I SING OF BUTTHURT AND THE NEWBIE. Jason Phillips (@gorillasushi) once wrote that “internet jealousy is measured in precise units, called butthertz”. What I write now is for the benefit of the relative newcomers to Twitter so they don’t go off half-cocked and write essays that have people scratching their heads in embarrassment, pity and confusion. That’s my job.
Yesterday someone published an essay about Weird Twitter which, if not the actual definition of butthurt, could still be framed in gilt & prominently hung in the Museum of Modern Butthurt. No, I’m not going to link to it. I think the author has suffered enough. (In the booty-butt area or what my governess used to call ‘The Bad Place.’)
That’s not to make light of it. Hurt feelings, or butts, are very real. We acknowledge the pain and the sadness that accompanies it. We give it credence. Also, we want to go back to being “I” so badly I/we can almost taste it.
I didn’t see any of the interactions the author had with others, some of whom he had the bad judgement to name. They may have been brusque, or they may not. I don’t know. But I do know how some of this could come about in the normal course of business and would like to address that here, hopefully losing most of my funny doing so.
Someone who comes on here and writes jokes nonstop is, like me, a showboat or “pony” if you will. We live in applause junkie barns and eat lumps of clap-sugar, one possible side effect of which is syphilis.. There are some who are not interested in anything but the applause and have no interest in applauding others. They are at one end of the spectrum of interaction to be found on Twitter. They follow few, they don’t respond, they don’t favorite tweets and claim to be above it all. Jeremiah Johnson would fit into this category. He would write his tweets on the side of his horse with a stick dipped in eagle blood, then rub them out after allowing himself a private, bearded squint-grimace. The other end is the person who replies to everything, favorites a ton and is bubbly and gregarious. Most of us are somewhere in between, and most of us, or “the ponies” if you prefer, have a hard time fathoming people even one rung of the ladder above or below us, so myopic are we.
The truth is that almost nobody does Twitter the way you do it.
I can only speak for my own case, and do so lovingly, gladly and tiresomely. If you look at my stats, you can see that I’ve put in the time, year after year. I have also gotten the attention of several people, some of whom still follow me despite the noticeable decline into toilet humor. I am now at a place, after years of echoing silence from a non-audience, where it’s the rare joke I write that doesn’t attract an @ reply of some kind. I think it’s great. I think it’s better than yelling my jokes down a well, which was the feeling I had before, and I’m to a great extent humbled that anything I do would engender a response better than torches and rage-filled townspeople in Canadian tuxedos.
If I was doing this on the street, I’d be compelled by the conventions of politeness to respond to each comment. Here the culture is different and the demarcation line moves around according to time of day, diffidence, offline life or business demands and/or the shifting emotional needs of the individual joke-teller.
I wasn’t the first one here, so I had to watch and infer how to proceed. And the culture was that you didn’t have to reply to anyone if you didn’t want to. You could pick and choose depending upon if you were intrigued by a particular @ reply, or you had already been introduced to the person, or you were bored and/or energetic and feeling expansive.
Sometimes people stand on their heads to get your attention and you’re either sympathetic to them or put off. In either case, you are allowed to keep to yourself. The person standing on his head may feel butthurt, and that’s unfortunate, but ultimately those feelings are his to own and work through, and are not the responsibility of the addressee. Trying to make them so is what yesterday’s post seemed intended at bottom to do. Did you see what I did there?
Yesterday’s blog post came off as a relative newbie who wasn’t cracking the chat of more established guys who know each other. That may not be entirely accurate, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. Hey, we all want to fit in, and we want to do it from the start, but Twitter doesn’t work that way. You have to put in the time, you have to have skills, you have to be consistent and it helps to show a human side sometimes. Even then it’s no guarantee. That’s frustrating for a newcomer or for anyone in this attention-deficit culture, really, but that’s how it is.
So that’s the way here. I didn’t make the rules. Do I like the culture? Overall, I believe I do. If I tweet a joke and then have to run out the door for meetings or appointments, I like knowing that I’m not breaking the rules of social interaction by not responding. When I send someone an @ reply it’s nice to get a response but I recognize that it’s not owed me and may never come. I don’t grab my fanny and fall out of my chair.
If I was required to respond in words to every reply, I’d probably leave. If I’m pleased by someone’s reply, I’ll typically, if I have the time, favorite it. It’s a way of saying “I see you” or “Thank you” or “Nice one.” My betters did it before me on Twitter and it’s good enough for me. Again: not owed, but sometimes given.
What drives Twitter for me, besides the scintillating talent, is the niceness. Plenty of people have reached out to me, done me favors, showed me kindness and respect and, whenever possible, I’ve tried to return it and do it for others. The brilliant people who flame out here sometimes missed the wonderfully human part of Twitter. So do your own thing, marvelous young people. The friendships will come to you in time. There’s no need for butthurt.