They E-Fuckin the Tweets Man For Retweets

Last December, as Insecure wrapped its final season, I logged into Twitter to see a flood of praise for both the show and its star Issa Rae for her “game changing” work on it. Interview clips circulated in awestruck tweets about her refusal to seek out richer, more notable celebrities, choosing instead to “come up with her friends who were just as hungry as her.” Naturally, I was confused. Not by praise of the show, but by the narrative forming that this was “game changing”, or that Issa Rae had ever been “hungry.” A wealthy graduate of a top-three university (boasting a 5% acceptance rate) going on to access opportunities to amass more wealth is literally the game.

I pointed out how wealth affords the opportunities, resources, and access for what is commonly considered success as a challenge to claims that we “all” have the same opportunities making it simply hard work that defines “success.” I didn’t invalidate any talent she may have or work she may have put in — because one doesn’t have to overcome imaginary barriers and adversities or “change the game” to be talented. Nonetheless, my attempt to inject class analysis into the conversation was met with swift and scalding backlash. My edges are still growing back.

This outrage overwhelmingly came from middle class people who self-identified with fictional characters in the show as their entire Black identity, and it would be easy to write the whole thing off as the deranged behavior of “stans.” But the existence of this level of celebrity fanaticism and it becoming so common highlights a deeper issue: the extreme levels of alienation we are experiencing due to hyper-exploitation under capitalism. Years of working multiple low-wage jobs to keep up with rents and costs of living far outpacing minimum wage, no job mobility, jobs collapsing into the gig economy, and the resulting complete annihilation of friendship, dating and communal relationships has led to a state of mass social disconnect. People feel alone and isolated. Thus, they flock to online strangers who form a synthetic “community” that gives them something to hold onto, no matter how fake, fleeting, or dysfunctional. And these social media platforms — owned and run by the very billionaires who profit from and propel our hyper-exploitation and alienation — are primed to take advantage of this among teens and young adults who are the core demographic of these platforms. The result is that antisociality is increasingly becoming a social norm.

In recent years, however, “stan” culture has grown beyond celebrities, with people proudly adopting both the label and the fanatical behavior in relation to influencers, politicians, academics, pretty much any stranger whose tweets, posts, videos, or “brand” they self-identify with in place of having friends. An interesting thing about this shift is that some of the most fanatical behavior comes from verified accounts, politicians, influencers, and people with “grad student” or “PhD candidate” in their bios. This reveals a class interest behind it. At some point, people hoping to benefit from propping up celebrities, academics, media pundits, brands, millionaires, and billionaires started dressing up their middle class career aspirations as “fandom.” It’s now more acceptable to present as an overly-invested fan coping with alienation through parasocial relationships with elites than to admit being a self-invested careerist doing PR for the person you work for, share a social circle with, or hope to someday. Those with power (and those who help them maintain it in exchange for proximity) figured out they can sell alienated, oppressed people “connection”, “community”, “care”, and being “just like you.” That weaponization and exploitation of false community run rampant on social media, made worse by a global pandemic.

We live in terrifying times. COVID (and a government response that can only be described as genocide) is facilitating the complete destruction of economies and infrastructure globally. In the US, wages are stagnant, our healthcare and education infrastructures (which already ran on inequity, exploitation, and anti-Blackness) are crumbling, and housing injustice (including mass evictions, homelessness, gentrification and a lack of affordable housing anywhere in the country) combined with impending climate catastrophe have people petrified. That terror, however, is being siphoned into ensuring that people who are not poor don’t end up like those of us who are rather than ending poverty. Middle class people look at poverty and say, “no one should have to live like that”, then fight for middle class policies, reforms, and jobs to save themselves. The economic anxiety is very real and valid; the non-solution solutions that lead to increased exploitation are not.

The big lie is that these people are unaware of the harm in what they are doing, that they “mean well”, or that they care or are invested in “community” and shared security. The truth is that they don’t care if you win as long as they don’t lose — as long as they can avoid poverty without having to sacrifice their comfort to end it. Celebrity worship and elevation of bougie idealism is desperate striving from people anxious to maintain their way of life — or acquire the life they believe they’re owed — at the expense of everyone and everything else.

The Divine Nine are now penniless like the rest of us, and we’re all worse for it because rather than align themselves with poor folks in a global struggle for freedom, they whine and beg for a seat at capitalism’s table. They sell exploitation repackaged as “Black excellence.” They attack and demean anyone who pulls back the curtain on the myriad of get rich quick schemes currently pushing us deeper into hyper-exploitation while they clamor for life rafts. To maintain their position as capitalism’s middlemen, they dickride capitalists in hopes their “notice me senpai” cries will result in a “like”, a “retweet”, the slightest of attention that could possibly, maybe, one day, eventually, potentially (if they kiss enough ass and exploit enough poor people) lead to a job. It’s as violent as it is embarrassing.

Stop it.

Stand up.

The world is on fire, and this will not save us.

“Middle class life is a bubble of insulation forged by the hope of high salaries and the fear of guns. The insulation where the rest of the world and its class conflict — its struggle, its naked violence — is just a meme, a dissertation, a speech, a discourse.” — my good friend Emmanuel (@anansi0000)

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I advocate for Black children first, last always. I write about race, gender, sexuality, spirituality, healing from trauma, Black media, art, and culture.

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Nina Monei

Nina Monei

I advocate for Black children first, last always. I write about race, gender, sexuality, spirituality, healing from trauma, Black media, art, and culture.

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