When a big news story breaks, I often feel like I have to come up with something to say. But do I really?
Colin Kaepernick unintentionally lit a match in the room-full-of-Kerosene we call Twitter and we had no choice but to explode.
The 49ers quarterback, in the interview with NFL.com’s Steve Wyche, declared that he would no longer stand for the national anthem before football games. Citing what he called the “treatment of Black people and people of color” by the United States, he decided that he could no longer in good conscious salute a song that calls for the “liberty and justice for all.”
The decision to speak out and the reactions are still felt at this very moment. Since then, many players and coaches, from the NFL to college football, have weighed in on the topics in formal interviews and on social media. In short, somebody is pissed at their quarterback or coach right now because the general consensus amongst pro athletes and coaches is that while many respect what Kaep is doing, they feel like he’s also disrespecting the flag in the process.
Twitter, for the most part, disagrees. At leasts my timeline does, the accurate sample size that is.
The strange part if that I found myself turned off by opinions shadowed as absolute. Especially since common sense says that they aren’t that. But I find that to be where I sit when Twitter feels like I need to know how its feels. And I’m bothered that I’m bothered by that.
My reactions to reactions goes either two ways: One, I’m confused as to why people even feel some sort of way in the first place or two, I’m confused as to why so many people feel one sort of way in the first place. In short, I’m ultimately feeling some type of way that people feel some type of way and that, in a way, is admittedly absurd.
Twitter thrives off of the constant stream of information, particularly parsed in a way that allows for the reactions of its readers to be shared. Retweets and likes are now currency, for some it even creates careers. So there is a value in what is said and ultimately it matters. We’ve seen movements built through Twitter, we’ve seen love manifested through Twitter. The social media platform is not a trivial thing. But have we overinflated its purpose to where we feel like we have to always be its nuts and bolts even when the pieces don’t fit?
Sometimes, I feel like I have to say something. Sometimes, I feel like, if I don’t, that says that I don’t care. I know that both of those things are not true. I used to say a lot about a plethora of things but I didn’t care enough to do anything about what I was rambling over. That’s why I chose to let Social Justice Twitter Ciara die an untimely death.
Here’s why. When quarterback Jameis Winston was in the news for allegedly raping a fellow student at Florida State University, my timeline was on fire. I let off so many sets of “f**k rape culture” tweets, that I really turned my timeline into Jezebel- or For Harriet-light. I felt like I had to say something because what I was seeing on my timeline — a timeline that I set up, by the way — was showing me that people were not on the same page as me (at least in my mind). So in short, I let my opinionated chopper ring and I was never out of bullets.
But then a really good friend of mine, a friend who happened to be very much active in the social justice community I thought I was a part of, texted me and said “what are you going to about it?” I froze. Trying to find the most intricate yet important thing to say, I laid out of all of these things that others could do about it. That was cute to him but then he came back again with “what can YOU do about it?” At that point, I felt like I couldn’t do anything because I wasn’t built to. It opened up a wound, which never really scabbed, and I had to really figure out why I was so comfortable firing off a tweet but not actually employing any action verbs in real life.
If anything, it taught me to not yell at a wall. I could go off about things all day but if it’s only echoing back to me, am I truly doing anything? There’s a difference between screaming at a wall and screaming over one. You can tell the ones that know how to project their voice.
But it also made me realize that if I didn’t want to say anything about what’s going on, that’s fine. Especially in the case of social media. I’m not due to say my piece but if I do, that’s fine. Some people actually care what I have to say, which is cool. But I don’t wake up in the morning and go “Oh! I gotta make sure I talk about that before I go start my day!” I know most people are in the same boat but oftentimes it feels like you need to have something to say, even if you’re not asked.
Which is what makes Twitter so fascinating and frustrating. None of us are asked to give an opinion, we just give one. If not for any reason that we feel like our voices should be heard. We respond to things that bother us because someone needs to know that you disagree. The question is “do they really?” Does the person on the other end of the tweet really give a damn about what you say? Would you give a damn if they say something back? Would you rather argue with them because that’s what you’re supposed to do? Or do you debate with him because you feel some Robin Hood-esque responsibility to make them look as foolish as possible?
Or is it just Twitter and you can do whatever the hell you want to do?
It’s probably that.