Although I have my (many) faults, I don’t consider myself to be a particularly racist, sexist, xenophobic, classist, homophobic, nihilistic, violent, vulgar, misanthropic, and malevolent person. Yet, from approximately 10:21am to 10:33am yesterday morning, I became each of these things at the exact same time as an unexpected traffic jam caused by a bout of extensive deer-induced rubber-necking made me unable to get to McDonalds before they stopped serving breakfast. (Obviously, I could have easily gotten my Egg McMuffins in time if I would have just left home 15 minutes earlier, but, well, taking the blame myself would ruin the entire story)
Now, was I seriously upset? No. But, you don’t have to be seriously upset to be behind the wheel of a car and temporarily think some very politically incorrect thoughts about the jackals and jezebels impeding your progress. Usually these thoughts don’t even escape your lips. Sometimes, they don’t even make any sense — I called a Prius-driving Korean woman an “elitist WASP” (in my head, of course) — but they populate quickly and usually disappear with the same quickness.
The traffic jam situation is just one relatable example of the fact that everything we think isn’t meant to be shared. We can’t control our impulsive, impetuous, and occasionally insane thoughts, the sh*t that would likely get us fired from jobs, dropped by mates, cut off by friends, and thrown out of church if we said them aloud, so our best bet is to just make sure they’re never heard by anyone, ever.
Ironically, Twitter — the social media platform that, depending on who you ask, is either the most important invention of the last five years or the beginning of the end of Western civilization (or both) — depends on these same types of off-the-cuff stream of consciousnesses to survive. It’s an entity that thrives on our Ids, a concept that can be cool and quirky if you’re an accountant with a dual identity and accompanying Twitter pseudonym but damaging if you’re a celebrity and you happen to have some opinions to share that aren’t exactly brand or sponsor approved.
Yes, as Nicki Minaj proved with the release of 2010’s “Pink Friday,” Twitter can be an extremely effective means of connecting with fans and sharing information, as she used the platform to share tour dates and hold contests — a process that definitely helped her album go platinum in a month. But, as proved this week by…Nicki Minaj, Twitter can be a net negative as the backlash from a disturbingly violent tweet about her estranged father and some early album leakage cause her to shut down her account.
Minaj is far from the first celebrity to experience some social media-induced heat. Just last week, Kevin Hart drew ire as a cartoon depicting Black women in a negative manner was posted to his Facebook fan page. Even media personalities — people who you’d assume had extensive training on social media tact and etiquette — aren’t immune, as people like Roland Martin and Toure have committed highly publicized Twitter gaffes. (Btw, “Toure’s cousin” has to rank up there with “the Lochness Monster” and “the people who really killed O.J.’s ex-wife” on the list of “Things people never should have looked for, as they don’t exist.”)
Rihanna, who has built up her legend even further by using Twitter to prove how awesomely bad ass she really is via her wicked wit (she chopped down a White detractor who asked why her hair is so nappy with the simple-yet-pointed “‘cuz I’m Black, b*tch!”), also raised a few eyebrows when she Instagrammed a picture of a bag of rice cakes styled like her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown’s current love interest Karruche Tran, causing herself to look more like a jealous 16-year-old than a multi-platinum Pop star who has been named one of the sexiest women on the planet.
Speaking of the increasingly bizarre Chris Brown — who should probably just have his name legally changed to “The Increasingly Bizarre Chris Brown” at this point — he might be the greatest example ever of why publicists and label heads need to police celeb Twitter accounts. The good-boy-turned-bad-abuser has had more online meltdowns than perhaps any other famous person and has used a platform that could have cleaned up his image to essentially make it much worse. His mother’s infamous “Michael Jackson died so Chris Brown can live” Tweet went down in cyber infamy as well.
Making Minaj different — and, perhaps, laudable — is that, when considering her soon to be released album, she decided to completely shut down her account at a time when most artists would be on Twitter overload. Although the act may have just been one giant pout, at a time when we’re all pressed to consume and divulge as much information as possible, maybe taking a step back from the fray is the savviest marketing move she could make. And, as a person whose existence seems predicated on the trends she’s able to launch, perhaps this is one that will actually stick.
Predictably, this move has already had dozens of distracters — people who’ve called this act short-sighted, impulsive, and foolish. But, perhaps the Black Barbie has been reading up on old Mark Twain quotes and finally realized that “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”