On my bad days, I worry that Twitter is rotting our souls.
I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be one of those people. But for the many good things social media has encouraged—democratized academic thought, normalization and acceptance of radical solutions, genial social involvement, dank memes, Bernie Sanders, etc., it’s also turned us into a disgusting pack of sunless lunatics plodding through the same jokes and the same reactions to all content regardless if any of us authentically care one way or the other. A horrible social game where every opinion must be in vogue and performed correctly or risk the polemic rage of a hivemind that believes a contrary opinion is equivalent to actual fucking murder. The world is so much more nuanced than 140 characters, and, regrettably, that truth recedes more and more every single goddamn day.
But let’s be clear: Twitter isn’t corrupting us. It’s simply revealing the selfish, egomaniacal cowardice that’s always always been there. It got me thinking about certain figures from cultural history, and how I’d never want to see their Twitter accounts, because I’d never ever want to see them as their worst selves. We’re so grateful that these people never logged in.
1) Teddy Roosevelt
If Teddy Roosevelt had Twitter, we would’ve all seen Teddy Roosevelt’s penis. That’s a 100 percent certainty. No questions asked. It would also be further proof that we once had a legit crazy person in executive office, which, in the looming shadow of Donald Trump, is actually reassuring.
2) Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison’s reputation as anything more than just some random boozy party-bro who lucked into a couple hits is just barely intact thanks to a few disgruntled boomers who won’t give up the ghost. If Morrison had had Twitter, though, the full vapidity of his persona would have been greatly amplified, and The Doors could finally be thrown back into the dumb hole they crawled out of. (So actually, I do wish Jim Morrison had had Twitter.)
3) John Keats
Can you imagine trying to break up with John Keats? It would literally never end. You’d be moving on with your life as your phone kept rumbling off the table with five-page soliloquies. I’m so glad I don’t have to live in the era of “Ode to a Bad Double-Text” or whatever. John Keats was perfect for the early 19th century, because it meant that only a small portion of his hilariously overwrought desperation made it into the canon.
4) Jesus of Nazareth
Like, I know it’s wrong to say, but is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that Jesus’ Twitter account would be utterly obnoxious? I don’t think Jesus would be into memes.
5) Alexander The Great
The secret about Alexander the Great is that he specifically ordered ancient historians to keep his image as unsullied as possible. Our man was famously bequeathed that iconic “he never lost a battle!” reputation (which, at this point, who knows) and the greatest final words of all time—“to the strongest,” when asked who should be the heir to his empire. There is no figure in history more poetic or tragic or fundamentally moving as Alexander the Great, which is why I would absolutely never want to see his candid thoughts. Because Alexander the Great was a mortal man, and mortal men are capable of saying some truly stupid things. His reign occurred around 330 BCE, which means there isn’t enough surviving evidence to bring him down. As far as we know, Alex never had a “BILL COSBY INNOCENT!!!!!!!” moment, and I hope it stays that way.
I just… I don’t know. I worry how the patience emphasized in the ancient Taoist tradition would translate to the 21st century—
“The Tao that cannot be expressed is the eternal Tao; the name that can be defined is not the eternal name.”
“Who did this fam”
It’s probably good that the world is ending soon.
7) H.P. Lovecraft
Literally every other tweet would be some sort of horrible racial slur, and all of a sudden nobody would be able to enjoy any of that wonderful existential terror or cosmic futility. We sure are lucky that we get to bury the most unsavory biographic details of our heroes on the seventh or eighth subsection on their Wikipedia page! Gotta love those problematic faves.
Photo via WaitingForTheWord/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed