Way back in 2008, I was at a concert at Philadelphia's grand old Trocadero, a beautiful former vaudeville theater that, over the years, served as a movie theater, strip club and concert venue. After the show, I ran into my friend Kasten, who I had not seen in a while. We started talking and she asked me if I was on Twitter. At first I thought it was some illicit drug with which I was unfamiliar. I answered, "I don't think so. What exactly is it?" She briefly explained the basic concept and encouraged me to join in. (Remember, this was twelve years ago. I was 47 years old and this "social media" thing was still kind of new to me.) So, I went home and signed up for Twitter. Kasten, my dear friend.... this is your doing!
By nature, I am a smart-ass. And my "smart-ass-ness" seems to find its way into all aspects of my life — my drawings, my writing, my conversation. Sometimes, I will admit, my being a smart-ass has gotten me into trouble. It appears that not everyone understands, identifies nor appreciates sarcasm. Of course, my sarcastic nature spilled over into my Twitter presence. Under the protective guise of "Josh Pincus," I got myself into heated exchanges with the likes of strangers, fans of my illustrations, co-workers, former co-workers, national companies, local religious fanatics, city transportation authorities and even Dick Van Dyke's wife. Sometimes, I just don't know when to shut up.
Recently, I have discovered the vast time-suck that is Facebook. I realize I am very late to the party, but Facebook has offered a new outlet for me. It's kind of like an added benefit of starting a new job — your new co-workers have never heard your jokes. Well, since I joined Facebook, Twitter has kind of taken a back seat... even behind Instagram. Even with over 72 thousand tweets, I have seriously cut back on my daily Twitter use. I will still post links to my illustrations and my daily celebrity death anniversaries. But,, that pretty much sums up my recent Twitter activity. Instagram, which is definitely a more visual platform, allows automatic linking to Twitter. So, I can post to Instagram and Twitter simultaneously, with a single click. I try to stay away from political content, so that has cut down considerably on my Twitter usage. Sure, I still tweet here and there, but not nearly as much as I once did.
Yesterday, however, I was one of those times I should have stayed away from political tweeting, but sometimes, a knee-jerk reaction gets the best of me. While scrolling through my Twitter feed, perusing the nearly 400 accounts that I follow, I stumbled upon a video clip from a West Coast news broadcast that had been retweeted by someone I follow. The clip was brief — under two minutes — but it infuriated me. A group of protesters had assembled in a small community in (I think) Oregon. They were screaming about their God-given and/or Constitutional rights to not wear face masks. Now, I don't want to get into the controversy surrounding the wearing of a mask in this cautious time of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am unwavering on my position, so don't try to convince me otherwise (just like I won't try to convince you). Here's my belief: I will wear a face mask when I leave my house (which, these days, isn't often). I think everyone should wear a face mask when they leave there homes and come in contact with other human beings. I believe if you don't wear a face mask you are a narrow-minded misanthropic science-denier who doesn't care about anyone but his or herself. That's my stance. Let's move on. The news clip featured groups of people shaking their fists and screaming about God or the government or the Constitution as though they were well-versed experts in theology, political science and Constitutional law. All while coaxing their small children to scream "We shouldn't be told to wear masks!" and "COVID is a hoax!" (A few of the children tripped over the word "hoax.") When the clip was over, I was prompted to respond. I know. I know. I shouldn't have, but I did. I already admitted in Paragraph Two that I don't know when to shut up. Jeez! Ten years of this stupid blog is evidence of that!
I typed a single sentence comprised of just five words. But they were five carefully chosen words. Chosen for impact and conciseness. I tweeted: "I hope they all die."
Evidently, you can't say stuff like that on Twitter. I soon found that out.
Within seconds — seconds! — I received this message from the guardian angels at Twitter Headquarters, sitting behind a bank of monitors and racks of servers in a seven-story blond brick building at 1355 Market Street, San Francisco, California and keeping you safe.
So, there I was. Caught. Singled-out. Punished. Restricted. In "Twitter jail" for 12 hours, as a first-offender. ("Hey... whaddaya in for?" "I wished some assholes would die." "Ha! Lightweight!") I wasn't upset. I really didn't even care. I had two other social media outlets with which to ply my Josh Pincus brand of opinionated mischief. The first thing I did was to post a screenshot of the Twitter message on Facebook. My friend Robbie — who has been banned from Twitter so many times he's lost count — called me a rookie. I wore that like a badge of honor.
So, no, I didn't sit for twelve hours and watch the clock tick down as I atoned for my transgressions. I went about my daily business — I watched TV. I drew some pictures. I posted to Facebook and Instagram. I actually forgot about Twitter. Until I remembered. And then little Josh Smartass reared his ugly red head. This found its way to my Facebook page in the form of another screenshot:
...along with this sentiment: "I have an hour and 25 minutes left on my sentence. Brace yourself, fuckers!" That is what we smart-asses call "poking the bear."
As my reprieve loomed closer, my wife and I watched that evening's DVRed episode of Jeopardy! and leisurely ate our dinner. Finally, the virtual warden rattled his virtual keys and unlocked my virtual cell (not that I had any plans for a poster of Rita Hayworth in my future). I was given the "all clear," but I still felt any tweets in my post-punishment era would be closely scrutinized by the good folks at Twitter.
No matter. According to the latest message, I was once again free to tweet to my hearts content. Y'know... within reason. Ahh... who am I kidding? I know what I'm capable of. Next time, it probably won't take twelve years.