Just a quick reminder that other people read social media, too.
After Daily Beast journalist Josh Rogin let fly with several unflattering Tweets directed at the performers he was watching at the DC Improv, one of his targets, comedian Dan Nainan, retaliated with a punch to the face.
When clean comedian Dan Nainan took the stage, Rogin was unimpressed and let his 30,000+ followers know it. “Dan Nainan was funny until he dusted off his 2005 Katrina jokes in a gratingly bad GWB impression.” Reports say that after his set, Nainan approached the writer at his table in the back, asked, “Are you Josh Rogin?”, and then punched him in the face when he confirmed his identity. The DC police arrested the comedian, who has performed for President Obama, on assault charges.
Nainan claims that Rogin punched him first.
Stories like these interest me because they point to the ever-thinning walls between our private and public lives, and how the use of social media is redefining what’s considered acceptable behavior.
There’s an illusion of privacy when it comes to social media: You’re just talking with your thousands of buddies, right? It feels private when you’re quietly typing little jests and sending them off into the ether. More so, it feels more comfortable than grabbing a megaphone and announcing your opinions to the world, but you’re still doing it in a way.
Rogin wasn’t standing on a chair at the DC Improv shouting insults at the performers and disturbing the other audience members, but he was broadcasting his thoughts to tens of thousands of people (who probably shared those thoughts with thousands more), and this did make it back to at least someone at the show.
It’s obvious that neither of the men should have thrown any punches in any case, but would Nainan have gotten physical with a critic who wrote a bad review in a newspaper? How is what Rogin was doing any different from that, with the exception that the former is happening in real-time? It’s not, unless you want to draw a line between “real” critics and Regular Joe audience members.
An argument could be made that a proper critic should be a person who is expected to form his or her opinion after a period of due consideration, and that this opinion will be based off of considerable personal experience and education, rather than an off-the-cuff reaction. Is that really true, though? That’s an ideal that I don’t think a lot of real critics can live up to. Even if our critics do maintain this kind of objectivity, how many of us really base our choices to engage with this or that book, movie or performance on their proclamations, versus the opinions of friends, family, coworkers and the like? Not too many, if the number of times I’ve heard people say some variant of “I never listen to critics” can be a good indicator.
Like it or not, social media has made us all critics and experts, witnesses and reporters, hecklers and disturbers of the peace. Never before in human history have we had the opportunity to communicate with so many and with so little difficulty, but it might be worthwhile to remember that some of those who receive our message may prefer to respond with their fists.