Twitter produces some odd phenomena. Behind a cloak of pseudo-anonymity, people wax poetic on the glories of pizza, share pictures of their shoes, set dinner dates, and blast their followers with opinions on everything from #DWTS to the #TrayvonMartinShooting. Mothers tweet to try to keep up with their kids, politicians tweet to try to pass legislation, and Ashton Kutcher tweets to prove he really is just an idiot.
Perhaps the craziest Twitter phenomenon is how completely it sucks users in to its 140-character orbit. Who needs cable news when I can get Luke Russert to tell me who's winning an NHL game and which Lockerbie bomber just died? Why bother to make friends when I can get daily encouragement from an avatar? What's the point of leaving the house if I can look at pictures of celebrities traveling the globe from the comfort of my unmade bed? We're quickly becoming a culture of human-bots who trade handicrafts for carpel tunnel and personal interaction for digitized stimulation. We want the immediate gratification of a real-time play-by-play of everything, but through the safe and distanced medium of our smart phone. We want it now, but we want it impersonal.
With an iPhone as the ultimate shield, many members of Twitterdom trend towards a bravado and extremism they would never dare to assume in, of all things, a face-to-face interaction. In good times, that can result in laugh-out-loud humor that gets you through otherwise boring daily chores, like waiting in line for a new license at the DMV or getting ready to go to confession.
In bad times, it puts the "bull" in cyber-bullying and both periods in b.s.
My personal solar system in the Twitter universe saw a solar flare of the latter variety beginning on Sunday night. I never thought social media could make me flabbergasted, but this Twitter spectacle did. I'd go as far as to say that I was agog. That's right -- I said it. AGOG.
I follow a handful of very funny women who happen to be united in their undisguised contempt for Chris Brown. He's the now-23-year-old R&B singer who infamously beat up his then-girlfriend Rihanna in February 2009. A few months later, he accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to community service, five years of probation, and domestic violence counseling. A few months after that, he did a Larry King interview where he claimed not to remember the incident, said he was "shocked" it happened, and blamed the media for driving a wedge between him and his former girlfriend. Then in March 2011, Robin Roberts of Good Morning America tested his memory loss and asked about the incident and the resulting restraining order that requires Brown to stay 50 yards away from Rihanna. (Sidenote: I wonder who brought the tape measure when they collaborated on the remix of Rihanna's ditty "Birthday Cake," which features Brown rapping about wanting to “f***” her and “give it to her in the worst way.” I guess it's those kinds of sweet nothings that teach a girl how to forgive and forget.) Anyway, CB didn't much appreciate Ms. Roberts' journalistic bent, so he threw some chairs, ripped off his shirt, and I think strangled a passing robin.
While Brown's career faltered a bit because of these...ummm...missteps?, he bounced back like a fist recoiling from a jaw bone and released a new album, performed at the Grammy's, and even won a Grammy. At which point he proclaimed, like a true gentleman, that all the "haters" could "HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate [BLEEP] OFF!” (Of course, he made that proclamation via Twitter.)
Needless to say, Senor Brown has given people plenty to hate. He beats up those he claims to love, and then tarnishes his apologies with behavior that ranges from immature to dangerous and demeaning. He pretends to take responsibility and then acts completely irresponsibly. He gets held largely unaccountable for his actions and then rubs his untouchability in the face of everyone who cares to pay attention.
Despite these detractions, Brown has managed to amass a legion of die-hard fans who will brook no dissent. They're so loyal in their devotion and so strident in their opinions that if the fans -- known as "Team Breezy" -- had been told to look elsewhere for someone to follow, their most suitable options would probably have been Osama pre-Navy Seals or Sarah Palin. If brown is not your favorite color, get ready for your Team Breezy flour bomb. If you don't name your first child Chris, regardless of gender, your poisoned pacifiers are in the mail, care of Team Breezy. Should you ever cower when Brown himself goes to pull out a chair, you'll be slimed like a presenter at Nickelodeon's Kid's Choice Awards.
And God forbid you ever criticize the "musical talents" of the guy who croons "Big Booty Judy" and "Ain't Thinkin' 'Bout You." That's what Chrissy Teigen (@chrissyteigen) and Kelly Oxford (@kellyoxford) did on Sunday night after Chris Brown performed at the Billboard Music Awards. Like everyone else in the live and at-home audience, these two women remarked on the fact that Brown was clearly lip singing. Teigen benignly tweeted "why sing when you can dance." Oxford took it a step further and wrote "Hey Chris Brown, those BMX bikes didn't distract me enough not to notice you get paid to sing and can't do it."
Thus was unleashed a rain of fire and brimstone the likes of which only Sodom and Gomorrah can relate to.
Team Breezy plowed a war path up and down these women's Twitter feeds, lobbing insults normally reserved for the bathroom stall doors of a particularly skeevy Greyhound bus station. Four letter words that I can't type here and that make me blush and grimace at the same time. Actually leveling death threats for daring to state what appears to be an agreed-upon fact. Vitriol so violent that the International Business Times devoted an article to it.
Each of these attack tweets (I like to cal them "twacks") was misspelled and associated with Twitter handles like "Luvah" or "ElementarySchoolWasEnough" or "SexTouristDestination." So if there's anything redeeming about this particular phenomenon, it's that Chris Brown is only being further defined by the company he keeps. And it's not the type of company that's greeted cheerfully anywhere other than prison.
Sadly, though, that same company is decidedly female. Scores and scores of young girls jumping to the defense of a man whose platform is anti-girl. Demanding of Teigen what Brown ever did to her, when the very same question should be asked of them -- what has he ever done to or for you to inspire this blind loyalty and terrifying bully mentality? Are you really so lacking in friendships and community that you find identity and comfort in waging a publicity war with throngs of people you don't know on behalf of a man who'd smack you for back-talk?
Girls, girls, girls. Put down your phone. Step away from your computer. Wash your mouth out with soap. Do your homework. Find someone to hug. Because you're spending way too much time chasing down the wrong enemy. Just because you're doing it over an Internet connection doesn't make it any less tawdry or unforgivable.