public eye, that choice can lead to one's own eye getting publicly poked. But the amount of acrimony that is regularly unleashed is such that one can feel civility itself is the anomaly here.
Is it because people are interacting physically less and less? Is it because people now rely more and more on the passivity-inducing electronics with which we conduct business and social activities with fetishistic devotion?
YES!!!!! But it didn't begin there.
The simmering acrimony at the core of the corporate right wing, just when Barack Obama was elected president seems to be a reasonably accurate point from which it, if not originated, fully erupted.
From Joe Wilson's "You lie!" to virtually every reptilian utterance by Boehner and McConnell to stall an Obama presidency; to Eric Cantor's almost comically hate-filled glare during the State of the Union; to the talk-radio hate speak (which is almost redundant, as talk-radio has become synonymous with seething vitriol aimed squarely at Obama and Family); all this ugly trickling down since the days when the economy first became the sole interest of the majority of members of government and when Americans ceased being Citizens and became, instead, Consumers.
It's spewed every day into the culture, the stream of regularly refuted garbage that seems churned up in the AEI think tanks and the Fox newsrooms all for confusion's sake, to whip the masses into such a froth of sniping and distrust and fear that the perfect atmosphere for the nefarious to seize power is achieved. How difficult is it to keep your head straight when you're paranoid, terrified, threatened? Oh, very.
And thus it is with Twitter. While Trickle-Down Economics has failed utterly, Trickle-Down Ugly has succeeded beyond anyone's expectation. And the shrewd have used that ugly as a means to seize power and make money-money-money. It's amazing to see President Obama remain so poised in the face of such round-the-clock venom, a reminder of the best of he American character not seen very often in public these days; good to hear words of hope buoyed by facts and tangible results; so sad to see those words and deeds triggering outrage and loathing for Democracy on the part of the disloyal and uncivil opposition.
So, as of today, I will no longer engage in Twitter flame-wars with faceless individuals who feel compelled to call me mean names or remind me that I have not won any major awards (I mean, is that really what success is predicated on? Are you a shitty construction worker if you haven't won a Girdie? A crap lawyer if you haven't won a Fleecie? Am I sensitive? NOT AT ALL!!!!!). The lack of civility exhibited, even when no one is looking, is exactly how, by the way, unregulated businesses would behave. But that's a lefty rant for another time.
I will, however, never stop being occasionally funny, provocative and vulgar. Why should I, when it brings so many people together!
Also, why not this.
You can yell at it all you want. Only I don't have to hear it.
Follow Steven Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheStevenWeber