“That hashtag wants me dead, but I don’t mind. It’s just another way we grieve.” — John K. Samson, ‘Select All Delete‘
It’s easy to feel outnumbered online when you have 16.9 million followers on Twitter. That’s really the only explanation I can come up with for Kevin Durant having alternate Twitter accounts. I mean, he says he doesn’t. He also says he’s sorry for doing something that he should not have. Whatever the exact reason, be it multiple accounts or a simple slip (or two) of the thumbs, it’s clear that something strange happened here. More importantly, Durant felt like he had to defend himself from randos online.
What I’ve been thinking about since he slipped up and apologized, though, is why? He’s a wildly talented basketball player. He’s an NBA champion. A Finals MVP. He’s likely to go down as one of the game’s best ever players. And yet, he did some of the weirdest, shadiest stuff you can imagine on a social media site that alternates between breathtakingly dumb and infuriating at any given moment.
It’s such a deeply weird thing for a person of such stature to do. But Twitter is also a uniquely weird social media network because of how isolated you can be. It’s a funnel in every way, both in the feed you view and the interactions you have with those that follow you. Durant follows just over 1,400 people on Twitter, which is a fairly reasonable number and enough to cast a wide net for your timeline. But he has nearly 17 million following him, and if even a fraction of those people respond or interact on a daily basis it’s a constant, overwhelming deluge of information.
Never read the comments, the conventional wisdom says, but the perpetual waves of mentions is just incomprehensible to someone with just a few hundred or thousand followers. Sure, there are filters. There are safeguards. There is the option of never looking at all. But even if all the hate goes unanswered, it’s still looming there.