Not too long ago on Twitter there was a tweet on my feed from the legendary Houston rapper Scarface which caught my attention. Scarface had retweeted and replied to a tweet directed at him from a young woman living somewhere in the States:
(*@BrotherMob is Scarface’s handle. I ‘x’ed out the young woman’s handle. For those of you not on Twitter, RT means “retweet.” The young woman tweeted at Scarface “You need to make real rap music like Nicki Minaj,” which Scarface retweeted with his added reply, “ok.”)
First of all, Scarface’s reply was perfect. How else could he have responded? The fact that he responded at all to this bizarre tweet was funny enough, letting his fans and followers in on the joke. Proving he has a sense of humour, Scarface followed it up with this:
“Naa Nikki is fire she has a point”
But what really peeked my interest was the young woman who originally sent the unprovoked tweet to Scarface. I mean, this young woman is certainly allowed to like Nikki Minaj’s music more than Scarface’s (I guess). But why this out of the blue and unfounded attack against Scarface? What’s going through this girl’s mind? Is she the hilarious author of a “weird Twitter” account? Or is she crazy? I had to investigate.
The first insight into where she was coming from was her Twitter handle, which used “Beiber” after her first name, like a patrynomic. In other words, she is a Belieber. (I am no psychoanalyst, and therefore will not go into her potential “daddy issues.”)
The girl’s Twitter account drew me in even more. Her tweets were almost exclusively hate-filled jabs directed at perceived pop rivals of Justin Bieber and fanatics of different pop stars that currently occupy the top 40 charts. Racist and homophobic slurs are used viciously and without conscience. Some of her other tweets ask her followers to look at her avatar, a picture of her young, smiling, chubby face. “Don’t I look like Miley Cyrus?” she implores.”People tell me I look like Miley Cyrus,” she posts after getting no positive replies to the former. Her pubescent insecurities ooze out of the screen.
Some examples of her tweets:
(In response to Eva Longoria tweeting support for San Antonio’s NBA team) “
@EvaLongoria THE SPURS ARE TRASH U UGLY BITCH”
“Drake has more BET awards than Eminem has gotten in his career. So whos the king of Rap?”
@wizkhalifa Your son has a drug addicted father and whore mom. i hope hes fucked up and dies by the age of 20″
“Justin Bieber has 3 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Michael Jackson has 0. Who’s better?”
“Black people are fucking up the ecominee”
Her vicious attacks on other Twitter users are only abated by the love she declares for Justin Beiber, and her online “sister,” another young girl living in a different state. To the young Belieber’s claim that her “sister” is the only one in the world who understands her, and doesn’t hate her, her “sister” replies “we are not sisters, you fat cow.” Other correspondences between the two detail an on-and-off again online friendship between two insecure girls who sometimes find solace in each other, and other times seek distance from each other, so as not to be associated with somebody undesirable.
Her sometimes-sister uses a One Direction reference as the last name of her Twitter pseudonym. Her bio reveals that her favorite One Direction member is Zayn, but she indeed likes them all. An “0/5” at the end of her bio signifies that she is in the Oh-for-Fivers club, meaning that zero out of five members of One Direction follow her back. Her and other Oh-for-Fivers sometimes find each other on Twitter and discuss their love of One Direction and their aspirations to one day be followed by members of their favourite pop group. Presumably, once one arrives in the One-for-Fivers club, they would never again have the time of day for a lowly 0/5er.
Most of the Directioner’s tweets are desperate attempts at convincing separate members of One Direction to follow her, barraging them with tweets like “I’ve been studying so hard. You’d be proud of me. If you just follow me, I know I’ll past my test!” and “My life is meaningless without your music.” She even attempts to turn the members of One Direction against each other, hoping that becoming a confidant will lift her up a rung on the ladder. None of these tweets are replied to.
I feel increasingly strange looking at the tweets of these middle-American, teenaged girls. And yet I am mesmerized, spending almost an hour scrolling through them. Maybe not having the most fulfilling lives at home, they turn to seeking some sort of connection with people online, even if only through “trolling.”
I wasn’t entirely comfortable with my decision, but I followed both girls, adding their tweets to my feed. I justified it by telling myself that gaining insights into a social realm I would otherwise have no access to were just too compelling to pass up.
Soon after, the Directioner showed up on my feed. Her tweet was something innocuous enough, like “sitting in class. so bored!” They can’t all be gems. I looked for the Belieber, to see if I had missed anything crazy she had posted. I was surprised to be unable to find her on my feed or in my “followed” list. Where was her account, and her crazy tweets?
“Oh man,” I thought. “She blocked me.” Of course she did. She knew something was up when some random person from Winnipeg (where?) followed her. She wasn’t as ignorant as I took her for. She wasn’t so clueless to the world around her. She was a human being, with a brain and a heart, just like any of us. She gets it. Why would I follow her? She must’ve known that it was so that I could treat her like the lowly object she had been treated like so many times before. Was I just as bad as the bullies I assume she faces in her real life?
I was disgusted with myself. I stayed off Twitter for a couple of days, the whole time thinking about why I allowed myself to be enticed down such a dark social media path. What did I want out of it? To feel superior? Or just a laugh? But I kept telling myself I can’t pass up this experience. This type of phenomenon is only accessible through Twitter. I will never meet crazy people like this in real life.
When time had numbed my self-loathing, I went back on Twitter to find the Belieber girl had somehow began to appear on my feed. As it turned out, the actual reason I couldn’t find her was because she had been banned from Twitter for a short period of time for using hate speech. Ugh. I couldn’t do it anymore. I unfollowed both of them.
Looking back on my motivations for following these girls in the first place, I can’t help but be struck by our digitally detached age. Originally I found their tweets so unbelievably insane that I couldn’t turn away, much like my motivations for watching the Jim Bakker Show. Both that religious program and these girls’ tweets were funny to me on an anti-comedy level. It was like watching an episode of Tim and Eric. But they’re not anti-comedians, and they’re not in on the joke. (I still watch the Jim Bakker Show and laugh though. Because fuck that guy.)
In a lot of ways it was more like watching Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. These two young, insecure, possibly mentally-ill girls were gaining followers on Twitter (the Belieber especially has a significant amount of followers for someone who doesn’t seem to be putting anything positive out into the world) by showcasing the worst possible traits of their personalities. And like Honey Boo-Boo, they want us to watch their train wreck, because it’s the only way they can get the attention that all people crave. But this attention comes from all the wrong places.
By following these two girls on Twitter I was essentially exploiting them. I was playing the role of voyeur, amusing myself with their pathetic, ignorant and sad lives. And all this from a safe enough distance to not be worried about who they really are, and what their lives are actually like.
Be careful on the internet.