Lately, it feels like there has been both a wave of artists coming out of the woodwork and going viral online and various content creators and artists getting their careers derailed by past discriminatory tweets. What do these two things have in common? It seems that once these artists pop up and get some traction, they go right back into the woodwork once a handful of dutiful Twitter users uncover past incriminating tweets. Of course, this idea of "exposing" public figures is not new but it seems like it has been happening more recently. But why?
Social media has taken a turn from simply sharing what we're all doing on a daily basis. At this point, it is the easiest way for someone to try to gain some attention for their music, business, YouTube channel, etc. We've all seen those guys that shamelessly plug their SoundCloud under viral tweets. But what happens when these people get some clout and blow up? Half the time, old offensive tweets of theirs start popping up on the timeline, leaving them open to discussion. From there, people look to see if said public figure has grown up or contributed to society in ways that make it obvious they have evolved from that way of thinking.
That usually isn't the case. The cycle continues; the public figure is bombarded with their own offensive tweets and request to address it. From there, one of two things occurs. Either these people address their racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, etc. comments with genuine regret and a willingness to take responsibility or they make matters worse for themselves by framing it as something not that serious with the overrated excuse that everyone is just "too sensitive." At that point, their career is in the hands of the people.
Nowadays, the point of pulling up old tweets is not to simply bully someone into apologizing, it's to hold people with a large platform truly accountable for their statements. And in a larger sense, it serves as a teachable moment. We've all said something problematic at one point or another but the true test of our character is whether or not we can acknowledge those moments and fully understand where we went wrong. Most people are capable of that, others aren't. And of course this doesn't apply in every situation; I think racism in someone's digital past is something that is most likely still there in the present. Also, there are always the idea that people nowadays often make certain comments simply to be sensational. Most of us can catch on to that gimmick pretty quickly; those people don't get too far.
What any up-and-coming Internet star (along with the rest of us) should know is that the Internet is a self-policing entity. What you say online lives on forever in screenshots and direct messages, even if you delete it. Holding people accountable for their harmful statements isn't an obstacle in the way of free speech, it's simply a way of challenging the type of thinking that directly harms minorities and vulnerable communities. Think before you tweet, y'all.