Late last week, I received a phone call from one of the original authors of the EmergentDudeBro Twitter account. More on that below.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter affords anonymity for those who want it. It’s baked into the cake of Twitter, and, in principle, I don’t mind that. Of course, when anonymity is allowed, people will say things that they would not otherwise say.
Because of Twitter’s anonymity, there are innumerable fake (aka “parody”) Twitter accounts. There’ve been fake accounts about me, my friends, and my theological sparring partners for a while now. The account referenced above is one that sprang up a couple weeks ago, and it uses a photo of me, taken by my spouse, in its profile.
My rule of thumb is to block fake Twitter accounts, just like I block Twitter accounts that write unkind things about me. And let me make my reasons for this clear with an analogy: I have made a menu on my television satellite box. It shows the channels I want to see, but it blocks porn, home shopping channels, FOX News, TBN, and others. I have no desire to silence FOX News or TBN — they have a right to access to the public airwaves, and they can pay to be on the satellite. But I have no desire to scroll through those channels when I’m looking at what’s on television.
It’s similar with Twitter. I’m not asking people to stop criticizing me on Twitter or to stop making fun of me on Twitter. That’s fine. But I’m just not that interested in seeing it, especially the mean-spirited stuff. I really like Twitter, and I use it to communicate with lots of my friends.
Harry Houdini was known to have extraordinarily strong abs, and he would let men punch him in the abdomen as part of his show. He died when, suffering from a broken ankle and sitting on a couch in his dressing room, a man punched him repeatedly in the abdomen without giving Houdini the opportunity to stand and brace himself. He died of appendicitis the next day.
I’m not afraid of criticism. In fact, robust debate and engagement makes me a better theologian. However, I’m not interested in getting sucker-punched by people who don’t like me every time I pull up Twitter on my phone to see what’s up with my friends. So, again, blocking people on Twitter is not an attempt to silence them or avoid criticism; its my attempt to keep that particular venue enjoyable for what I want to use it for.
Which brings us to the account referenced above. Like other fake accounts, I blocked it shortly after it was launched, and I haven’t looked at it since. But I was tagged in some tweets that referenced that account, and I’d had several friends contact me privately to say that this account wasn’t like other fake accounts — this account was mean, was writing about me personally, and was mocking my wife and children. Nonetheless, I avoided it.
Last week, I received a call from one of the original authors of that account. The individual apologized and said they did not realize the degree to which the Twitter account was going to attack me personally. This person had withdrawn from the account and no longer had the log-in info. This person did not tell me who is currently running the account, nor did I ask. I honestly don’t care.
More importantly, this person and I had a very good talk, full of kindness on both sides, and we have since exchanged several emails. It was, I think, the very kind of reconciliation I was writing about last week in theory, now come to fruition in practice. And for that I am extremely grateful.