Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
There's this panel from the comic strip One Big Happy that I read around 1990 and immediately decided to adopt as my entire personality. The comic is about a multi-generational family--two parents, two grandparents, and two kids--but the star is the 6-year-old daughter, Ruthie, who is cantankerous and delightful and, for the last 30 years, has been my life coach. I don't remember the context of the strip but it ends with a panel with Ruthie by herself after making her usual mess of things; she declares with righteous exasperation "I'm just sitting here trying to have a pleasant life!" I read that at 10 years old and thought "Yes, Ruthie, finally we Chaos Muppets have a voice."
And I tell you this so you know, before I explain what had happened, that as for me and Ruthie, we're just sitting here trying to have a pleasant life.
So, I am trying to use Twitter less and, like everything else in my life, it's become a farce. There's a control on the iPhone that will let you set a time limit for how long you can be on an app and I set it to allow me one hour a day on Twitter, total, because I am a busy person and I don't need more distraction and I begin too many stories in therapy with "I saw this tweet that said..."
Plus as much as Twitter delights me sometimes, it also feeds me a nonstop barrage of outrage and terror and leads to me texting non sequiturs to my family like "We cannot leave the house" and "We must see about emigrating. New Zeland??" (spelled incorrectly because I am rushing). Also a very wise person once told me "people will tweet themselves out of a job and I'm not interested in that." And I think of that all the time as I log on to Twitter, read 30 articles that terrifying me, and watch someone become the Main Character every day and often tweet themselves out of a job with bad take. And for what?!
This week, I had a lot of actual job work to do and so I changed the time limit on my Twitter to 1 (one) minute. I was allowed One Minute of Tweet per day. (Why didn't I just delete the app? Because I believe in Personal Freedom. IT'S MY OPINION.) Of course, when the app would cut me off I'd press the button for "Fifteen more minutes" repeatedly like I was throwing pennies in a slot machine in the Las Vegas airport, but in my mind I was only spending one minute on Twitter per day.
A lot can happen in a minute, apparently. So, on Thursday I read a bunch of tweets about venues requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to allow entry (of which I approve, but seriously who cares what I think?). I surveyed the carnage that is The Discourse about said decision, and tweeted this.
A few things to note:
1) It is missing a word before "operate". I am hopeless without the invaluable services of the nation's copy editors. Anything you've ever read by me that is in any way comprehensible is because some editor literally fought a dragon in Track Changes on my behalf. (Were this copy edited I presume the last sentence would have a note that read "Cut 'literally'?" The fictional copy editor I just made up is right and they should say it.)
2) One of my brothers texted me to let me know that the screenshot had been uploaded to Reddit and made it to the front page, and when I looked I saw that whoever uploaded it had kindly edited the image so that the missing word was back in. Bless this digital copy editor and I'm sorry.
3) This tweet is not an editorial in the New York Times, it is not a five-paragraph essay, I did not tell them what I'm going to tell them, tell em, and then tell them what I told them. I am not trying to get into it; I am just a person trying to make use of his One Precious Minute.
4) This tweet has 180,000 likes and has been retweeted 24,000 times.
Now this may seem like a good thing because ya boy loves attention (and yes, I did screenshot the tweet an hour later and share it on my Instagram because ya boy loves cross-platform attention). But this much attention? Oh honey, no. No thank you. Because when this many people are engaging with a little un-copy edited joke thought that you dashed off before your mean phone sent you back to the content mines, people start trying to debate you. On IG I started getting comments from people talking about how you can't trust the "mysterious ingredients" in the vaccine and when I'd click on their profiles every single one of them had a post about how green smoothies are nature's cure for the virus and how the immune system is a miracle. Honey, the Multi-Level Marketing Scheme Maxxinistas were coming for my neck! Wellness Warriors Woke Up! Bringing me up on charges that I broke the Live, Laugh, Love Law. I am not trying to get into Instagram debates with people who call a mask a muzzle, baby! On Instagram, I am trying to post a poorly composed photo of a butterfly in our garden, like photos of our niece and nephew, and reply 🎉 to every piece of good news and/or photo of food. And that's it!
Because I? Me? I am just sitting here trying to have a pleasant life.
I knew something was up when I woke up on Friday to a long email from someone telling me that vaccines were a hoax and expressing some controversial racial opinions about me! The fact that it was an email and not a reply to my tweet tells me that this person 1) read my tweet, 2) looked at my profile photo and thought "Hmm.. Black.. I have something to say about that!", 3) found my website, 4) went to the Contact Me tab, and 5) copied and pasted my email address into his email platform. I don't know what Madame Moderna is up to in the world but there is apparently not yet a vaccine for wasting your time.
Now, obviously, most of the reaction to this tweet has been fine and good but I do always find it funny how up in arms people sometimes get about tweets. And I am guilty of it sometimes, too, but as I learned in the Ruthie School of Living, it's best not to engage. I don't go on the internet to have a discussion. (Not about politics, science, or health, at least. Let me have a strong cup of coffee and start tweeting about my 65 favorite Glee covers and we'll be gabbing for hours! But even that kind of chitchat isn't always safe. One time I tweeted that I thought there should be a Tony Award for Best Song and some people agreed with me and some people thought that opinion should get me disbarred! They were so upset! They were like "a musical theater score is an integrated whole and you can't pull one song out from it!" And I was like "Okay, yes, I know that. I am very gay. But also you're telling me 'Suddenly Seymour' doesn't slap so hard it sent the world in reverse and saved Lois Lane's life like in Superman: The Movie (1978)? You cannot. You cannot claim that! I just think Jeanine Tesori deserves a Tony specifically and emphatically for "Lot's Wife" and if that's wrong, then turn me into a pillar of salt!")
This is why I need to stay off of Twitter until the block gets less hot! I'm not here to argue about medical facts, folks! Don't debate me on the vaccine; debate Dr. Meredith Grey! I am just here to make proclamations about the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, press the "Fifteen More Minutes" button repeatedly like it's the lever on Hungry Hungry Hippos, stay employed, and have a pleasant life. So if you see me on Twitter, no you didn't!
Congratulations to my close personal friend Tom Daley and to Olympic medalists and/or knitters everywhere!
Here for It is out in paperback September 7th!
Look at this spiffy new cover! The paperback release date for Here for It, or How to Save Your Soul, my memoir-in-essays full of jokes, stories, laughing through tears, opinions about Broadway, and only one mention of the word pandemic is coming up! You can pre-order it from your local bookseller, here on Bookshop, or anywhere books are sold! And if you can't wait, you can still get the hardcover, the ebook, and the audiobook (which I read myself!) at the same link or anywhere books are sold (in US and Canada. I am sorry Sweden! It not there yet! I am trying my best!)
Random Thing on the Internet
I had a conversation with Kate Reed Petty about her phenomenal novel True Story in celebration of its paperback release and if you missed the event you can catch it here on Crowdcast!