I’m no saint. If anyone looked back at everything I have written or said publicly and amongst close friends during the entire 27 years of my existence, they would find plenty of reprehensible comments I made due to some combination of youth, ignorance and stupidity. Since joining Twitter in 2008, I have found those comments to be commonplace.
I’m not here to point the finger at society for these specific comments. Remarks like the ones I have made are always going to exist, often for the same reasons listed above. More concerning, however, are the effects they have on some of our most iconic content creators, with whom Twitter allows us more access than we have ever had before. It’s one of the best results from the evolution of social media, specifically Twitter.
Yet this access opens these creators up to everyone, not just the fans. Throw in the opportunity for anonymity the internet provides and that leaves room for the worst comments imaginable and rather than take it, those creators are responding in the best — or worst, if you’re on the other side — way to win an argument: by not participating.
Avengers: Age of Ultron writer and director Joss Whedon is the most recent and the best known creator to leave the social media service. Despite being a known feminist — who inadvertently started a wave of hateful comments towards comedian Jonah Ray over an honest, real-life misunderstanding — Whedon was flooded with hateful comments over some unfortunate choices in the portrayal of women in the superhero sequel that we addressed in our discussion of the movie.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Whedon claims that he didn’t leave the site due to those specific comments but the overall general negativity saying, “…the steady stream of just like, ‘You suck, you suck, you suck’ [on Twitter] — I don’t really think I need to visit ‘You Suck Land’ anymore.”
He went on to say that the hate from people is detrimental to his working, as is the praise. Who can really blame Whedon for that reasoning? One of the healthiest things anyone can do is eliminate any external aspect of one’s life that only carries negativity. In said interview, Whedon acknowledges there are plenty of people who offer him praise, and his addiction to that is just as harmful. But you can’t blame others for being kind. However, you can blame them for being unnecessarily hateful.
Taking the opposite direction from Whedon is Phil Fish, the creator of the brilliant, beautiful independent video game Fez. Partially funded with a federal loan from the Canadian government, the game was known for its five-year development period after Fish announced the project in 2007.
Fish eventually came into prominence after being one of the main characters in the 2012 documentary Indie Game: The Movie (currently streaming on Netflix), in which his outspoken nature and social insecurities are revealed as much as his passion for the project. In the film, Fish speaks to the vitriol he constantly receives from commenters.
“I guess that’s the price you pay for being indie and being the one guy people know for making the game is that you open yourself to these kind of personal attacks that I wasn’t…I don’t know…that’s not something I was counting on when i was dreaming of becoming independent…was not the army of assholes online to kind of…not ‘ruin my life’ but make it all that much more hard to enjoy.”
Fish also goes on a angry rant in the film, telling the internet trolls pestering him to finish the game to “fuck off.” Similar to baggage associated with Tom Cruise movies post-couch jumping, public opinion of Fish bled into opinions of the game. Fish even called gamers “the worst fucking people,” after some told him on Twitter that they would pirate Fez only because they didn’t like him. He was pushed beyond the edge when games journalist Marcus Beer ranted on the Invisible Walls podcast, calling Fish a “fucking asshole.”
This led Fish to respond on Twitter, which in turn, resulted in a public argument that ended with Fish canceling the previously announced sequel to his hit game and leaving the games industry all together.
The worst part of this meltdown isn’t the public arguments but the resulting consequences. We will never see Fez II or any other brilliant game from Fish. Thankfully, Whedon isn’t going to stop making movies and television, but we have lost the most direct line of access to him. That’s a shame, considering his success sprang from the cult followings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.
People can say whatever they want, so go ahead and tweet in whatever way you see fit. Just keep in mind that Twitter trolling can have real world repercussions.