Of social media and society: A lone tweet demonstrates the power of writing and fallibility of a writer.

March 17, 2010


You deserve your nominations and my apology.

“Mo’nique rolls over twittery actresses” This was one of the many tweets I made during the Academy Awards telecast last week. Obviously, it pertains to the winner of best supporting actress, Mo’nique for her brazen portrayal of an abusive mother in the controversial drama, Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. Tweeting during TV events like the Super Bowl and Oscars has become quite a phenomenon. Nice to see old and new media benefiting from each other. Fun to be a part of it.

Integration of TV and Twitter would make a great topic for a post but it’s not the subject of this one. For that we must go back to the actual content of my above tweet. Read it again: Mo’nique rolls over twittery actresses. The line has been haunting me ever since I wrote it. The reasons why are complicated and difficult to write about, which is precisely why I must. As a copywriter and, moreover, a human being, I need to know the truth behind those five words.

First off, I chose the words carefully… very carefully. You need to know what I would have tweeted had I not edited myself. It would have gone something like this: “Baddass Black woman flattens flighty white chicks!” Awful right? But that’s what I was thinking. Equally offensive to blacks, whites and women in general, I feel embarrassed for having conjured the thought.

True, I did not actually write anything offensive. (Thank God.) Or did I? In retrospect it’s clear I coded my words, giving them the potency I wanted, without resorting to politically incorrect language.

Look at the verb. I used the word “rolls” instead of “flattens.” ‘Rolling over’ the competition is an accepted cliché’. Yet, I must admit I also liked the veiled allusions to “fat.” A steamroller is heavy. Fat people have rolls. I was aware of this when I chose the word “rolls.”

Now, about the adjective: twittery. What did I mean by that? This one is harder to explain. Besides not being black, the other actresses (those I saw anyway) played career women, in particular the nominated pair from Up In the Air. By calling them “twittery” (as in fidgety or nervous) I now feel I held that against them. I implied they were made anxious by their lifestyle choices, and the fact that they were single, with no men to define them. The word “twittery” also suggests (to me anyway) someone prone to outbursts, short and constant. In this context, my word choice, and comment as a whole, can be viewed as borderline misogynistic. Using it as an adjective to the noun “actresses” intensifies that point. Twittery actresses.

Finally, just writing the winners name, Mo’nique, in all its righteousness, communicated plenty.

Why am I going into this? It flatters no one, least of all me. As a creative person I always question my thinking. When I struggle with something I write about it. A writer writes. Even crazy ones. Especially crazy ones.

From a copywriter’s point of view, things get more interesting. We are paid to choose words carefully. After all, we typically write so few of them. Each word, by definition, is often fraught with meaning, double meaning, and even trickery. What seems like a sentence or two about this or that product has often been worked over for weeks. They must be, in order to grab someone. If the product being sold is controversial, the copywriter uses precise language to circumvent danger or vagaries to disguise it. Even casual banter is anything but. My seemingly benign tweet is a perfect example of this, which is why I’ve dissected it here.

Final thought: Social media forces us to let go our editing instinct. Writing is about the here and now. Wait to long in order to ponder a subject and the group moves on. While the dissemination of information speeds up, sensitivity and thoughtfulness ebb. Censorship decreases but at what price? As we write faster (be it tweets, texts or even body copy) we must learn to think faster. Or face the consequences.

Steff on Twitter

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5 Responses to “Of social media and society: A lone tweet demonstrates the power of writing and fallibility of a writer.”

  1. Kari said

    Steffan!!! I think you’re brilliant, I do, but keep it relevant. I refrained from tweeting this at you–that’s self-censorship right there.
    Seriously, like my career counselor praised me for, after this my first week Twitterdicted, I “keep it fat free”.
    Always edit! You’re a writer—how many drafts do you think Anna Karinina took? The Origin of the Species took 20 years to write and a lifetime to research. Give your tweets five minutes and I’ll keep taking five to read them. :)

    • SRP said

      Thank you, Kari.
      You’re right: “Always edit!”
      And I do. My original tweet was most definitely edited. But something about it still bugged me. Why I wrote about it here.
      PS: I’m glad you think I’m brilliant. Please tell that to my wife and children!

  2. Jason Fox said

    The worst thing about your tweet was that it felt like it came from a puntacular entertainment rag. Now go enjoy your spring break. Lucky.

  3. SRP said

    Jason-
    Done & Done.

  4. Andy Webb said

    This PC society of ours has everyone on edge. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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