You Just Got “Ratio’d”
Rad/ish. Episode 2.
We did this project on Medium at the end of 2017 called Words That Matter. It was a neat thing. We asked writers to select a single word that encapsulated something meaningful or important to them about 2017, and then reflect on the year through the lens of that word. Read some of the essays, if you haven’t already. (If you only read four, read: Roxane Gay, Eve Ewing, Carmen Machado, Dominique Matti, and porochista khakpour)
If I had contributed a post, I would have picked the word “Ratio’d”.
In a year where substance and thoughtfulness suffocated under a constant onslaught of noise and snarky debris raining down from the sky like torched bags of poop, getting “ratio’d” on Twitter was often the barometer by which we measured the storms intensity.
In a world wear scoring fictional internet points reigns supreme, we finally had a scoreboard.
Here is how Esquire defined “ The Ratio” in their exploration on the phenomenon:
While opinions on the exact numerical specifications of The Ratio vary, in short, it goes something like this: If the number of replies to a tweet vastly outpaces its engagement in terms of likes and retweets, then something has gone horribly wrong.
For all intents and purposes, The Ratio seems to have some utility within the context of operating in a space where millions are screaming nonsense into a void. If you can actually align a healthy majority of the perpetually horse-voiced tribalists and paranoids around one side of an argument, congratulations, your take is quantifiably the worst of the worst.
Turns out The Ratio spoke pretty loudly on this one from Matt Yglesias. He later deleted the original tweet.
But The Ratio can also incite internet vigilantism and further entrench us towards a mindset which places a premium on sarcasm and ridicule.
I include myself as part of of the problem. For all the amusement, poignant insight, and valuable perspective Twitter has brought into my life, it’s almost impossible not to get sucked into the contest of throwing clever side-eye at your political opponents for the temporary satisfaction of faves from strangers and bots.
But it is hollow, fleeting, and ephemeral.
Which brings me to Ben Shaprio. His career is rather illustrative of the larger point: Our political discourse is trapped between the worlds of smart humans who desire thoughtful discourse and the internet’s attention economy that demands sensationalism and disdain. Here is a good profile on Ben from Seth Stevenson over at Slate. It is really worth reading:
Whose Side Is Ben Shapiro Really On?
Ben Shapiro was 5 feet 2 inches and extremely prepubescent when, in the mid-1990s, he enrolled as a sophomore at a…
My primary beef with Shapiro is that he is equally aroused by partisan barbs and reactionary cynicism as he is with nuance and rational discourse. He is equal parts Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity as he is George Will and Mike Gerson.
My primary beef with Shapiro is my primary beef with myself.
I want to believe that the culture is shifting away from the political rot and intellectual atrophy the internet has accelerated. I want to believe as, Andrew Sullivan wrote today (scroll down to “Logging Out”):
…there’s hope on the horizon again. The sewer of most of Twitter is now so rank that even addicts have begun to realize that they are sinking in oceans of shitholery. Facebook is long overdue for a collapse, and the old institutions are showing signs of developing more character and coherence.
But I’m not sure it’s true. I think elites (and publishers) are just slowly ending their flirtation with platforms which incentivize garbage, while the masses continue to unwittingly wallow. I guess what I’m saying is don’t leave Twitter. Just adopt the Boy Scout motto and philosophy Eagle Scout Ben Shapiro would endorse: Leave Twitter better than when you found it.