Who Is @EmergentDudeBro?

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.

  • http://adammclane.com/ Adam McLane

    Like you, I’ve got no time for hateful Twitter accounts. Anonymity brings out the absolute worst in people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=141304249 Sarah Jones

    Way to completely gloss over the fact that your followers attacked me, and even stole my identity, all because they believed I ran this account. I have, at last count, seventeen screenshots of DMs from a barely coherent Jay Bakker quoting Martin Luther King Jr in your defense.

    And not once did you condemn this harassment. Instead, you write a blog post about yourself and your feelings, and successfully orient the conversation so that it’s about you once more. Guess what? You didn’t get the worst of this. I did, actually, thanks to your fellow Emergents.

    But I suppose that doesn’t matter because I’m a ‘meanie’ and probably deserved it, right?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Sarah, I’m sorry, but I do not follow you on Twitter. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It sounds like your issue may be with Jay.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=141304249 Sarah Jones

        You do know what I’m talking about. People tweeted you directly about it. You then said you had nothing to do with it, but refused to condemn whoever did actually impersonate me on Twitter.

        Why lie about this, seriously>

        • IntegralShaman

          A word of advice. I have no idea who you are. But this idea concerned me. So I clicked on your name, which brought up a list of all your various posts (91) in this particular medium (Patheos-wide, I presume.) In 99% of those, you come off as distinctly angry, snarky, insulting, defensive, and frankly unpleasant. On a wide variety of topics, I might add.

          It could of course be the reality that you only post when you’re battling with someone over something. Or that you only post in places run by demeaning jerks. But a good rule of thumb is that when you’re confronted with assholes in the morning, assholes at noon, and assholes at night, there’s every chance that you’re the asshole.

          You might be well served to click you own name, re-read your own posts, and honestly ask yourself what percentage of them seem either defensive reactions to or the aggressive pursuit of conflict.

      • S_i_m_o_n

        In the spirit of reconciliation that was pretty lame Tony. Reconciliation takes effort. Or, like in your story above, are you waiting for everyone else to make the first move?

    • Jay Bakker

      Sarah, I’m very sorry you felt my direct messages where harassment, that was not my intention, I was hoping to reach out to you privately as a peace maker. As far as being “barely coherent” I have a severe form of dyslexia that effects my writing and some times it can be a bit confusing to the reader. (thats why I work with co-writers on my books) I hope this works out in the long run and we can all find a graceful solution.

  • Simon

    Great post Tony. Thanks for sharing this.

  • tylaw

    Lame. I want to know who.

  • RtRDH

    You really don’t have time for mean, fake twitter accounts? Really? You are still following Fake Piper and the fake Rick Warren tweets.. oh well I guess we all can’t be perfect. Satire just not as soul destroying I guess.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Right, like I said, it’s my “rule of thumb,” but it’s not an ironclad rule. I haven’t seen a Fake Warren tweet in a long time. Fake Piper? Occasionally funny, but growing tiresome.

      • Guest

        So your writings being one of several sources for a broad parody account is horrible meanness and bullying, but accounts that directly mock specific person in order to denigrate them ad individuals and not as trendmakers in a broader community, well that’s a-ok.

        You might want to consider that it’s exactly that sort of hypocrisy that made you a target as a source to begin with.

        • Jesse

          This is a good point. We’re all hypocrites to some degree though, right? Isn’t Jesus the ultimate hypocrite? Healing on the Sabbath while claiming the Law was not to be done away with?

          Regardless, it probably wouldn’t hurt to get better at critiquing and criticizing and to understand the difference between them. I wrote about this here: http://turridesign.com/blog/p57c11wqfwpy6z6uiqpds473y5q5yd

  • Eric English

    Yea, getting sucker punched sucks, but hey at least you got an apology! Perhaps that is wisdom you should heed yourself.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      You have every right to say that, Eric. My comment on your post was unduly harsh. Sorry.

      • Eric English

        Tony…Your apology is accepted and very much appreciated. Thank you.

  • Ben Hammond

    I tend have the same rule of thumb. I have around 25% of my facebook friends hidden from my news feed (I reserve unfriending for repeated refusal to only respectfully comment on posts of mine that they don’t like). I also unfollow people on Twitter for the same reasons.

    Note: after I finished this I recognize that some of this could be interpreted as some as being a direct response to certain things that have happened in these circles in the last few months. Please don’t misunderstand me in that way. I have not kept up with it much (intentionally, for the reason below), so it has little, if nothing, to do with it. These are simply personal words.

    I know that some people use these forms of social media to ‘battle it out’, but I moved away from that some time ago. I realized that it made me into a very angry, cynical person — wanting to jab back at every person that irked me. My first transition quite a while back was to stop personal insults, sarcasm, and cynicism, but later I also stopped pushing back altogether if the motivation was simply the result of something offending my sensibilities.

    For my own health I realized that it negatively colored my default way of looking at others. I don’t hide people who constantly post stuff that I really don’t like on Facebook because of them, no, it’s because of me. It’s because of my own weakness in terms of thinking too poorly of others, and too highly of myself (though this definitely comes from my own insecurities as well). I unfollow people and remove people from my news feed because otherwise it will consume me. It will bother me. It will worry me. It will cause me to think poorly of people that I don’t want to think poorly of. It (and this is a big one) will cause me to think that I have control over others (or some sort of responsibility to fix them). If I get completely and obsessively bent out of shape (which is very different from restorative/just anger) by someone else’s words/post/tweet that is on me. For me it was trying to parse out feelings of mine (anger, frustration, etc) that were legitimate, and feelings that were coming from my own bad emotional boundaries.

    So, I do it for two reasons: (1) my own emotional health, and (2) my heart (in regards to how I hold my view of people around me).

    This is something that I wrote in February:

    “It’s easy to get really offended and angry at people who… get offended and angry at others — i.e., I think ‘you’ treated others poorly in your facebook status, so I’m going to treat ‘you’ poorly in the comments. Perhaps there are places in life where something related to this is necessary (though you will never convince me of that regarding facebook, twitter, etc), but…

    I believe very firmly that the only way to cultivate grace is through grace. I’ve simply never seen someone stop being angry and mean towards others by me getting angry and mean at them about it.”

    To be clear — I intentionally work through difficult stuff with people in person, over the phone, or even occasionally in email. I just no longer do it with social media.

  • Sofia

    Some people have way too much time on their hands. Criticism and vitriol are two very different things. I hope you can ignore the hate and move on. Thanks for what you do.

  • Jules

    Tony, you once came to my blog about people and by a queer writer, myself. You stated “aren’t we all queer?” Well, in this post all I can say is, aren’t we all emergentbrodude?

    I really have not respected you or liked you since that day you were so high on yourself to post that and not even talk to me about it. Plus, dishonor my community in such an assinne way. A friend told me back then to ignore the statement and I did. Over time a lot of your thoughts on LGBTQ are hallow, because of your little statement. I still wonder why it was more important for you to dismiss me then to actually investigate and find out where I was coming from.

    Really Tony, you are emergentbrodude. And maybe that is why it gets to you. Matter of fact, we all are in our own way.

    For the record, I dislike you not for any less than disrespect you give people, like me, who you believe are beneath you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Jules, my comment on your blog was not meant to be dismissive. It was an honest, earnest question. I’ve had a couple conversations with friends over the years — friends who openly and publicly identify as queer — who’ve told me that, really, we’re all queer. I’m sure there are mixed opinions on this in the queer community. I didn’t mean to dishonor you or your community.

      • Jules

        Maybe, it would have helped to frame that, but also remember that not all queer people think the same thing.

        It does not matter what I say, but let me say this…I hope that you and others really take time to learn from this. I no longer identify as “emergent” or any title with it. I am not saying this as a guilt trip, but from my story. I am no longer a part of it for the instance in my blog, I was just throwing an idea out there. All I was doing. From that and your statement I got a lot of unnecessary hurt. I realized then, something I loved and had been apart of since the late 90′s was not worth the pain I was feeling. Even down to one of your close friends telling people, my dearest friends, that I am bipolar. All this to say, there are many of us with real hurt from a lot of various things that are real. I just hope the next person who steps up, like me, does not ever go through the hurt I did.

        That is all. I will go now. However, I think it was time for me to speak my anger and hurt directly to finally forgive and finish the progress of forgiving. Thank you for your time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

          I appreciate you stopping by. And for your forgiveness. I really meant no offense with my comment.


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