Well, wasn’t that a fun few days? For most people who have been flocking to this page, I assume not. Some people, who have supported me through some interesting situations in the past, probably thought I had gone completely insane. Others were finding the me that they have already thought existed for quite some time now. Well, I am very sane. And, you might be surprised to hear, I am quite pleased with how this all unfolded, as it afforded me the opportunity to once again prove the inherent dangers of social media, and how it so easily devolves into groupthink. This, after having abandoned Facebook and Twitter, and now being banned from having an Instagram account, at least through the MAC address on my phone (I assume).
So, how exactly did it go down this time? Well, once again, it was spurred by an online argument with a former acquaintance of mine. The initial argument itself, was quite petty and juvenile, I freely admit, but it happened, and as such gave the person I was arguing with opportunity to use social media to drag me over the coals. What was the argument over? Okay, well, if you were my facebook friend this last month, you probably know I had begun taking a comedic slant with my poetry persona, and I had done a couple of live readings in this persona, utilizing a large plush mask of a cat that I had bought at Walmart. These had garnered quite the positive response, and several people told me I should keep doing it and make a web series out of it, which I was already considering to do, and was plotting my next material to use as such. Then, I saw a post from this friend, who stated she had bought a plush mask, and was going to do a reading. When I saw this, I thought, well that is interesting, I guess this idea of mine is better than I thought, so I commented on her post that “Hey, I am a trend setter!” to let her know that I knew she was copying my concept. She initially responded, “I didn’t know you did that?” and I said, “yes, twice,” and the funny thing about this interaction, is that I know she was playing dumb about this, because I clearly remember her viewing the videos I did, as it tells you who is watching while you are doing live feeds. So, I have to wonder, why deny that? Didn’t really matter I guess, but then she deleted my comment on her post. Why do that?
So, after the video aired of her reading Sylvia Plath poems or something, I just noticed the vast difference in responses to her video from mine. She was clothed in a white tanktop, nipples poking through the fabric as she had on no bra, and white panties. And her video had over 600 views already and about fifty comments. Looking through the comments, there were some men on there asking her to undress and such. So, my immediate thought on this was, Man, I should get breast implants! And this I posted as a status update on my timeline, as a joke of course, but also to take a harmless jab at her stealing my idea and gaining more views due to her tantalizing clothing choices. She got angry, and commented seriously like thirty seconds later, saying she thought I was devaluing her skills and claiming people only watched her video because she had breasts. And then a mutual friend, who was obviously looking to pick a fight with me, chimed in that she agreed. I tried to play it off as a joke, but they kept on piling on about it, and then another mutual friend commented, and then I told the person in question exactly what I thought about the whole thing, about how yes, she has a history of using her body as a means of getting attention, and in fact, posing nude all over the internet and tumblr, and that she knew she stole my idea, but kept denying it. I made another status about this exchange, calling her out on her hypocrisy, and how she was claiming to be a victim now of slutshaming because I mentioned her past and what she was doing now despite claiming wanting to be taken seriously as an artist.
Well, folks, this is where shit got ugly. I was being yelled at on all sides for being a woman hater and a misogynist and a disgusting human being. And for what? For arguing with one person over how they gained their audience? This is all it takes to be ganged up on and labeled a disgusting waste of human breath? Apparently so. I was very upset by this turn of events, especially the falling out that occurred between me and the mutual friend, whom I thought was actually a real friend, and not just some internet flake. So, I got extremely drunk. So drunk in fact, I do not remember much of the night at all. When I woke up, I found where I had posted lots of horrid things on Twitter, Instagram, and goodreads. I deleted the bad tweets and corrected what I did on goodreads, but it was too late to fix everything, as I had been blocked by some involved.
This led to me making my decision to leave social media, and I deactivated my facebook and twitter accounts, feeling like it was best for my mental health if I just took a break from it all for a while. Unfortunately, I still had access to facebook, and my curiosity got the better of me, so I went in to see what people were saying about the fact that I had left. I shouldn’t have been surprised that the person I argued with was now calling me a cyber bully and using my absence as an opportunity to make herself look like the victim. Instead of just letting it go, I found where she egged it on, making more posts about it, and garnering comment after comment about how I was a disgusting pig and I was just jealous of her success and I was just a woman hater threatened by women. This of course made me feel like shit. I had had one argument with her and now she had gotten her fiancé to call me a piece of shit, end his connection with me, and was using all her resources to slam my name in the dirt, simply because I dared to suggest she was doing what so many attractive people do and use that sex appeal for her own personal gain. I will be the first to admit that I do not care if people do this. I have long been a supporter of women who do what they want with their bodies, including supporting film stars who make a living in the porn industry, sex workers, etc. That is perfectly okay with me. Do what you want. What bothers me is doing that, and then denying it, acting like people who comment on such things are in the wrong when it is clearly what they are going for, and to act ignorant of it is deceitful and petty and naïve. She denies this fact about her much like she denies stealing my idea. And that isn’t just a coincidence I would imagine.
What does a poet do when he has been hurt? Well, I imagine, most poets like me would do what I did: write poems. In my short experience with writing on the internet I have found I have a unique ability to piss people off with my words. And, that is what I did. I wrote two poems to piss off the persons who had wronged me and were still dragging my name through the mud. Now, I thought these pieces were pretty subtle, but there was elements of violence and sex in them. The problem is, the people who I wrote these for, instantly knew I wrote them about the emotional subject at hand, even through such a skewed perspective, and they were outraged. This is where things started getting very interesting. They used this opportunity to again drag my name through the gutter even more, with the shares of the posts from Instagram and my website garnering hundreds of comments each, and just one after the other of admirers or supporters stating again and again that I am a piece of shit garbage human who doesn’t deserve to be alive.
Look, man, I am a stubborn person. Stubborn as a mule sometimes, and I just hate seeing people think they are winning, when they are just hearing what they want to hear. Ever since 2015 I have been dealing with similar crap. My reputation is total shit, because people have done this mob shaming trick to me multiple times. No one cares who you really are outside the internet world, who you are as a human with a real life and a job and a wife and a mortgage and a dog and two cats. No, all they care about it whether you agree with every single view they have on every single subject known to man. So, if you try to present ideas to them outside this view, it becomes a tug of war match, the only problem is, they call in all their echo chamber members to come pull on their side of the rope, so you end up dragged into the shit. Pay attention to how interactions work online now, and this is what you will see time and again. One person, or a minority number or people, will disagree, and then be roundly bullied into submission by the mob of people the original poster has surrounded themselves with, to drown out the voice of dissent and make sure that they come away feeling morally superior in the end. It’s a sea of voices all trying to shout down the opposition until they are exhausted from the noise and just give up. Many people lose friendships this way. It becomes a situation of its best to just not be connected and to find more people who think like you do, thus further entrenching the echo chambers into their own segregated groups. This is really unhealthy and bad for the world. I have a high suspicion that this is what allowed Donald Trump to win the White House, other than the Russia leaks and conspiracy of course.
Me being who I am, I thought this was as good a time as any to seize an opportunity to prove a point about what social media has done to society and what the echo chamber mentality does to drive wedges between groups or people. Twitter is probably more guilty of this than facebook, but for me, I have seen them both equally as guilty of it in the end. Instead of sulking off into the void, I used my previous experiences with this type of thing, and joined them with my thoughts on the latest events, and began writing more poetry. I took what had angered people last time the shame mob really went for me, and this time I upped the ante. For two years now I have had to listen to the cries of outrage from internet personalities and groups about a very small portion of my collective work as a writer, which they use and feel justified in using to label me very hurtful marks of shame, such as racist, misogynist, and sexist. Of course, people who know me in the real world know this isn’t the case, but there is no arguing with an internet mob once they make their mind up about someone. My thought process on this was, if they already think I am the most horrible misogynist alive, what would happen if I pushed that button and took it even further, pushed it about as far as I could get away with? What would the result be?
The result would be another internet outrage, people calling for my imprisonment, for my death, for my suicide, people releasing my personal information like my address, phone number, people working to get my writing pulled from every magazine I have ever been published in, people working to get me banned from Instagram and Facebook, editors saying I would never ever be published again in the literary community, people filing police reports that I threatened them even when they live states or continents away. It truly reached the point of absolute absurdity, and for what? Because I gave them what they wanted. I allowed them to see me write the most hateful, misogynistic, violent material I could possibly imagine anyone ever writing. The poems I wrote in this persona were like poems you would find in a serial killer’s notebook, or in the journal of someone locked in a mental institution with severe social pathologies like psychopathic or sociopathic disorders. I freely admit the poems were so egregiously over the top to garner the most repulsive and knee-jerk reactions of disgust I could possibly get, and boy did that work like a charm. People were so quick to once again call in the internet cavalry of like-minded individuals, many of whom were already itching for an excuse to put my name up on the crucifix of martyrdom for being the world’s worst man. It was almost too easy.
You might be wondering, why I would do this, and I can understand the curiosity, as I really don’t know myself to be honest. But ever since 2015 when I went through the turmoil of publishing a couple of really offensive poems, I have not recovered, and have felt like I was unfairly vilified by the lit community. As such, the amount of work I have been able to see published was dwindling down to almost nothing, and I felt like I had lost practically all the supporters I had previously had in my corner. Basically, I had nothing left to lose. I had already self-published all my poetry manuscripts that I had put together since undertaking the endeavor or trying to be a writer, and was already planning to start utilizing a pseudonym going forward if I continued to write new material. This situation proved a perfect opportunity to show the literary community, as it exists on the internet anyway, exactly how foolish they can be when going on one of these outrage feeding frenzies.
Am I a horrible person? Do I hate women? Would I ever hurt a woman? Of course not. That is fucking absurd! Anyone who knows me in life, knows who I am and what I am capable of, and hurting people, especially hurting women, is so out of bounds from my personality, it just blows my mind that so many folks online are ready to believe that THAT is who I am. My friends who knew what was going on during this episode were laughing about it. My wife was laughing about it. It’s just so fucking silly. Not once did it ever even matter who I really am, or what I might have been trying to say, all that mattered was they saw something gross, violent, and repugnant from their perspective, and it lined up with their own presuppositions about me from what they heard or thought, based only on hearsay and internet noise. And again, that is the point. When you are engaging with someone on the internet, the biases and cognitive dissonance are double enforced, because your perspective is limited through a two-way filter. One side, there is a person who shows you what they want to show you (think of a creepy old man in a chat room for instance, trying to hook up with young girls or something, or a phone sex operator with a super sultry voice, but an entirely unappealing physique), and on the other side, you have a person seeing what they want to see due to the ideas they have formed based on very limited information, but those ideas become reality because that information is all they have to base the idea upon.
What is the lesson here? Stop leaping to conclusions on the internet. Stop trying to ruin people’s lives simply because they disagreed with something you said, or posted something you found offensive. Please remember, everything is voluntarily consumed online. If you don’t like someone because they exposed you to something you disagree with, you have the option to not communicate with them. If someone makes art you disapprove of, you have the option of not consuming that art. You always have the choice of what types of ideas and people you expose yourself to, what media you consume, and in the end, how you react and engage with things you disagree with is what should define you. You can either try to silence ideas that you disagree with, and ruin the lives of those people with those ideas. Or you can let them live, and allow them to fail or flourish on the merits of the ideas themselves. Bad ideas and bad things will always exist. And there will always be bad people. But artists have the freedom to explore them all and shine a light, shine a mirror on them, so we know more about the human experience and how to tell the difference between the truth and a lie. Thank you.