Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Twitter Angst and the 2012 Olympics

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianityby Ben Howard

Everybody has been on a bad vacation.  That one family trip where everything felt tense all the time and you were waiting for something to spill over.  That one road trip where your dad yells that he’s going to pull over to the side of the road, and then actually does it.  That one trip where you or your brother or your sister just decide that everything unequivocally sucks because you feel like being an angst-ridden hormonal teenager.

I’m pretty sure Twitter is the angst-ridden hormonal teenager of the 2012 London Olympics.

Now, lest this post devolve into a kids-get-off-my-lawn curmudgeonly rant, I’ve definitely added my voice to the misanthropic murmur of social media over the last few days and weeks, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with it.  I’m starting to feel uncomfortable and tense about the aggressive snark and cynicism which has started to ensnare my generation’s observations of the surrounding world.

On Friday, I watched the opening ceremonies with some friends.  To be fair it was gorgeous and epic, but at the same time it was weird and at points incomprehensible.  There was a salute to the National Health Service, which was weird, and a scene where 200 flying Mary Poppins (Poppi?) battled a 100 foot inflatable Voldemort, which was weird, but awesome. 

However, when I got home I checked Twitter and Facebook before I went to sleep and was barraged by a series of tweets and status updates about how much the ceremonies sucked and how stupid it was and it was all so…predictable.

The last few days have been filled with bitter tweets about Olympic spoilers, and rants about why NBC won’t show events live, but instead saves the best events for prime time (the best response is Will Leitch’s column here.)

To be honest, I don’t care.  It isn’t important.  I just want to enjoy a worldwide spectacle.  I just want to be a part of the fun.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how difficult I find it sometimes to be authentically happy and how rare and beautiful it can be to just enjoy something without deconstructing it to find deeper meaning.  However, in the world I live in, and likely the one you live in too if you’re reading this, it’s hard to escape the cynicism.  It’s hard not to breathe pithy statements that border on bitterness and arrogance.

I’ve often felt the same way about the church.  A few years ago I got to the point where I could never leave a church feeling anything but bitterness and spite.  Some of it was arrogance, and some of it was pain.  There’s a thin line between making fun of something because you love it, which gives us a healthy perspective and a dash of humility, and making fun of something because you hate it.

I wonder when we know that we’ve crossed the line and I wonder how we get back.  Thankfully through the love and support of friends and a healthy church community, I can get more out of a service than anger and frustration.  They blessed me with that gift of grace.  But how do we move a society that way?  How do you we help a society embrace beauty even when its flawed?  Or is cynicism justified and I’m just being na├»ve?  I’d love to know your thoughts because I’m still working this one out.


When he isn't channeling Andy Rooney for a post about the Olympics, Ben spends his time in a field with Snoopy waiting for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.  Any day now.  You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.


  1. Criticizing criticism is by far my favorite meta-genre :D :D :D. With that being said, I'm kind of torn between people's freedom to express their opinions and people treating their opinions like they're some sort of declaration from on high and we should all cower at @hotyoungbabe92's observation that the opening ceremonies were "like weird and stupid" (hypothetical not real).

    Honestly, this is it the exact same reason why I avoid group discussion. Until you prove that I should respect your opinion, why should I respect your opinion? That doesn't mean I don't respect everyone individually, but until you prove, for example, that you have some sort of background in cultural criticism, have seen many opening ceremonies, or are reasonably intelligent, I'm just going to look at you and say "meh" when you lob some sort of half-baked insult at a 30 million dollar production. This opinion of mine tends to offend a lot of people so I hope we get a lot of trolls spouting off about how crazy I am. FLAME AWAY!

  2. No trolling here. I agree with both of you 100%. As time goes on, I watch the attitude of the masses with growing concern. When did pithiest and snarkiest and mostcynical become the ideal to which we should all aspire? It seems like if you don't infuse your every word with the utmost of sarcasm, then you're not worth listening to.

    What's frightening about that is that the Greek root of "sarcasm" is the same as "sarcophagus" -- which, directly translated, means "eater of flesh." So basically, if we're not tearing at each other's vitals, then we have no right to a voice?

  3. It's such a seductive thing too. It gives you the quick high of a laugh or somebody patting you on the back or re-tweeting you, but it always makes me feel a little shakier, a little less whole afterwards.

    I felt that way a lot yesterday regarding the Chick-Fil-A stuff. Ambivalent, but unable to stop myself from entering into the fray. I don't how to quiet the voice that wants to rant and win.

  4. Ben, you inspired this:

    And I wholly understand about the CFA thing. I talked to several people about my urge to lambast everyone on Facebook about it, but those several people have cooler heads than I and talked me down. I'm glad, because nothing I had to say would've benefited anyone. I would've just added to the useless noise.