Tea's Weird Week: Hello, I Must Be Going
“I’ll stay a week or two, I’ll stay the summer through, but I am telling you…I must be going.” –Groucho Marx
“I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”— also Groucho Marx
I was late to coming around to the Internet and social media. I did not get my first email account until 2001. If you weren’t around then, that was pretty late to the game. I was traveling in 2001 to the West Coast and Australia, many of my friends had them, and I saw the value of having one for communication. Especially if I was stranded in Australia (which almost happened, but that’s another story.) I walked from Riverwest to the East Library to get 30 minutes of computer time once a week. Gadzooks, can you imagine? 30 minutes of screen time A WEEK.
I was slow to social media, too. My first social was a MySpace page for Wally Wurst, an anthropomorphic cigar chompin, appletini swilling sausage that was the mascot of an underground comic anthology I edited at the time, called Riverwurst Comics. I set that up, maybe 2003. I didn’t really want to join, but I saw the value of promoting the comic book online, so I’d post some jokes and info on where to buy the rag. I finally created my own profile, also on MySpace, round about 2006, I believe. Then I picked up a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram over the years. I recently set up a TikTok, but haven’t used it– I just can’t even. What the fuck even is it?
Why the hesitation to the socials? I saw exactly everything I would hate about it in the tea leaves– the vile gangbang of unsolicited opinions, the cancel mobs, the threats and bullying by people hiding behind a screen, the moral piety, the lies, the insanity, the schadenfreude, the lack of context, and, of course, the straight up demented stupidity.
Of course there is a good side to it, too. It has helped me keep up with friends, old and new. I can see the cool things they are up to, and that makes me happy. It has helped me network. One time I needed a fog machine for an event, I made a post, and 30 seconds later someone told me they had one I could borrow. Nice work, team! It has helped me promote my books, events, and other work…sometimes.
Let me switch gears and talk about my writing. I would say a majority of it is meant to spotlight people, places, and things that I view in a positive light. Did you Doctor Who fans know that there’s a workshop, Dalek Asylum, that builds their own Daleks (the evil cyborgs in the show, if you’re not a Whovian)? I wrote about that. There’s a great DJ, DJ Bizzon, who wrote a guide on how to be a DJ. That’s pretty cool, I did an interview with him. Recently I wrote about projects to highlight Indigenous culture in Milwaukee. I learned a lot writing that, and it was an honor. Those are three examples of hundreds of articles I’ve written over the last 15 plus years. When I post these, a few friends like or share but they unfortunately don’t get the same attention as something negative.
Sometimes I write about things that happen in the world that are pretty heavy, but they happened and should be examined. A good example of that is my book American Madness. It is about the tragic turn a man named Richard McCaslin’s life took when he became wrapped up in conspiracy theories. I think it’s the most important thing I’ve written. It was a project not for the faint of heart. I put great care into these stories. These stories will take a toll on you.
A couple weeks ago, I interviewed a couple who had gone through a traumatic experience for something I’m working on. It was one of the heavier interviews I’ve done in awhile. They chose to tell me this story, because they hope it will help themselves and maybe a small part of the universe by sharing it. It was difficult– we had to take breaks. Then they surprised me by asking me if I was alright– was the story wearing down on me? I thanked them for their concern, but I told them that yeah, I absorb those emotions a little, too, but that’s my job.
It’s a rough, often thankless business. Yesterday, I solicited my Facebook friends for info on a tragic story here in Milwaukee that I was assigned to write about. A few people I don’t really know jumped my ass in the comments, lecturing me about… I don’t know– how it was “too soon” to report the news. These people don’t know me, I’m pretty sure they’ve not read anything I’ve ever wrote, let alone my recent works (writers are hopefully always evolving), and have no qualifications to give me a morality lesson.
Some of these people were the type of Facebook “friends” that never ever ever never leave a positive comment or even a thumbs up, but appear out of thin air to argue with your friends in the comments or pedantically give a “well, actually.” It’s creepy. Fuck off! It was just kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back, as they say, on an already stressful week.
Facebook was the main social where I shared personal stuff. I decided to stay off Facebook for an undetermined amount of time, except for Messenger, which is where I communicate with friends and people I’m working on projects with. There’s a great Tea’s Weird Week group, that’ll probably be the first place I reappear, but for now the talented team of mods will do fine running the joint. I’ll post updates on my work on Twitter and Instagram, but probably not personal shit.
What shall I do without this social media world? You know, I miss seeing my friends. I’m kinda lonely these days, so I think I’ll hit them up and see if they want to meet up for a drink, or do something in the real world. That way, if you think I’m a fuck-up, you can tell it to my face.
I’ll be back into the thicket of social media someday, when it feels right (and following a mass purge of the “friends” list) but for now…I must be going.
My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)