Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights August 2021

Not a ton of tweets this month, but if you’re interested in Kio’s thoughts about Rebuild of Evangelion (as well as his bout with work exhaustion and illness), here they are!

Works-Related

During a sale on the Kujibiki Unbalance manga, Kio talks about how this came before Jigopuri and Nidaime. “In a sense, it’s an original work closest to being a Genshiken spinoff.”

Kio has two volumes coming out in September (Spotted Flower v5 and Hashikko Ensemble v7), and he expressed that the amount of work he needs to put in to draw all the extra stuff was a challenge. However, he eventually managed to finish more recently.

Kio planned to take a 20-minute nap that turned into an hour. However, because his hands were feeling great, he called it a win.

Hase-san’s eyes quickly draw you in. (I think this is referring to Hasegawa Kozue from Hashikko Ensemble, but I’m not 100%.)

Kio makes a joke about his LCD tablet being really “hot,” except he means literally high-temperature. He realizes that he’s always used the tablet in air-conditioned environments, so he never really noticed it until now. He then decides the next day to use the AC after all.

Sick Kio

Kio was all prepared to hold a “lavish party” (which might just be “getting more work done”), but between his schedule and the side effects of this medicine (vaccine side effects?), he wanted to cancel. As he went back and forth between at least trying to work, he realized it wasn’t possible.

Evangelion, etc.

Last month, I left this tweet untranslated because I hadn’t seen Evangelion 3.01+1.01 yet. Now I have, and it’s time to delve into it. WARNING: SPOILERS

Kio was apparently a fan of the theory that Asuka and the other characters in Evangelion 3.33 were all from the old The End of Evangelion timeline, and the Rebuild characters were all imprisoned.  He also came into the final film ready to not be surprising by anything, but it was the gentleness of the movie that got to him.

Kio was too busy to go see Evangelion 3.0+1.01 in theaters again, so he listened to the soundtrack while working, and mentally recalled scenes from the film.

Kio commiserates with someone else about needing to pee partway through Evangelion 3.0+1.01—the nature of a movie that’s two-and-a-half hours long

Kio reacting to this month’s Five Star Stories. According to him, the designs can be disappointing in some ways, but the contents of the story are so rich. He seems to really feel the Shinnomaru and the Akatsuki. He had originally gotten some of Volks’s “Mighty Series” model kits, but didn’t build them. When someone he knew gave him the Akatsuki, though, he ended up finishing that one.

Music

A recounting of his experiences at the Secondary Culture Choir Festival, previously mentioned in the July tweet roundup. He’s not super knowledgeable about music still, but he enjoyed the sense of freedom with which they sang, and is grateful for the experience. He was announced as a “manga creator,” which he’s flattered by.

Kio has listened to this chorus before, but thinks they probably sound even more impressive in person.

…And that’s all for now. See you next month!

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights July 2021

Once again, here are more interesting Kio Shimoku tweets for the past month. Not many drawings in July!

Works-Related

This is a small honor for me: Kio Shimoku quoted one of my tweets!

VIZ is releasing a Japanese Star Wars tribute artbook, and Kio’s work is in it. Kio mentions that his vision for his drawing was “What Kio Shimoku would like to draw.” The result is a bunch of Episode I characters.

Quoting this anatomy drawing, Kio recalls working on Kagerowic Diary. At the time, a friend asked him why he drew the girls with such muscular backs, and Kio’s response was that he just thought it’d be a good idea.

Kio announced the latest chapter of Hashikko Ensemble with a picture of Mai (good taste).

To fight off exhaustion, Kio went to the convenience store to buy a Red Bull only to discover that they have extra-long Red Bull cans now. Not only that, the long cans were actually sold out.

Other

Kio was invited to be a critic for Day 1 (August 14) of an otaku-themed music event called the Secondary Culture Choir Festival. He’s honored and flustered.

This is a tweet thread about Shin Evangelion. Because I haven’t seen this movie, I’m hesitating to translate it without proper context, but one thing Kio mentions is that he was really into the theory that Asuka and all the other characters from Evangelion Q were the characters from the old Death, Rebirth, and End of Evangelion films. I will probably revisit this once I’ve seen the film next month.

Kio is looking forward to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

He also likes—no, loves—KonoSuba.

In light of the death of Nasu Masumoto, the author of the Zukokke series of children’s books, Kio reminisces about his own experience reading them. He talks about how as a kid, they were the greatest: a mix of the real and the absurd that went between horror, fantasy, science fiction, and the everyday. He and his classmates would get caught up in imagining their own adventures.

A photo Kio took of some clouds.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights June 2021

These are tweets from manga author Kio Shimoku from June 2021 that I found notable and informative. They include a number of early sketches from Genshiken, and his dreams of having a vacation home just for building model kits.

Genshiken and Related Drawings

Though he can’t quite remember, Kio presumes this is Ogiue practice from Genshiken. He thinks he made her too loli in these drawings.

Original Sue design from Genshiken. Kio thinks she comes across differently here.

Early Madarame. Kio thinks he captured the spirit of the character well. Character descriptions on the drawing include: close-cropped hair, thin, lolicon, high-energy, glasses, and likes fighting games. Originally, he was supposed to be the best at fighting games among the group, and his preferred main was Nakoruru from Samurai Shodown. The notes also describe him as being essentially the leader of the club despite being a second-year, and also that he likes to tease others.

(What I find interesting is that the fighting game skills went to Kohsaka, and that the character gained a lot more vulnerabilities in the actual manga. Those flaws are part of why people like Madarame, and here we see sort of what could have been.)

Ogiue autograph boards, the purpose for which Kio doesn’t remember.

By the way, if anyone has the actual final versions of these, I would like to make a deal.

Sketches of anime directors Ikehata Takahashi and Mizushima Tsutomu. Both worked on Genshiken anime.

A rough manuscript of a manga Kio was planning before Genshiken. It would have been an action series featuring magical sage powers (senjutsu).

The wife’s ex from Spotted Flower, crossdressing as part of a prank on the editor character.

Giant Robots and Model Kits

A custom design for a Zeong. Kio feels like he still doesn’t have what it takes to make this work.

A 20-year-old photo Kio took of a model kit he built. The robot is the L.E.D. Mirage from Five Star Stories, and the photo was taken with a non-digital camera. Airbrushing was probably involved.

Kio saw Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash. Even though the Universal Century timeline has been around for a long time, the film is full of imagery he’s never seen before: what first class looks like for civilian space travel, a military mess hall that’s like a food court, the terror of having to move around the legs of mobile suits in combat. He was glued to his seat while watching..

A 1/144 model kit of the Waff from Gundam: The Origin. It’s the only airbrushed Gundam model Kio has, and he likes how it’s small but still looks chubby. 

Kio’s first tank model kit: the Panzer IV Ausf.D from Girls und Panzer. Kio mentions not really knowing how to do weathering, and that he used the darkest paint from the Waff on this kit as well. He also likes how sharp the details are.

The first thing that Kio thinks of when he sees the term “plastic model training camp” is Plamo Kyoushirou, the proto–Gundam Build Fighters manga. He recalls wanting to be like the characters taking the kit boxes out and saying, “I’m gonna make the Dougram!” and “I’ve got the Real-Type Zaku!” 

After he became an adult, he started collecting them to his heart’s content. It’s why he wants an extra vacation home, so he can have room for all the kits—though actually, he has so many he can’t add any more. But model kits keep on evolving, and he wants to keep up.

Kio continues to describe his dream of a lodging just for model kits that would have all the equipment and features needed to build kits, and stacks of manga to read. Then, he and the others there would go out at night for drinks.

After someone mentions that the possibility is closer than he might think, the conversation mentions a Wonder Festival dealer named “Backyennew.” Kio responds that he knows this garage kit maker.

Responses to Other Works

Kio recalls this crossover drawing between different Shounen Sunday characters. After trying to remember what happens on the next page, a follower answers that it was a kind of fourth-wall breaking moment where they mention that the other manga authors said to do this.

Kio watched the anime film Pompo: The Cinéphile, and thinks it’s a really interesting movie. He talks about how important the editing process is, and recalls that back when he worked on Gonensei [The Fifth-Year], he tried to cram every idea in. For that reason, the progress the character Gene makes as a first-time director is impressive.

By the time of Genshiken, Kio knew how to edit down better, though he actually just took the cut material and turned them into extras in the collected volumes.

The director of Pompo, Hirao Takayuki, is happy that Kio “of Genshiken fame” tweeted about the film. Hirao says he read Gonensei, and that the pain from that manga is still with him today. Kio gives him a big thank-you, mentions how young and inexperienced he was at the time of Gonensei, and compliments Hirao for the highly technical edits. Kio also says the movie being shorter is a good thing, and that he still want so get the second half of the limited-edition extra booklets.

…And here he is with both extras.

Kio says that even though he only read a little bit, Uncle from Another World is a manga that made him think that he’d like to see it as an anime.

In order to get all the limited-edition goods, Kio went to see Shin Evangelion four times. The fourth time around, he felt he could just sit back and enjoy the movie.

Hashikko Ensemble

Kio points out that this song, “Ame” (Rain) from “Mizu no Inochi” (The Life of Water) is mentioned in Volume 3 of Hashikko Ensemble.

Kio went to see this mini concert by the Oedo Coraliars. He was blown away by the harmonizing.

Until next time!

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights May 2021

Tweets of interest from Kio Shioku’s official Twitter for May 2021:

This past month saw the unfortunate passing of Miura Kentaro, author of Berserk.

“Whaaaaaa?!”

“I can’t believe it…Berserk is actually…”

 “Whether it was his art, his storytelling, or his characters, he poured his overwhelming passion into everything. I’m trying to find the right words, but I don’t have them…My deepest and heartfelt condolences for Miura-sensei in his passing.”

Shin Evangelion Reaction

“I saw Shin Eva. It wasn’t an illusion. It wasn’t, right…?”

Kio watched a recording of The Professional: Anno Hideaki where Anno says, “I’m okay with dying for my creations.” This made Kio’s head spin. (Having come so soon after Miura’s death, it seems to have hit Kio extra hard.)

Art

A rough nude sketch of Ogino-sensei from Spotted Flower and a preview of the next chapter out.

Kio’s first drawing of first-generation Kasukabe Saki from Genshiken in many years.

Kurotaki Mai from Hashikko Ensemble.

Otaku moments with Hasegawa, previously posted on the @hashikko_music account. She worries about having accidentally outed herself as an otaku, but when asked if she’s a fujoshi, Hasegawa responds, “That isn’t the setting this time.” Also, when Shion expresses interest in Miyazaki anime, Hasegawa considers going into the deep end: Horus: Prince of the Sun, Panda Go Panda, Heidi, 3,000 Leagues in Search of Mother, Anne of Green Gables.

More previous art. Orihara loves the “AMEN”s, and Hasegawa does a pose from what I believe is Hellsing?

The pet tortoise

Miscellaneous

Kio explains that the “broken Gouf leg joint” incident from Genshiken wasn’t exactly based on reality, but he had a similar experience as a kid. In a later tweet, though, he realizes that the reason it happened to him is because model kits in those days didn’t use polycaps on ball joints, which made for a less maneuverable limb.

Kio quit his habit of downing energy drinks before starting his work.

That’s all for this month!

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights April 2021

Another month of Kio Shimoku tweets is here! The guy has finally learned how to thread tweets, which makes things easier for me. A lot of the month was promoting his books, as well as other titles in Rakuen: Le Paradis, where Spotted Flower runs.

Crossover Images Featuring Genshiken, Hashikko Ensemble, and Spotted Flower

A crossover between Jin and Madarame.

Image 1:

“Stand like you’re being held by a string from the sky!” [a way to teach proper posture for singing]

“It’s normal for me to be hunched over, you know. *mutter*”

A duo who will never see eye to eye.

Image 2:

“So what was like in high school?”

“Well, it was pretty ordinary. I was in an otaku club…and I had long hair…”

“Ahh, Hashi Tech has one of those too. It’s called the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture.”

“……Huh?”

I find this amusing because I sort of think of Jin and Madarame as similar characters, but they’re actually quite different. Jin is almost like if you mixed Madarame and Kohsaka.

Also, it turns out that teenage Madarame, Tanaka, and Kugayama doppelgangers (in an actual Genshiken club) actually did make a cameo in Hashikko Ensemble!

Old drawings from the @hashikko_music Twitter. In the first, Hasegawa is commenting that Sue has a nasty expression. In the second, Himari is about to make the same comment about Ogino-sensei, but is struck by their similarities.

More old drawings from the other account. This time, it’s Not-Sue holding Himari, only to realize it’s not Ogino-sensei.

Ohno and Mimi-sensei…and also Shion, who wants a grab.

More Tortoise!

Sleeping Tortoise Pose Series. Pose: Manji

Kio recalls a moment from 10 years ago, where a stray cat was curiously poking at the tortoise as the latter slowly tried to scuttle away. He remarks that, amazingly, this is the same tortoise who now actively rams the window asking to be let in.

Here’s how the turtle crawls in.

Miscellaneous

Thanking Taniguchi Jun’ichirou for his animation work on Genshiken. This includes Nidaime and the original series, where Taniguchi and Mizushima Tsutomu (who would later go on to direct Nidaime) worked on the infamous “nose hair” episode.

And another old drawing about washing your hands. I believe this was from early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kio bought an L-Gaim model kit!

Kurotaki Mai from Hashikko Ensemble with extremely realistic bunny ears.

That’s all for this month!

Genshiken’s Kio Shimoku Is Now on Twitter!

In one of the biggest pieces of Genshiken-related news to come out in a long time, author Kio Shimoku finally has a Twitter account, @kioshimoku1!

He’s genuinely new to the platform, as he seems to not even understand how to thread tweets. He also doesn’t really respond to fan tweets. Even so, it’s become a great place to learn things about the man that were previously unknown. But in recent years, he’s been willing to open up more (and has even done a couple interviews), and now he’s providing valuable creator insight and even a bit of personal history.

While I would love to translate everything, I don’t have the time for such a time-consuming endeavor. Instead, what I’m thinking of doing is just sharing some highlights from Kio’s account once a month or so. 

Here’s one group of noteworthy tweets, as well as a summary below.

After having watched the Professional episode on Anno Hideaki, Kio reminisces about past Anno works, like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind [where he was an animator] and Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. Aim for the Top! he couldn’t watch as it was coming out because it was an OVA, and his family only had Betamax, so he couldn’t rent tapes. Years later, after winning the Afternoon Four Seasons Award for manga while in college, he used his prize money to buy a VCR.

Kio believes he first heard of Nadia from the very first info about it in Animage, and thinks (but isn’t certain) that he knew Anno’s name at that point. Kio was all about Miyazaki Hayao’s anime at that time, and believed anime should be all about big adventures, so he recorded Nadia on Betamax every week. He certainly did notice the production issues that anime faced, though.

After trying to remember if he drew any Nadia fan works at the time, he remembers that one of his drawing submissions was actually published in Animage. [Note: I wonder if we could find his drawing…] He’s also pretty sure he drew some Nadia doujinshi, but can’t remember what it was about (other than it was not pornographic).

But then…

Kio is reminded by his Twitter followers that he not only drew a Nadia fan comic in 2012 as part of an anthology, but that he made the exact same response of having drawn doujin but having no recollection of the contents.

Finally, Kio drew this picture of Nadia in a plugsuit.

Speaking of drawings, it’s one of the best reasons to follow Kio on Twitter.

Sue vs. Hasegawa

Sue vs. Hasegawa aftermath

People have been saying she reminds them of Yajima from Genshiken, so Kio provided these notes.

Hasegawa Kozue, first-year Architecture and Construction major at Hashimoto Technical High School.

  • She was introduced unceremoniously to Hashikko Ensemble, but she has such a powerful presence that she became one of the central characters. She became the group’s conductor so easily that she feels broken.
  • She’s the only one who can fight Sue toe-to-toe.
  • Despite being only a 1-dan in Judo, she can toss her 2-dan older brothers (and others of that level) around with ease.
  • She sometimes acts as the author’s avatar.

Ogiue! Kio practiced drawing Ogiue in an older style for the Twitter introduction image at the top of this post.

Kio Shimoku has a pet turtle.

Orihara and Shion

And that’s all for this time. Look forward to next month, maybe?

The Mandalorian Season 2 Doesn’t Contradict The Last Jedi

WARNING: SPOILERS for Season 2 of The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian has managed to bring Star Wars fans together in ways I never expected. No matter which movie or trilogy is your favorite (or least favorite), or even if Star Wars has never been your cup of tea, The Mandalorian feels faithful to the heart and spirit of the franchise without being too overly bogged and down and reverential to the films. But I’ve seen a strange reaction online, mostly from people irrationally angry at Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, who attempt to use The Mandalorian to draw lines in the sand where there are none. Their goal: to push a narrative that, somehow, The Mandalorian helped fix the “wokeness” that “ruined” The Last Jedi.

The climax of Season 2 of The Mandalorian has the protagonist and his allies trapped in a situation from which there appears to be no escape from a small army of murderous droids, when suddenly a lone X-Wing docks into the Star Destroyer they’ve stormed. Out pops a mysterious hooded figure wielding a green lightsaber, who single handedly wipes out every robot soldier with awe-inspiring ease. When he reaches the Mandalorian, he reveals his face, and it’s the original hero of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, post-Return of the Jedi and more powerful than we’ve ever seen him in combat.

After this episode, Star Wars fans came out with cries of joy, but among the praises were voices that tried to twist this into some kind of admonishment of The Last Jedi’s director, Rian Johnson. According to this narrative, The Mandalorian succeeded in its portrayal of Luke where The Last Jedi failed, the latter acting more as character assassination than character development. “This is how Luke should have always been.”

The Last Jedi is my favorite of the sequel trilogy, especially because I see Episode VII: The Force Awakens as decent but overly safe and Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker as the product of abject cowardice. I also do think the stance that The Last Jedi betrayed the franchise is often disingenuous, and partly a way to push a strange right-wing agenda that is bitter at the generally liberal-leaning environment of Hollywood and entertainment media. Even so, I want to address it for one reason: It incorrectly assumes that, for whatever reason, those who enjoyed The Last Jedi would be somehow upset at Luke Skywalker being a badass.

The Last Jedi’s portrayal of Luke as a man scared to repeat his greatest mistake—training someone in the ways of the Jedi who then becomes corrupted—is indeed a stark contrast from the never-give-up attitude of his younger self, and so it’s easy to see why that older Luke can be so jarring. However, I think what Episode VIII smartly does is set up parallels between the reality of the the viewers and the story of that galaxy far, far away: the better days promised to us in decades past have not panned out, and the older generation who were supposed to lead us to prosperity and understanding could not reach that lofty goal because they were ultimately limited by the circumstances of both the world at large and their way of thinking. The idea is that Luke Skywalker is powerful, but he couldn’t do everything, and he had a breaking point.

This personal flaw in no way conflicts with his portrayal in The Mandalorian unless belief in Luke Skywalker requires him to be beyond reproach. He can still be the guy who cut through a squad of Dark Troopers and also the guy who felt such immense guilt that he banished himself to the farthest reaches of space. It reminds me of the anger people feel over criticisms of the US’s founding fathers as marred by their own racism, and it comes from what I think is the way we place our heroes, both fictional and real, onto pedestals that somehow require them to be as perfect as possible. I think it’s no coincidence that similar anger exists over actual Confederate monuments (statues that were cheaply mass-produced to take advantage of ingrained racist beliefs decades after the Civil War), or how treating Donald Trump like a messiah requires an ever increasing—and now deadly—amount of suspension of disbelief.

The Mandalorian itself encourages the idea that one’s deep-seated beliefs may not always align with the truth. When the Mandalorian himself meets others of his kind, he finds out that the sacred vow he took is not one universal to those of Mandalore, but the product of a particular extremist sect. In this respect, while Luke Skywalker does get his moment at the season finale, the greater show also discourages unwavering loyalty purely based on tradition and dogma. Ultimately, the argument that his appearance as symbolic of a push against Rian Johnson is little more than posturing, and is yet another attempt to create outrage at perceived enemies of an archaic and dangerous form of traditionalism.

Mogusa-san Finds New Success on Twitter

Amid these uncertain times, a strange success story involving one of my current favorite manga artists has emerged over the past few weeks. 

Ootake Toshimoto, author of Mogusa-san and Teasobi, has been drawing a comic series titled 1 Iine 1 Yen de Bangohan o Taberu Harapeko Joshi, or in English, Hungry Girl Eats Dinner Where 1 Like Equals 1 Yen. The premise: Minori Mogusa, the perpetually hungry heroine of Mogusa-san, is in a situation where she gets 1 yen for every Twitter like. Then, she’s supposed to use the amount earned in each comic on her next dinner. In the first strip above, she has 0 yen, so she’s “air-eating.” 

But while the expectation was that she’d get maybe a few hundred likes, and could build a meal based off of that, reality panned out very differently.

The first comic received 70,155 likes. 1 yen is about 1 cent USD, so that’s about $700. Mogusa freaks out.

The second comic received 115,117 likes, or about $1,150. Below is Mogusa gorging herself on 200 pieces of expensive fatty tuna (as well as some salmon roe) in one sitting. 

By the next comic, a rule was implemented so that the ratio would be 10 likes = 1 yen in certain situations to keep things reasonable.

Not only have these manga strips been cute and hilarious, but it’s giving Ootake and the character of Minori Mogusa a lot more exposure. It’s even to the point that other artists have started their own version of the 1 Like = 1 Yen dinner format. It’s fantastic. I love the hell out of the Mogusa-san manga, and I’m genuinely happy to see Ootake getting the notoriety I know he deserves. I hope this gives Ootake a lot more opportunities, and that the world will come to appreciate Mogusa as just an amazing character.

You can find all the comics in the following Twitter thread: Hungry Girl Eats Dinner Where 1 Like = 1 Yen. Bon appétit!

The Identity Crisis of Twitter

To a great many, social media is just a part of life now. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter, these websites and apps are practically glued to us due to the ever-increasing ubiquity of smartphones. But each form of social media in certain ways replicates the online communication tools of old, and I find that with Twitter in particular, its strengths and weaknesses come from being essentially a highly modular chatroom. The problem is that, while the scope of this “chatroom” can be large or small, individual users only have so much control once it gets beyond a certain size, which leads to Twitter and its users running into an identity crisis of sorts.

It’s true that if you want an absolutely private experience on Twitter, you can more or less make it happen. Set your account to private, only follow a handful of people, and maybe even communicate primarily through direct messages. You can actually just make it about you and your friends. However, there are a few aspects that limit the Twitter experience once you move past that point and want to utilize the site as most others do, which is to operate in this massive space where you can instantly search for what people are saying about any given topic.

Traditionally, chatrooms were less people-focused and more concept-focused. Even in the earliest days of AOL, you scrolled through a potential list of chats, picked one that matched your interests or desires, and then joined. Even if it was just to ask A/S/L to everyone, there was a sense that you were stepping into a shared, localized space. Web 1.0 had this feeling in general. With Twitter, you are essentially your own chatroom moderator, and it’s up to you to constantly manage who you want to listen to and who you want to interact with. This kind of customization certainly has its merits, as it lets you really control your experience on Twitter to a certain degree, but having to potentially police your own twitter feed constantly is practically a recipe for decision fatigue. A user doesn’t have to care that much, but that can lead to the next problem: if you choose to take a relatively hands-off approach, that means you can’t control the people who are peering inside.

A common story of many a Twitter faux pas is that a user (often a fairly prominent one) treats their very public and well-known account like it’s still a small, localized experience when things have in fact changed. This person might be using in-jokes that appear crass or downright offensive to outsiders, but is considered to be innocuous teasing by their more immediate circle. They might even get called out by their followers for those words and asked to apologize, and those followers might even have a point. Even so, it can feel like there’s a disconnect between what this particular user thinks is their Twitter experience (shooting the breeze with friends) and what the users at large think is the Twitter experience (a public forum where any and every statement hangs in the air for all to see).

Consider two scenarios of a person in real life who says something racist, not expecting it to be an issue, only to be reprimanded by someone listening. In scenario #1, it’s a private setting where a friend is warning this person that what they’re saying is messed up, and they need to watch how they think and use words. In scenario #2, it’s an open space where everybody’s listening and a stranger shouts down the speaker for being so damn racist. Both cases involve someone rightly pointing out racist speech and that it needs correcting, but there’s a fundamentally different experience between someone who says something around those with whom they’re familiar and while surrounded mostly by strangers. The issue with Twitter is that it can seem like the former on the surface, only for a user to discover that it’s been a public square all along. The perception of extremely public vs. relatively private space explodes and collapses in a way that doesn’t happen when you actively search for servers and chatrooms on IRC or the more modern Discord.

I believe that this folding of public and private on Twitter is also what makes harassment on the platform especially insidious. It’s no secret that certain groups (especially the alt-right) have learned to almost weaponize Twitter’s idiosyncratic behavior. They can make a statement, “innocently” @ another user, and sit back and let their followers dog-pile that user. They can search out people who are discussing a topic, and attack total strangers in their replies. Users might want to interact through Twitter as if they’re just talking to their friends and acquainances, but the search function makes it possible to seek out holders of different opinions and try to verbally abuse them. It’s all too easy to find someone you disagree with on Twitter, and to see them as the enemy.

Chatrooms aren’t and weren’t ever peaches and rainbows. They come with their own hosts of problems, from power-abusing moderators to the active nurturing of toxic spaces by users if they should so choose. I used to be part of a chatroom or two where there were some people with gigantic chips on their shoulders—folks who seemed a little too trigger-happy with their hostilities. I remember a time where I talked about my surprise that a couple of anime voice actors were married to each other, only to get shouted at about how I must be one of those shallow folks obsessed with following the frivolous minutiae of celebrities (but of course said in a much less polite way). I thought the guy was being an asshole, but I also went into that chat knowing that this was a possibility, and that I was ready to fight back and call him out on being unnecessarily angry. Not everyone is willing or should be willing to have to fend off trolls and angry mobs, but Twitter’s public/private collapse makes that fight all the more inevitable for anyone discussing a controversial topic.

I’ve been on Twitter for over ten years now, but I’ve come to realize that I’ve reduced my utilization of its chatroom-esque qualities a long time ago. I still do communicate with friends and mutuals to an extent, but a lot of it is me shouting into the wind and seeing what sticks. Much like this blog here, I use it as a place to experiment with an express thoughts and ideas. Analyzing this shift in Twitter behavior, I think it’s largely because a certain degree of distance is necessary. Those who jump onto Twitter with bleeding hearts inevitably attract sharks. But while there were always sharks, even among the islands of Web 1.0 and 2.0, the social media age means being surrounded by potential predators on all sides.

Spirit vs. Letter in Social Media Harassment Policies

Social media platforms have been under fire by critics recently due to the way they’ve let radical groups take advantage of their platforms to attack and discredit others. People on Twitter are harassed, receiving death threats and worse, yet their harassers remain unbanned. Facebook has suffered from the inundation of fake news created by Russian propagandists, as well as racist advertising using their own ad system. A recent article by Sarah Wachter-Boettcher, titled “Facebook treats its ethical failures like software bugs, and that’s why they keep happening,” argues that Facebooks’s approach lacks a true human dimension, and fails to account for the subtle and nuanced ways that people end up using social media. In other words, using a wack-a-mole method to deal with this ignores, unintentionally or otherwise, the underlying issue of people being attacked online.

I concur with this sentiment, but would like to add something. It’s not just that treating problems like racist ad targeting as bugs or glitches is the wrong way to go, but that trying to govern social media platforms with hard and fast rules creates a rigid system that inevitably lends itself to loopholes that can be exploited.

I recently had a few discussions with friends and acquaintances, all programmers and software engineers. In one discussion, I had a small debate with a friend, who argued that laws should not be open to interpretation—what says, goes, ideally. Having “wiggle room” makes things messy. In another, the subject of self-driving cars came up. Among many of the programmers (but not all, mind), there was a shared stance that giving humans more control than self-driving cars would be to open up the efficient and organized traffic of the future to the unpredictable and poor decision-making of the average driver. Additionally, any problems that occur due to the incompleteness of the self-driving AI could be solved after they arise.

I don’t mean to stereotype programmers as all having a certain way of thinking or a certain set of beliefs (you’ll find them on all sides of the political spectrum, for example), but there’s a certain desire for the human-created mechanics of the world to make consistent, logical sense that I find common to programmers—i.e. the main people driving social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter behind the scenes. A faith (or perhaps desire) in these systems, and the idea that they can just increase the granularity of their rules, instead of trying to take a more humanistic direction, leads to holes that can be exploited.

No matter what parameters Twitter puts in for defining harassment, people will always find ways to attack others without “technically” breaking the rules. This, I believe, is the reason so many people appear to be unjustly banned while other accounts that spew hate and encourage online attacks can manage to stay active. One side is likely ignorant of rules X, Y, and Z, while the other deftly skirts them. Intent, something that requires a closer analysis, is left by the wayside.

Krang T. Nelson, a Twitter user named after a certain cartoon warlord from Dimension X, recently tested these limits. In a Vice article, Nelson describes how he decided to troll white supremacists by crafting the most intentionally absurd tweet possible, about “antifa supersoldiers” planning on beheading white parents and small business owners. Not only was it a clearly tongue-in-cheek call-out of alt-right talking points, it was also loaded with buzzwords that white nationalists actively look for. Nelson then discusses how the white nationalist movement understands the ways to take advantage of Twitter’s policies, and that they used this knowledge to get him (temporarily) banned over a facetious remark. Here, we see clear evidence that the groups known for Twitter harassment also know how to exploit its technicalities and parameters for their own ends.

Adhering to the letter and not the spirit of policies and laws is what fuels the abuse of online social platforms. Having actual people at all levels checking to see how Twitter, Facebook, etc. are being used, and relying not on hard and fast rules, is where things need to change. Granted, having “wiggle room” in rules means they can be exploited in a different way, but overly strict interpretations are also clearly not working.