Today, I’m writing the rare sequel to a blog post. I wrote yesterday about my willingness to commit to the bit so long as it was a generally positive or neutral thing, and as I’ve reflected on that piece and thought about life in the internet age, I’ve realized there’s another important caveat beyond my “don’t use my powers for evil or negativity” caveat from yesterday. The other important rule of my bit commitment, so integral that I completely forgot about it until I saw someone break it on Twitter today, is “never commit to a bit on the internet.”
I’ve mentioned before about the particular style of writing that is becoming more and more prevalent in social media and anywhere that text is the primary means of communication. How someone will state an idea in such a way that makes it clear that they are speaking about a specific context, not by merely mentioning this context as one would in a casual conversation, but by also listing a whole host of other contexts that are being specifically excluded. A list of caveats following an expression, intended to head off a bunch of people asking about an increasingly ludicrous list of exceptions, special circumstances, and tangentially related concerns. The longer social media exists, the more people who have the attention of The Internet get driven off of it by people with the desire to appear virtuous for having considered something the original poster did not. It’s a toxic mix of one-upping someone and an unhealthy pursuit of validation, and it is one of my main reasons that social media tends to eat itself from the inside out on a long enough timeline.
As horrible and frustrating as the above can be, it pales in comparison to the kind of responses someone gets when they commit to the bit on the internet. From what should be obvious sarcasm to what could only be facetiousness to what is clearly satire, all of these attract people who seem incapable of understanding nuance and reminding everyone on the internet, once again, that all we have is text. Except, you know, that’s not true anymore and people do this even to videos people post.
Sure, I can understand that some people don’t get sarcasm. I was one of them for a long time (took a great deal of social experience and learning to be able to tell the difference and I still mess it up sometimes), so I get that it can be frustrating to see what seems like an earnest response or statement only to be told after reacting earnestly that it was not, in fact, earnest. I mean, being easily mistaken for something that could be real is a mark of satire. It’s one of the reasons the good, healthy satirical websites and posters mention that they’re producing satire on their profiles, websites, and even in some posts. I mean, the whole “flat earth” bullshit was started as satire but grew beyond that to a true movement because people react to that sort of stuff far too earnestly. I can’t even find a single tweet from The Onion, a satirical news website, that doesn’t have one or more people in the replies reacting as if the article linked is factual.
To be fair, “it’s just a joke, bro” and “Lol, you’re taking it too seriously” is the constant refrain of the worst parts of the internet, so I can understand that a great segment of the population doesn’t really care for anything that might be mistaken as factual when it wasn’t intended to be. That’s the kind of thing that crops up in a population after years and years of gaslighting, after all.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that you should only commit to the bit on the internet if you’re ready for people to take you too seriously and you should only do satire if you’re ready for the same treatment even if you tag every post as being satire.
I don’t exactly worry that people are going to do that to this blog. My following is too small, generally speaking, and I am usually pretty good at prefacing things, but I do think about what I’d do if it happened a lot. After going semi-viral once, back when I was doing book reviews, I have added “internet fame/infamy” to my list of anxieties and chew on it in rotation with the others. I’d probably just delete the entire blog or disappear for a week after deleting the post. This is supposed to be fun and a positive experience for me, so anything that would put that in jeopardy would quickly make this blog not worth continuing.