The year 2020 is going to be remembered for a few things - one of those is the spread of a new coronavirus around the world, the other is the proliferation of the Karen meme, cancel culture being everywhere, and life just being a little crazier then any of us expected.
I need to preface this episode with something - in order to do this episode I had to run a little experiment on twitter - and I had to intentionally troll online. It doesn't make me feel the greatest to have to do that - but it is what it is. If I would have prefaced my tweet with the words: this is an intentional troll for a podcast - I would not have gotten the responses that I did. And boy did I get responses.
Before we get into what I did let's define a few things. In current culture, Karen is almost a universal meme. It stands for a person who wants to call the manager for any slight inconvenience. Did their drink come too hot? They want to talk to the manager. Too cold. Manager. Person used the wrong tone. Manager. Person did....you get the idea. And of course - the male version of Karen is Ken - and honestly I feel sorry for people named karen/ken as they have to live with the knowledge of the meme that their name has become.
Tolerance. I'm going to read this right from Merriam-Webster. sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own or the act of allowing something. The oxford dictionary further defines the word as: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
America is a melting pot - we allow people to come from all over the world here. And we welcome people here - there is some shared values as Americans that we share - but for the most part we are tolerant of other's cultures/opinions/views - well at least not online - and America has been made better for it as we get to learn from others we may never have interacted with otherwise.
But tolerance is required in order for that to work - and online it seems more and more if you don't espouse the views of the vocal minority then you are threatened, shouted down (virtually), berated, insulted, and a whole host of other things.
When I say vocal minority - I am not kidding. Only 7% of the United States population uses twitter. 87% of people have heard of twitter - but only 7% use it. On the flipside - 88% of people have heard of Facebook and 41% have a profile on Facebook. This would be crazy enough - but it gets worse actually. Of all the content created on twitter, 80% of the content is generated by the top 10% of twitter users - and the top 10% of twitter users tend to focus on politics - specifically left leaning politics. Breaking this down further - 77% of twitter users are wealthier then the general public, and 41% are making 75k or more per year. Something important to know about all of these statistics - business accounts were taken out of the data and are not considered when averages are generated.
Now I bring up all these stats to give you an idea of what the average twitter person is. They are a very vocal minority (minority because they are typically less then 10% of the general twitter population) but they are the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. It is because of this low engagement and usage that I personally have not really engaged with twitter too much - both personally and with the podcast.
Now with all of that - what did I do last week?
Last week Kroeger (the parent company for a chain of grocery stores, jewelry stores, medical clinics, etc) posted on twitter that they were going to mandate face masks be worn by all people entering their stores starting on 7/20/2020 - and let me make this very clear - this is a privately owned company on private property - they have every right to mandate conditions of entry into their stores and if they want to require masks they are well within their rights to do so and if people do not want to wear a mask - they can be turned away at the company's discretion - and no I don't believe a store requiring a mask is an attack on anyone's rights. Now if you want to have a conversation on the effectiveness of wearing a mask and want to come at this with scientific (peer reviewed) papers - then lets have that discussion - but entry into a business is an open and shut case - as they can control entry into their business in areas where there is no local mask mandate.
So back to that tweet. I had the idea for this episode swirling around in my mind for a little bit - but had never setup a second social media account - so I decided to just go ahead and do the deed from my main social media account. So I went onto twitter and responded to the Kroeger tweet (sorry Kroeger for trolling) with the tweet of "Thanks for letting me know to no longer patronize your stores - appreciate it" - nothing incendiary about masks, nothing calling mask wearers sheeple (I have seen that way too much on social media), nothing on this being against anyone's rights, nothing about hating on people for going there wearing masks - just a simple - I choose to take my business elsewhere since your requiring a mask - and twitter did not disappoint.
You of course had a decent number of people liking the post - which is going to happen no matter what is said - but the responses - those were the things I was looking for. There were a few "glad you won't be there" posts - but those are everyday run of the mill. Then there are the intolerant karens/kens. So since this happened (and after I thanked them for participating in this experiment) a lot of the people have since privated their twitter accounts or deleted their response - one would imagine (and hope) because they were ashamed of what they wrote and did online.
So the responses? I had one person threatening to contact my employer since I was such a threat to "myself and others" with the ending of "fking winger terrorist" - because I was taking my business elsewhere? I had a bunch of others calling me "dirty and nasty mexican", idiot, and many other hateful things (again most deleted now). I had one person - one - who engaged civilly with me - and due to his civil engagement I let him in on why I was doing what I was doing and he admitted that his initial reaction was probably over the top and not necessary.
For everyone that responded to me - I responded with "I have had this virus already and recovered - please tell me why I should have to be mandated to wear a mask". Not one person brought up that it was the store requesting that I wear it (if they had - I would’ve said your right) and instead just continued their insult. One person brought up the red herring of Chicken Pox and how adults can get it since they loose resistance over the many years and say this is the same as covid stating this as a fact - when (unfortunately for them) the CDC said they are not sure on the state of immunity. If they had brought up it could be possible since we don’t have the science - they would’ve gotten a point (and as I check my list on Sunday - looks like one person did bring that up - good for them!)
A few people brought up news websites (which were not marked as safe by newsguard) and said this was their proof on why I was an idiot. I then asked for peer reviewed scientific papers on the effectiveness of either makes, immunity, etc. Their only response - there is no time for science we have to do what they say because science takes too long to be useful.
:: head scratch ::
Not one person wanted to engage in any conversation on this and instead just used twitter as a platform of outrage - using it to shout their insults with confidence that no one should even have the right to talk counter to them. They were the law - and I had to bend to their will - and if I didn't - I was an intolerant evil biggot because I dare say that I will take my business elsewhere. It would’ve been one thing if they engaged in a conversation about why I said I was taking my business elsewhere - but nope - just a quick jaunt from taking my business elsewhere to your a dirty nasty Mexican. (BTW my twitter handle is @averagehalfmex - my old twitter handle has been archived and I have reserved it in case I want to use it again)
I got all of this and to thank those involved - I tagged all the most vile people in the threads in one tweet - and I was rewarded. I had a very nice moment of schadenfreude. These people started going after one another - accusing each other of being hateful conservatives and how they don’t deserve to have opinions, and they were less than human, and many other insulting things. They didn't realize they were all on the same side - and instead just went after one another. One person responded with "Did i just get punked?" because I thanked them for sharing their opinions with another going "oh you god a podcast - that’s nice - all your X number of twitter subscribers" - again I point back to the fact that only 7% of Americans use twitter to begin with and only the very loud vocal minority tend to be there.
I started out this experiment with the thesis that social media was toxic, but one of the people (as they were trying to backpedal and insult me at the same time after I said I was going to do a podcast on this) convinced me on something - it is not social media that is toxic - it is people that are toxic - specifically the intolerant Karens/Kens that congregate on twitter.
So what can you do to not be part of the toxic online culture? Good question.
The first thing is to assume that the intentions of the person posting something comes from a place of good. Now obviously if someone is saying to kill yourself, or other things along that line you can't assume anything about that is good - just ignore those people - they are too far gone to be able to do anything about. In fact they are just looking for other people to react to their content as they enjoy the attention - the best way to destroy a troll is to just ignore them. But for everyone else - if they post an opinion that you do not agree with - assume they are coming from a spot of good intention. They have an opinion that you do not agree with - but does that necessarily mean that they are bad? No. It doesn't - I'm sure you have opinions that you hold that they would disagree with an would want them to show you respect as well if they knew about it. Social media (especially for people we don't know personally) gives us just a small glimpse into the other person's life - we don't know the full story behind why the person may hold that opinion - we all come from a variety of backgrounds which shapes our views and opinions. Plus in order to have a tolerant society - we must allow for others to have different opinions then us - show me a family that all people in the family have the exact same opinions on everything and I'll show you a boring family that is lying to everyone else and keeping their opinions secret.
Second thing to do - ask questions. Try to get to know why the other person has the perspective they have. They may have a great reason to think like they do - and once you know why their opinion might shift to the "oh that makes sense" category instead of the initial emotional based ranking of that opinion.
Third - know that people are people - they are going to have differing opinions - and this melting pot is what makes life entertaining and interesting. Everyone having the same opinions is boring - and a big red flag - group think is a dangerous thing and that is how people abuse power by using social manipulation to make group think the norm.
But above all - be good to people - don't immediately cuss someone out or insult them just because they have a different thought then you - take the opportunity to learn why they think the way they do, because when opinions are brought into the sunlight - things that are incorrect and toxic not only are exposed but are disinfected - you are unable to change a person's mind with insults - however engaging in a relationship with a person and making connections with them on a personal level is the most effective way to change a person's opinions.
By the way - I will not be releasing the screenshots of those that tweeted at me. They didn’t know they were going to be part of this experiment - and I don’t believe anyone deserves hate/cancel no matter how off base they may be at times.