When We Were Assholes: In Defence of Context

Our social climate is perpetually changing, whether it’s the trudge towards racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, or the proliferation of the emoji, there’s a constant intangible evolution of the way we interact with and respond to one another. And this has never been more closely documented than within the last ten years, with the advent of social media.

The minutiae of the changes in political correctness can be traced in timelines. Personal timelines. Individual Twitter feeds trace the death of taboos. The birth of social justice. And the homogenisation of what we consider appropriate.

And this is a good thing. It’s a great thing that I don’t see hard F’s in friends timelines after 2012. But they were there before. They were definitely there before.

In light of the recent Tobuscus allegations, people have been highlighting multiple tweets he sent in 2008. For example:

CaptureAnd yeah, that’s abhorrent in 2016. But how was it eight years ago? How was it when all we had been exposed to was endless comedians throwing the topic around and only a sea of dodgy online forums to meet strangers in? It wasn’t great but, unfortunate as it may be, it was probably par for the course.

Here’s something absolutely fucking stupid I tweeted in 2011:

mmI didn’t really mean rape, did I? I meant rough sex with someone powerful I’m attracted to. But I’ve flippantly used the word rape, and none of the ~300 or so followers I had at the time batted an eyelid.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post called Have I Been Raped? which seriously discussed both my own experience with rape and the nature of witch hunts on social media. But I didn’t tweet it out. Why? Because I was worried there would be backlash for tweeting the word rape on a public forum, even in this legitimate context. I didn’t want to upset anyone. This is 2016. This is my 2016 perspective. The above tweet was 2011. The above tweet was my 2011 perspective.

Here’s another 2011 tweet from someone else who, in 2016, is considered a good guy and a vocal advocate of consent:

dumdedo10aBecause, guess what? Shit was different back then. Today, discussions around what is and what is not accepted can spread faster and garner more awareness than they ever have before. This is an exponential growth. Regardless of whether or not Toby is innocent or guilty, a terrible joke made by anyone in 2008 shouldn’t speak as a complex testament to their character in 2016, or maybe we’d all be assholes. I know I would.

Here’s another disgusting thing I tweeted, in 2010:

2Body shaming. Would I tweet the above today? No fucking way. Did I receive any backlash for tweeing it in 2010? No fucking way.

Things change. 

One of these developments is endlessly encouraging and one is a shackle to the past.

Now this post isn’t in defence of anyone or anything other than context. And, of course, some people have tweeted abhorrent shit in the past: revolting, racist, homophobic, misogynistic shit, and it wasn’t a weak joke. They genuinely believed it. Some still tweet it today, but most have learned to keep it private.  Especially those with an audience and something to lose. But some of us were just your nice, normal jerks living in 2010.

Full disclosure, here’s some more of my shitty rap sheet:

6This one isn’t particularly incriminating, it’s just not something I’d tweet now I’m followed by people who know me. And also gross.

1Casually tweeting about drug use.

3More body shaming and, again, also gross.


This isn’t really slut shaming because, well, I’m there and with all the rest of my tweets it’s clearly not, but I’m also making a joke at the expense of teens responsible enough to get themselves tested.

I don’t really like the person from those tweets. She seems like an utter cunt. But she’s me. And I know the context, personally and culturally, so I can dismiss it. I’m sure that’s infinitely harder to do from an outsider’s perspective, but if you’re reading this you probably know me quite well. You know I’m an advocate for equality, for self-confidence, for inner beauty, and self-expression, whatever form that is, and fuck anyone who tells you otherwise. But I still tweeted that shit. I didn’t like my housemate so I took easy swipes at him. For two years all I did was drink and ‘party’ because I was depressed and I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing with my life, so that’s all I had to talk about. And I did. Online. Where you joined me in the future.

These days, almost our entire lives are uploaded. Every thought. Every mistake. Every collective and personal mistake. And as the timeline gets longer the past will become more and more warped.

A tweet does not a villain make, and our pasts do not define us – cultural guilt and the weight of history hanging heavy – we’re all moving forward together.



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