What Happens When Public Complaining Becomes a Career Aspiration

The Op-Ed Economy meanwhile means that whatever the event, we’re treated to what is essentially “commentariat tryouts.” Twitter was already the free-floating comment section ready to wrap itself around whatever the topic is. But once CNN began reading tweets aloud on-air sometime around the first election of President Obama, and op-ed columns spread across every site, the auditions began in earnest. Now Twitter is filled with people hoping their complaints are favorited, commented on, favstarred, and viral. Complaint as aspiration—everyone competing to be the star complainer. And increasingly, to that end, the key players in each scandal are suddenly accountable for something they tweeted in 2009, 2011, their Facebook from high school. Every blog they ever abandoned is combed for something to take them down and prove they are not good enough, pure enough, to keep their status. All of it is conducted in the manner of possible oppo research, as if it were all a campaign for president. It’s no longer enough to expose politicians and celebrities and reality stars—social media is increasingly everyone trying to be a reality star, because reality entertainment has become one of the few remaining ways you can transcend your economic class.

Writer Alexander Chee, on Twitter outrage. Read more from Chee in the Longreads Archive.

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Image via BlurMarTen, Twitter

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