Introspection about humour
The Shitpost Slowdown
I was showing someone my old math notes to someone and they said to me, "how did you write so small?" I responded, "a small pen."
I guess you could say this is a fair sense of my sense of humour. In essence, this joke is exactly my shitpost style.
I came across some old tweets that I wrote earlier this year. As my good friend says, they were big yikes. I was learning my shitpost style and hating on things just to hate on them. Looking back, many of those shitposts were just shitty. It might have gotten a laugh from a few internet buds, but at what cost?
Many fans of comedy will say that "politically correct" culture is killing humour. I think that it's a way to learn to be more clever. If your fun is rooted in mocking someone else, directly or indirectly, someone otherwise less powerful than you, you're just a bully. You've not evolved past a third grade schoolyard.
When I go to write something now intended for laughs, I consider more thoughtfully and carefully what I want out of it. I ask myself:
- What or who is the target of this joke?
- Will there be inadvertant victims of this joke?
- Is the target of the joke systemically oppressed?
- If human, do I possess systemic or relative power or privilege over this individual or group?
- Am I mocking them, or their oppression?
- If a tool or product, how might I hurt the people who worked hard to create it and use it?
- Am I passive aggressively masking feedback in a less meaningful, less direct, and harmful way? Do I know or could I get a hold of someone to whom I could give this feedback directly to?
- Does my joke deincentivise progress that would otherwise nullify my joke?
- If this goes viral, will I be willing and able to defend it?
For example, I used to make fun of React and React developers. When making fun of how React is all white dudes, who I intended to target was the bigoted and racist white dudes who think that women don't know how to code. In the crossfires, I managed to erase anyone who was not that—maybe the only Black woman React developer on her all-white/all-male team; maybe the gender-non-conforming first-generation child of immigrants React developer whose the first to earn a six-figure salary.
I was literally hurting the very people that I'm fighting to protect in centring a bunch of dull-de-sacs who don't really care about my joke because they don't follow brown queer women anyway.
Making fun of the framework itself is another thing, sure, but will that incite meaningful change? Like, if the joke is that React ships a forktonne of unnecessary JS or that it's inaccessible by default, will some snarky comment get the React Core team to fix it? What do I really want out of this? And how could I accomplish it using less energy for myself in a more direct way?
Furthermore, will my snarky comment about React's inextricability to Facebook somehow extricate them? No.
And in anticipatory response, to be perfectly clear, I am not defending React, Facebook, dull-de-sac racists, or taking back any of the things I did earlier this year. Everything I did was defencible and I regret none of it. And at the same time, what I am doing is welcoming some introspection about the ancillary ways I once tried to get my message across.
Part of this introspection is growing up, I guess. It's also because in looking back at all that happened to me, other people's shitty shitposts—people on "all sides"—caused me immense and irreversible harm to me and others earlier this year. I see that the people who wrote many of those shitposts carry on writing more harmful shitposts. I can't change them, nor do I desire to, but I sure as hell don't want to do that.
As I continue to gain terrifying visibility, and because of the identity I possess in this world, I choose to be intentional about what I broadcast. I will always live as authentically to myself as possible. I will never sacrifice who I am for others. However, I can maintain individuality while recognising that as I gain more followers, influence, and power, what I do might cross many people's paths. Within that group could be people who admire my work or my message, or people whom I might already or will care about tremendously. That's what I learned from #Reactgate.
It might sound like a heavy burden to examine my actions so carefully but honestly? Society already forces me to do that by design anyway. Now, I'm just learning to make sure that I monitor my actions to protect myself rather than systems of oppression.
What it looks like now: I save a lot more drafts in my Twitter. I post less. I share some of the things I wanna say to close friends. I slow myself down. I take more time to consider the impact of my actions. I think about how wildly the fire can rage before I light the match.
As I get older and more tired and as my meatsack deteriorates, I work to conserve energy. I think about the energy it takes for me to light the match at all. If I truly hate something, whether it be a tool or a person who is a tool, I ask if it's worth my energy to call attention to this. I ask myself it is worth sinking myself into a pit of hate for a moment—as someone who experiences depression, this is not something I am wont to do. I ask myself: Instead of using this match to burn someone undeserving down, could I instead use it to light the way for someone who deserves it?