by Sam Barrett-Cotter on Friday, May 18th, 2012
On Monday, an anonymous Milton senior created a Twitter account under the name of “@Stang_Whisperer”. Much like this fall’s “@Restless_Virgin,” another anonymous account created by two sophomore girls, @Stang_Whisperer devoted itself to posting Milton gossip that was loosely based on fact, if not outright lies.
The account was met by immediate outrage among Milton students. Countless Milton tweeters harshly criticized this tweeter for his or her alleged immaturity. As a community, we called the Whisperer rude and heartless. We scoffed at the cowardice of insulting someone while hiding behind a computer screen.
Initially, I counted myself among the group of Stang Whisperer “haters”. I found the account holder’s eagerness to spread vicious gossip to be both distasteful and childish.The Whisperer’s farewell words, however, altered my perspective. In his or her final message, the mysterious blogger demonstrated an unparalleled awareness both of our student body and of high schoolers in general: “[W]e live in something called the Milton bubble: we care about little things too much and over-dramatize unimportant things,” tweeted the Whisperer.
I believe that in these words the Whisperer hit upon a rarely-acknowledged truth about Milton students. While the tweeter’s brief moment of insight is certainly no excuse for his or her crude and unfounded posts, these parting words introduced another side of the issue that I had previously overlooked.
By intentionally creating an uproar in the community, the Whisperer was satisfying an unspoken need. The account easily found a large audience for its shocking and often hateful posts, due to the hidden longing for a public spectacle to share in. We ate up the tweets about our peers’ shenanigans and secrets. However, our strongest feelings were found in the shared hatred of the poster. By reveling in the thrill and unity created by this common dislike, we proved the Whisperer’s final message true: Milton students are far too willing to become worked up over insignificant drama.
We all feel a need to feel involved in something beyond the mind-numbing routine of studying and classes. Sports and the weekend are not enough to break up the monotony of our teenage lives. The Stang Whisperer gave students a reason to feel passionate. He or she brought us together in the mutual condemnation of a single anonymous student, on whom we could pour out our most base emotions.
Though a thirst for excitement may explain our fascination, it does not justify it. We need to remember that boredom is no excuse for enabling the spread of hateful rumors.
We need to be real with ourselves: most Milton students are not above being taken in by the gossip of @Stang_Whisperer and similar accounts. We are consumed by an unfulfilled longing to feel involved in a common cause. Were this not true, the Stang Whisperer could not have gained 60 followers in less than 24 hours. We would not be spending our recesses and lunch periods taking guesses at the Whisperer’s identity. We would not tweet about it and become willing participants in the rumor mill system. We would not so openly concern ourselves with the account. We would have chuckled quietly and moved on, rather than taking to Twitter to prove to our followers our own moral superiority. Inadvertently or not, we fell victim to the intrinsic adolescent wish to be part of something greater than ourselves, no matter how offensive.
Many of the student responses were just as superficial as the Whisperer’s posts. The apparent anger that some students felt as the Whisperer’s targets even served to conceal a kind of pride at being singled out and thus receiving attention and sympathy from the student body. Those who were truly stung or offended by the account should have devoted their energies to directing attention away from the Whisperer, rather than spreading links and expanding his or her target audience.
I concede that the account’s creator crossed a line. Private or blatantly incorrect sexual references and other defamatory comments should have been left un-tweeted. While the Whisperer should have shown better judgement and taste, we became accomplices to his or her gossip. By placing the account at the center of online and in-person Milton interaction, we perpetuated the exact same rumors and hurtful messages that we condemned. This notorious tweeter taught us a lesson: we should always limit the spread of drama, rather than only prolonging its influence. If we’re not careful, we could easily become “whisperers” ourselves.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=3502