I’ve picked up a bit of a bad habit lately, and I don’t really know how to stop.
For years I’ve been SO GOOD at ignoring crazy people on the internet. It’s the kind of skill you pick up quickly when you actually work for the internet and realize that you could lose entire days — weeks! — fighting the trolls, and for what? It’s rare to actually change someone’s mind or political beliefs no matter how gloriously you pwn them in the comments. I know it’s not worth my time or the risk it poses to my blood pressure (#selfcare), and besides, there are so many better things to do on the internet, like online crossword puzzles or looking up where all the girls from the Olsen twins’ masterful video “Gimme Pizza” are now.
But there I was, outstretched on my couch last weekend, Sex and the City reruns playing on my TV while my thumb scrolled through the worst of anti-Semitic Twitter. I don’t remember how I got started, but I’m sure you’re familiar with the drill: a hilarious Jewish friend posts something hilarious, you read through the replies, and BAM… it’s Nazis. And when I say Nazis, I’m not trying to make a point by being hyperbolic. These are people who tweet out inspirational quotes from Hitler, who share their reasoning for why “Whites” are the superior race, who have super cute codewords to talk about us (((Jews))). These are people who are proud to call themselves #ProWhite and who unabashedly promote their beliefs: namely, that Jews are the cause of all the world’s problems and need to be taken care of in whatever way possible.
And so, instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour, or at least staying up late to finally figure out once and for all if I’m a Carrie or a Miranda, I started reporting them to Twitter. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. The thing about these anti-Semitic trolls is that they actually have a very close-knit community. They’re super supportive of each other, retweeting and amplifying the voices of other white people who have bravely spoken out against the prejudices they face in America. And so as soon as I found one report-worthy user, I would stumble upon a goldmine of others. I read through hundreds of these bonkers tweets about why I, as a Jewish person, don’t belong in this country, how I’m part of this vast conspiracy to take control of the world and get rid of “white culture” (while I am literally watching the whitest show on TV I mean hello) and how we’re due for another Holocaust (even though according to a lot of them, the Holocaust didn’t actually happen…). Report abuse, report abuse, report abuse.
After the third night in a row of looking up at the clock and realizing it was 2 a.m. and I had just spent several hours reading hateful tweets while picking my fingernails until they started to bleed (why yes, I am working on this harmful behavior with my therapist, thank you for your concern), I couldn’t help but wonder… who’s abusing whom? (Okay sorry I really have been watching too much SATC.)
What am I getting out of this new hobby? From Twitter, it’s a notification that they’ve received my report and will keep me notified if they decide that any of these accounts are worth penalizing. But like the worst of ghosters, I don’t actually expect to ever hear from Twitter again. Even if these accounts did get suspended, I’m guessing these people would just make new accounts and continue on with their same-old-nazi-shit like nothing ever happened.
I’m certainly not left feeling empowered or emboldened. Instead, I’m left feeling like the world is even more hateful than I thought it was (and I thought it was pretty damn hateful!!!). I’m left exhausted, upset, and with a ruined manicure.
But I. Can’t. Stop.
Has it become an addiction? A coping mechanism? A procrastination method? A lazy cop-out from doing what I really should be doing, which is engaging with other people on a deeper level who may not have had the experience or opportunities to gain the perspective needed to truly understand things like privilege and bigotry and race relations (cause like, how do you do that???). Will this be a passing habit like in that one episode in which Samantha got addicted to taking Viagra before sex, or a lasting habit like, um, Samantha having a lot of sex?
I don’t have any answers, people. I guess I’m just wondering if anybody else out there is struggling or used to be struggling and has somehow gotten over it, because I really don’t want to spend all of 2018 reading and reporting these assholes on Twitter. Not when I have at least 37 episodes and two movies featuring a particularly feisty group of strong, independent (white) women to watch.