On Josh Thole and Twitter Muscles

On Tuesday, word trickled through the Twitterverse that Mets catcher Josh Thole had quit the popular social media platform. In the midst of a miserable slump that had affected both his offense and defense, Thole was reportedly disinclined to add online insults to his list of woes. "I thought this was supposed to be fun," he said. It wasn't, so he stopped doing it.

Like most everything else involving the Mets, this entire affair was elevated to a level far above its actual import. Thole's Twitter updates were infrequent and not all that interesting, truth be told, but the fact that he'd quit struck some as evidence of a lack of mental toughness--which in turn was emblematic of the team's lack of toughness. If all of this sounds ridiculous to you, I assume you have not been around either the Mets or the Internet very long. Both things tend to inflate the mundane to apocalyptic levels of concern.

Ultimately, I believe Josh Thole's leaving of Twitter reflects nothing more than his desire to leave Twitter. I realize that no one who thinks otherwise will be swayed by what I or anyone else has to say on the subject. But if the internet is good for anything other than threatening people you've never met, it's writing Preaching to the Choir posts.

All any Mets fan should really want from Josh Thole is to play baseball well. It'd be nice if he were really funny and engaging in an online forum the way that Logan Morrison or Dirk Hayhurst are. It'd also be nice if he became our friend and came over the house on off days to grill some brats and shoot the breeze. (So I assume; he seems like a nice enough dude.) Neither of these things are his job.

It'd also be nice if the Mets, in general, were a little better at the whole social media thing. I have no concrete suggestions on how they can do that, to be honest with you. I just feel the vague sense that they don't quite get it yet, despite the high Nerd Quotient in their front office. But again, they could send out their press releases by pony express for all it matters to what's important to a baseball team, which is winning baseball games.

The internet is largely optional for a functioning human being. It's a good idea to keep up with what's going on within it, in order to be an informed member of society. But you can live without it, particularly the parts that are pure entertainment, which encompasses the vast, super-majority of social media platforms like Twitter.

There is this notion that Josh Thole "chickened out" in some way by quitting Twitter, that he is avoiding something that is his responsibility. No, he is not. He's not an elected official who should be held accountable by the public he serves. He's a baseball player. I don't care how big a fan you claim to be; no matter what he does on a baseball field, it will not actually affect your life in any appreciable way, except insofar as you allow it to rule your emotions. And if you do, that's on you, not Thole or anyone else associated with the Mets.

Plus, Thole is already accountable for his actions. He gets screamed at every time he steps to the plate, or behind it. He must face reporters' questions after a game. People yak about his failures on WFAN and post comments to newspaper websites and blogs. He faces plenty of scrutiny. If he has decided that Twitter adds another forum to his life in which he's primarily yelled at--while adding nothing else--he's totally within his rights to abandon it.

Especially when that "criticism" includes death threats. Yes, a man who is asked to hit baseballs for a living and occasionally fails to do so received death threats from anonymous online bullies. The internet is the only place where the words "I disagree with what you said/did" can be expressed as GO DIE IN A FIRE!, and complaining about that reaction makes you the bad guy. As if threats of bodily harm, no matter how rhetorically expressed, are how human beings should regularly express their opinions of one another. Some people use the internet to discover new things and connect with people across the globe. Others use it to flex imaginary muscles and intimidate people they'll never have to confront. Witness human nature.

I've been writing online for over 10 years, and rare is the week where I don't receive some kind of crappy response to my work. By crappy, I don't mean "I disagree with you and here's why". I mean non-constructive, barely literate responses of YOU SUCK! and the like. Sometimes this veers into angry/violent territory, particularly on other sites where I can get political. (Weirdly enough, talking about politics seems to set people off.)

However, I've made the decision to be a writer, and it's virtually impossible to be a writer in the 21st century and either not do it online or have some kind of online presence. I accept occasional crappiness as part of the bargain. I try not to let it bother me, though I'd be lying if I said it all rolled off my back. I unfollow people on Twitter who are needlessly negative or abusive. I steer clear of sites (or comment sections thereon) that have the same qualities.

Josh Thole's job requires him to both hit and catch 90+ mph fastballs. To me, that says he's probably pretty tough, both mentally and physically. If he doesn't feel like checking his phone and seeing it clogged with one GO KIL YRSLEF!!!1! after another, that's his business. It means nothing, except that he has other priorities. If only his would-be assassins had better things to do with their miserable lives, too.

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