Welcome to Miss Type, a column about etiquette in the digital age. This week: Is it healthy to be this obsessed with hate-checking a stranger’s alt account?
Unconventional wisdom: I don’t think social media is toxic because it breeds jealousy in me, but because it encourages a sense of smugness that already needs no prodding to spill forth from my guts. I can be a smarmy, self-satisfied type, and every day is a fight to keep that to myself. I’ve found through trial and error that sequestering the evidence strictly in my private Notes app diary is a better strategy for navigating modern living than attempting to tweet about it in a wry or self-deprecating way.
But the risks and joys of Twitter aren’t solely what you might say, there is also what you may read. For example, there’s one account I can’t quit checking, and I use it to self-soothe by indulging my worst impulses. It’s the alt account of a person I don’t follow (I manually search for it, every day) and who doesn’t know I exist. They’re sort of my tether, but I have no interest in rectifying our broken halves into a whole. They’re addicted to posting, and their tweets range from scream-y takes about major league baseball to “she’s a dumb cunt” quote tweet callouts this person is too cowardly to do on main to staged thirst traps employing their toddler as a prop.
But most important, my alt-account poster is pissed to hell about every single thing, and this makes me laugh. But it also makes me wonder: Why can’t I access such fury within myself and fire it off from a Twitter nom de plume littered with selfies? Have I suppressed it, like I do with my smugness? It’s all so confusing and possibly unethical to derive so much pleasure from some stranger’s rage and boob close-ups.
Would a therapist or a primary care physician suggest that I continue to check this account every night after I do the crossword and go to bed? Of course not. And really, the joke’s on me, because I’m the one manually searching an account I hate but don’t follow after every day to get their take on a Twitter fight, a Supreme Court decision, or the movie Elvis. They’ve become my own personal influencer.
But where has the advice of therapists or doctors gotten me anyway, besides exactly where I am right now? I’m Miss Type today – nay, Doctor Type – and I’m here to say that if you find yourself in a situation like this, it’s fine, as long as you’re careful. A little bit of poison indulged in small doses isn’t always harmful, and in fact helps immensely in keeping you upright and able, like a pony beer on the day of a hangover or a polio vaccine.
You’re checking that account because there’s something kindred between the two of you, and don’t ever forget it. Maybe you wish you were brazen enough to call an acquaintance a “fucking idiot” in writing or free enough to post tit pics to the net. Maybe there’s something you can learn from the account. But never let them know that – never interact.