When Following on Twitter Becomes Fanatic

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UPDATE: See the newest, rudest reply at the bottom!

Ha! Wow! This was an interesting little experiment I did not expect to conduct on Twitter.

rainn-wilsonFor a long time, I’ve been following Rainn Wilson on Twitter. You know him as Dwight from The Office, among other things. I thought it was interesting to see what he tweeted, because he was really into it and was a unique character. Lately, though, I found myself rolling my eyes every time he tweeted. I found his tweets uninteresting and not funny. In addition, he often tweets stuff from his other website, Soul Pancake, which has this spiritual let’s-find-deeper-meaning-in-life vibe that I personally find nauseating. (I’m sure Karen Armstrong would love it.)

So, I finally said to myself, “Why subject yourself to all these tweets you don’t care about?” and I unfollowed him. Also, because I’m a snarky bloke (and mostly to mock the Soul Pancake spirituality vibe), I tweeted, “I decided to stop following @rainnwilson and I’ve never felt better about life.”

And then Rainn tweeted:

Zack needs to get out more. RT I decided to stop following @rainnwilson and I’ve never felt better about life. (via @zackford)

And you know what? That’s a fair retort. I still like Rainn as an actor, and I meant no personal offense, and I don’t think he took it that way either. I’m certainly not offended by what he said back. If that was the end, I wouldn’t bother writing a blog post about it.

Rainn has over 1.4 million followers. Some of them are loyal. Many felt a need to reply. I was surprised at how nasty some of them were; while others were funny. A few were just retweets who thought it was funny, but let’s take a look at how some celebrity devotees respond when their idol gets a little diss.

beancroc @zackford Hahahaha. Schooled by Rainn Wilson. Hahahaha.

Well, I don’t exactly feel schooled. Rainn doesn’t even know me.

This one was hilarious:

theJFKshow @rainnwilson Sorry @zackford, and imma let you finish but @riannwilson is the best tweeter OF ALL TIME. Fuck Kanye West.

Too bad about the typo. But a good Kanye parody always works.

Some people though were a bit more vicious:

FluidDarkness @rainnwilson And who the F is @zackford ?

Ycartneerg @rainnwilson Two ideas for Zack: Suck. It. RT I decided to stop following @rainnwilson, never felt better about life (via @zackford)

Befralee @rainnwilson Maybe if @zackford gets out more he’ll realize he doesn’t have to proclaim gayness like he’s at the first pride parade.

dustinbyers @zackford i would have to agree with @rainnwilson you need to get out more why would you stop following him

Yikes! I wonder if Rainn realizes the potential he has to draw out the wrath of some of his followers! In particular, Befralee felt it necessary to make a pretty homophobic remark. I think the past decade has shown that technology has allowed people to be a lot less censored when they write online, whether it’s cyber bullying or just really open sharing in other ways. The fact that these folks have no hesitation when it comes to attacking a person they don’t even know is slightly disturbing.

If Rainn can get that kind of reaction from his followers, it doesn’t bode well for other people. Surely the teabagger and birther movements are evidence of the power of propaganda from talking heads like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. This small-scale example is pretty telling of how devoted people can be to celebrities, “role models,” and “idols.”

But hey, some people thought it was funny:

cuppycakee @rainnwilson haha. oh sweet amusement. its probably due to the “controversial” nature of your tweets.. way to stick it to the man, @zackford

batsoup @rainnwilson is a tool, but he makes me laugh RT @zackford I decided to stop following @rainnwilson and I’ve never felt better about life.

nocommayes Decided to take a page from @zackford ‘s book and stop following @rainnwilson.

In addition, I’ve picked up five new followers of my own AND an old friend from high school found me through Rainn’s tweet. Welcome folks and hi Kate!

Anyway, none of this is a big deal. I’m not trying to make it a big deal. I think it’s funny, but I also think it’s slightly disturbing. Twitter is a great tool for connecting with others, but its impact isn’t always positive. Food for thought, people…

Kind of like a soul pancake! Oh wait, I don’t believe in souls.

UPDATE (9/24/09) Check this pair of tweets out!

twatwaffle13@zackford You find @rainnwilson ‘s tweets to be “uninteresting” like he exists to fucking entertain your ass?

twatwaffle13@zackford Go jack off to Glee you El Dramatico buttplug. @rainnwilson probably has farts more interesting than what you have to say.

I almost don’t feel right putting her tweets here because I have the sense she just wants attention. On the upside, at least she read my blog!

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There are 7 Comments to "When Following on Twitter Becomes Fanatic"

  • Sheena Lara says:

    Yes, it is disturbing that some people will attack when they know nothing about a person. An all around good example that what we tweet should be carefully considered before making it public.

  • Befralee says:

    First of all, please allow me to apologize. My comment was not intended to “bully” you and I certainly did not mean to hurt your feelings. I am so not anywhere near homophobic… actually that’s kind of why I wrote what I did. It had absolutely nothing to do with some actor who’s show I don’t even watch.

    I know it’s really not any of my business what you choose to write about yourself but the things you say do affect others, just as what I wrote affected you. What I was trying to communicate was that, in this day and age, do you really need to highlight GAY all over your stuff as if you were leading a crusade? Isn’t that a bit like me still fighting for the right to vote? Or like a black man fighting for the right to sit at the front of the bus?

    Perhaps being gay defines who you are as a person? Perhaps you feel you would be less interesting or enlightened if everyone didn’t know which gender you are attracted to? Do you like me any more or less because you don’t know which gender I prefer? If you knew I was gay and you reread what I said, would you take it differently?

    My nephew is currently struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. He’s from a small town where “different” is not acceptable and where being gay is definitely different. At the already difficult age of 17, the only thing in his world that is important right now is trying to fit in, to be normal. The message I keep trying to beat into his head is that he is normal – he’s a good person, he is smart and funny, he is handsome and he deserves to be happy – it doesn’t matter who he is attracted to. But you are practically screaming that it does matter.

    Let’s step into his shoes for a moment and see what kind of message you are sending to him, and to others in the same situation:

    If DIFFERENT = WRONG
    And GAY = DIFFERENT
    Then GAY = WRONG
    And HE = WRONG

    By proclaiming in your bio that the very first thing we should know about you is the fact that you are gay, you are inferring that being gay is different. And the message you are sending to my nephew, and to others in the same situation, is that he can’t be normal if he is gay. How is that message helping anyone?

    Can you understand that what you are saying is hitting deeper than if some ignorant asshole on the street called him a fag? That guy would be just some ignorant asshole, but you are actually like him so you must know what you are talking about. And you are telling him that gay is different, and he is telling himself that gay is wrong. So I am telling you that just makes me mad.

    And, if I was being a bully to you, what were you being to Rainn Wilson? I stop following lots of people when I don’t like what they are saying but I don’t feel the need to impress my twitter-mates by showing them how I can call out a famous guy to his face (er, his @ replies). And that “Soul Pancake spirituality vibe” that you were trying to mock is very important to a lot of people – just as your sexuality is obviously very important to you.

    You might be a self-professed “snarky bloke” but you are also a hypocrite. And when I see hypocrisy, I point it out. I try very, very hard to practise what I preach, sir… do you?

  • ZackFord says:

    As I suggested in the post, it is important to get to know a person a bit before you make accusations.

    For example, if you looked around at all, you realized that one of the purposes of this blog is to address LGBT issues. I highlight my sexual orientation on my twitter account because I hope that it connects them here to my blog. LGBT advocacy is also a big part of the work that I do in Student Affairs in Higher Education.

    It’s important to me to be out and proud because I can be out and proud. It’s about courage and nonconformity in an oppressive society. Being gay is different, but it’s awesome. I don’t know where you connect the dots to wrong because that’s not what I do at all. I write this blog so young people like your nephew know there are others out there, they can read about issues related to their identities, and they can feel supported knowing that others are speaking out on their behalf.

    The attitude you present does the opposite. While your original tweet to me might not have been intentionally offensive, that really is the only way it can read. Your comment reveals the depth behind your meaning, which allows me to appreciate your intention a bit more, but I have to inform you that your approach is still misguided. It is your shame and your sense of discretion that sends your nephew the message he should hide who he is and perhaps be ashamed of it.

    Keep in mind that there is still a lot of legal inequality against LGBT people. We still have a lot of fighting to do. We only make the important point if we are visible and force people to recognize that our society isn’t good enough until we respect difference (instead of, as you seem to, assume that different is wrong).

    Whether you are straight or gay, Befralee, is irrelevant to me and to how I interpret your post. I believe you when you say you do not intend to be homophobic, but your actions still have a negative impact on the community, so I encourage you to think about the effects of your words. How would you feel if other people told you that you should “keep to yourself” certain aspects of your identity? THAT IS THE MESSAGE OF SHAME. If you are gay, I would be concerned that you have issues of shame that you direct inward as well, but that would be the only difference.

    My thoughts on spirituality reflect another primary aspect of this blog, which is to inform people about atheism and to deconstruct religious privilege, the undeserved respect that subscription to the supernatural has in our society. I suggest you read my recent post on Karen Armstrong (linked above) as well as some of the posts in my “Defining Nonbelief and Atheism” archive to learn more about why I “mocked” spirituality.

    Thank you for your comments. I hope you think about what I’ve said. I’m happy to continue this dialogue to help you be a better ally to the LGBT community and support structure for your nephew.

  • […] When Following on Twitter Becomes Fanatic « ZackFord Blogs zackfordblogs.com/2009/09/23/when-following-on-twitter-becomes-fanatic – view page – cached Ha! Wow! This was an interesting little experiment I did not expect to conduct on Twitter. — From the page […]

  • Will says:

    ” By proclaiming in your bio that the very first thing we should know about you is the fact that you are gay, you are inferring that being gay is different. And the message you are sending to my nephew, and to others in the same situation, is that he can’t be normal if he is gay. How is that message helping anyone?

    Can you understand that what you are saying is hitting deeper than if some ignorant asshole on the street called him a fag? That guy would be just some ignorant asshole, but you are actually like him so you must know what you are talking about. And you are telling him that gay is different, and he is telling himself that gay is wrong. So I am telling you that just makes me mad.”

    So instead… you vilify the word itself and try to silence people that use it. You tell people that they should NEVER mention it, and criticize people merely for mentioning that they’re gay.

    It sounds like your intentions really are to help your nephew, and if you do care, then take the word of someone who actually did just come out: ditch the armchair psychology bullshit.

    You think you’re helping? Telling people that it’s bad to even say the word gay is not helping. You seem to have this attitude that talking about sexual orientation is creepy and wrong, and guess what – it’s exactly that attitude that forces people into the closet and makes them miserable. Believe me, I know.

    You have made a mistake. That’s okay. People make mistakes. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It means you need to correct it.

    If you don’t correct it, that would only show that this is about you. That you simply want to be right, and don’t actually care whether your actions are hurting people. Don’t be that guy.

    You see, the douchebags of the world are still out there – the guys who shout “FAG” at you as they drive by. They’ll still be there if you simply pretend sexual orientation doesn’t make a difference. They’ll still be there if we hide. Only by taking an active role can we make changes for the better, and that is exactly what Zack does.

  • Befralee says:

    Hi Zack:

    I want you to know that I think of you, and of this conversation of ours, often. While I am not proud of the comments that started it, I am glad that it started. Twitter in general – and communicating with you in particular – has opened my eyes to a world that I innocently thought we had evolved past.

    Contrary to Will’s comments and perception of my stance on this subject, I have never, ever, by any stretch of the imagination, inferred that it is “bad to even say the word gay”. My position was the absolute opposite of that. I didn’t think that anyone really thought that there was anything wrong with being gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered anymore.

    I never understood how people could impugn or attack someone based on who they were attracted to. I never understood how anyone could be so closed minded as to think that being gay or straight had any bearing on a person’s worth as a human being. It just didn’t make logical sense to me so, I guess somewhere along the way, I stopped seeing that those things still happen. Of course I knew there was small minded people making ignorant comments and smart-asses who think their jokes are funny but I did not see the depth of the prejudice and inequality that the LGBT community experiences until communicating with you opened my eyes. And I thank you for that.

    Something I don’t think I ever told you is that my nephew has not officially come out to me or anyone else in our family yet. Also, you don’t know that my nephew lives almost 5,000 miles away from me. I fly him over here for a couple of weeks each summer and spend the whole time trying to erase all of the crap that is fed to him for the other 50 weeks of the year. I think I was beating up on you when I really wanted to beat up on my sister and her fiancée and everyone else who has made him feel that he is anything less than the amazingly wonderful young man that he is. And for that, I truly do apologize to you and to anyone else whom I inadvertently offended.

    On a happier note, I had a short visit with my nephew since you and I were first introduced. I was overjoyed by his increased level of confidence and, although I have always encouraged him to evolve at his own pace, we did have what I consider a breakthrough – he finally allowed me to meet his boyfriend. So the closet door is open now… I trust that he will come out when he is ready. (I have always thought that the actual “coming out” is something that should come from him – do you agree?)

    We might be getting closer to LGBT equality but I see now that progress is slow and still needs to be championed to a large degree. I see now that you are leading a crusade and that I was wrong to believe that this is a battle which had already been won. I wish you all the best, Zack – and know that I am out here fighting with you.

  • Will says:

    That was really touching. All the best to you and your nephew!

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