I’m sure you’re all familiar with the old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And I’m equally sure that there’s at least one person on this planet who follows that advice.
But it sure as hell isn’t me.
In any given situation, I tend to have a lot of things to say. And many of them range from “not so nice” to “holy shit, was that an unused line from the original R-rated script of Mean Girls?”
And wherever it was on the scale, I usually say it anyway.
But I do have my own personal rule about talking shit. It’s not a time-honored platitude and it isn’t necessarily the sort of life lesson I’d suggest you instill in your children, but it’s simple.
a) say the meanest version of the thought I’ve had, OR
b) reveal who I’m talking about.
It’s a solid rule, I’m telling you. The only problem is that saying “I’m not a big fan of Jessica’s new haircut,” when what you mean is, “Jessica looks like someone attacked her head with a weed-whacker,” is far from the most satisfying form of self-expression. So I tend to go for the option of not bothering to filter the thought, but being kind enough not to name names.
And you know what social media platform is absolutely perfect for saying something horrible about an anonymous person in your life?
That’s right. Twitter. You get to share your hilarious and snarky remark with the world at large, but you’re stopping just short of actually publicly humiliating someone. It’s the ideal compromise.
We need mean tweets.
Mean tweets are a pressure valve. Without that outlet, what are we supposed to do? Collapse in on ourselves like dying stars as we bite our tongue against a comment that’s going to start eating away at us? Explode outward and level the most horrible insult imaginable right into someone’s face?
It’s a complex balancing act, and mean tweets are the ballast holding it all together.
Of course, you can always take the high road. You know. “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Allow me to present a different take on that piece of advice.
Let’s say I were to fire off a mean tweet about my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend. And yes, of course that example is just pulled out of thin air and not at all a reference to a tweetstorm I recently unleashed and then deleted after getting some backlash and am now writing an entire blog post in defense of, because that would be silly.
So let’s say I were to tweet that my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend looks like some kind of animal. A fat mouse, perhaps.
If that’s the only identifier I give, there are at least seven women I could be talking about. And even so, that’s only giving it away to friends who know the situation. To the rest of the world, I could be talking about any one of….well, to be statistically reasonable, maybe thirty women?
And isn’t only going so far as to confirm that “I’m talking shit about one of these thirty hypothetical women” baaaaaasically not saying anything at all?
Maybe yes, maybe no. It’s a question for philosophers, really.
But as a final word on the subject, I will say this in defense of mean tweets: it might not be the high road, but it’s not quite the low road.