Part of the horror of looking through your old tweets is discovering how much of an asshole you were when no one knew you existed.
Online behavior tends to change once you’ve actually been in the spotlight yourself. Here’s a flowchart I made to help clarify this:
As you can see, after achieving a PUBLICITY EVENT — think along the lines of a blog post, a product launch, public speaking, things like that — you scientifically have a 79% chance of becoming A Better Human, and unfortunately you have a 23% chance, scientifically, of becoming an even bigger dicknose than you were before. (This is actually a scientific, double-blind study. It’s double-blind because neither I nor you have access to the data.)
It’s cool if you haven’t gotten to a PUBLICITY EVENT yet, and it’s cool if you never do. After all, there’s a non-negative chance that you might end up being a jerk. But for those that haven’t, here’s how something like this goes:
You: Hey! I have something important I’d like to share with the world!
The World: Fuck you!
Of The World, the silent majority will likely appreciate what you’ve shared, the minority will be complimentary, and the fringe extreme will tell you in very specific detail why you shouldn’t have been born and also your mother is of suspicious descent as well.
Your major mistake, of course, is that you continue to stubbornly refuse to stop being a human being and thus genetically will focus exclusively on the feedback from the latter group of people. And your feeble human emotions will be all like “WAHHHHH I’M GOING TO TYPE ANGRY TWEETS ALL NIGHT! I CAN FIX THIS!” in-between watching episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, because Captain Jean-Luc Picard is the only one who really gets you right now.
I think that’s the point where things change for some people. Everyone grows a bit of a hardened shell, but for some people it makes them jerks. For others, it makes them more accommodating. I look back at my old tweets and marvel at how abrasive they sometimes were towards apps I used every day, company decisions I didn’t understand at the time, and so on. In that case, maybe it’s just a byproduct of growing up: the more experiences you go through, the more understanding you are of flaws.
This isn’t a matter of right or wrong, in my mind. People can legitimately fuck up, or be wrong, or do something wrong. That’s always going to happen throughout the timeline of human civilization. But it’s how you carry yourself when you disagree that’s interesting to me. A lot of people, once they’ve done it themselves, understand that putting themselves out there is a scary thing. They’re able to disagree, but in a way that isn’t carpet bombing “fuck you” over tweets.
All of this is why I think it’s great for more people to write blog posts, to contribute to open source, to learn about public speaking, and so on. (If only we could filter by that metric!) The amount of respect I have for someone who just did their first five-minute lightning talk, even if it wasn’t perfect, is unbounded. It’s a hard first step to make. And even though I was being facetious about the percentage breakdown earlier, I do think that giving more people the spotlight generates a more understanding atmosphere for everyone.
So, create. Help others create. And be less of a meanie online, when you can.
If you didn’t like this internet article, please address your concerns to @holman on Twitter, and please include a link to your favorite TNG episode — thanks in advance!