This might just be because of the change I’ve made in my online behavior, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.
I’ve talked many many times about my long stint on Twitter. Specifically the brief stint where I was highly active on leftist twitter from early to mid 2020 (where I managed to get around two thousand followers which seems crazy to me now considering I’m just a random guy). Back then tensions were high. People were getting laid off, high profile civil rights protests were happening, and there was nothing much to do but to be online. Personally my internship I had lined up during the summer (since I was just about to graduate college) ended up getting cancelled which led me to a period of depression. It’s also the reason I started spending so much time on Twitter and what led me to drink heavily and gain a bunch of weight. I imagine a lot of people who became extremely online during this period were in similar boats.
Anyways, I made a couple of online friends during this time period. It initially started as “Bernie” or “Rose” twitter. We were all pretty normal social democrats supporting Sanders for the presidency (which before Super Tuesday seemed like a big possibility). And then when it became clear that Biden would be the democratic nominee, a lot of people ended up going to the dark side. They started using hammer and sickle emojis on their display name. Started talking about how they were going to read Marx and Lenin (but they never did). They started making memes about how awesome Castro and Mao were. Bios went from “BernieOrBust” to “Marixst-Leninist-Maoist.”
A lot of talk started happening of “grow your own garden the end of the world is near” and also “arm yourselves comrades the class war is among us.” Somehow everyone became very fond of the second amendment. There were twitter accounts LARPing about joining the Socialist Rifle Association, e-girls were taking provocative pictures of themselves posing with automatic rifles in front of a Soviet flag. It became a whole thing. Some of this online behavior was covered in articles like The Cut's Before We Make Out, Wanna Dismantle Capitalism?
I ended up disconnecting from all this around September/October of 2020. I actually ended up voting for Biden in November which I wasn’t planning on when I was addicted to Twitter. I go a little bit into this detox here.
Fast forward to this year. A wave of mass shootings happen. Something that used to be a normal thing pre-pandemic but which stopped/slowed down thanks to lockdowns and schools remaining closed. With all of this in the news again, I start thinking back to the friends I used to have. And their gun loving, revolutionary wanting, “libs get the bullet too” type of tweets that they were writing back in 2020. I don’t remember most of them let alone their names. But I do remember a few.
I look them up. And there are dozens of tweets about the need for gun control. They’re talking about how nobody actually needs guns, and all of the typical liberal arguments in favor of gun control. A stark contrast to what they were saying before. They still have “socialist” in their display names and bios, though from the retweets I saw of them they were no longer following the “Mao is cool” type of people. For lack of a better term, they calmed down. They don’t long for a revolution to happen. They don’t want blood on the streets.
I think what had happened is that they all forgot what mass shootings were. How destructive they were. And now that society is mostly back to normal, including mass shootings, they remembered what that was like.
Now this is too niche of a corner on twitter to talk about in terms of larger online behavior. But back in 2020, I did predict that when Biden became president a lot of these online socialists would retreat into the liberals that they used to be. And it seems like that has happened, at least to some extent.
I mean, I’m glad for them. They seem more balanced, and it’s good that they eventually found themselves like I did (even if I did it a little quicker than they did). But it is still an interesting progression that a lot of my former online friends took.