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Researching #MetsTwitter: This might be difficult

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Phase one of #MetsTwitter research is complete

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

My initial attempts at researching Mets Twitter are complete, and I am here now to report and reflect on those findings. Before proceeding, it seems relevant to note I am already a little uneasy about the effect this endeavor is going to have on me. The 10 or 15 minutes I spent on Twitter on one particular day left me feeling like my brain had been supplanted by cotton balls. Clearly, I have some work to do where my expectations are concerned—more on that later.

The first thing I did was to search Twitter for the word "Mets" with neither a hashtag nor the quotation marks. I immediately realized that unless I am willing to wade through an avalanche of tweets en Francais, I had better adjust my approach: My high school French teachers would be saddened to know I had either forgotten or never learned that the French word "mets" translates to "dish" in English (there's probably a dreary LOLMets joke in there somewhere). I headed off to the next query, but not before notating my favorite absurdist French tweet:

Things got interesting when I queried "#Mets." There were several spammish Mets-merchandise tweets from a weird account that also posted workout videos, but here, too, finally, were actual Mets-related statements from actual people. It should be noted that I conducted this particular search amidst the revelation that the Mets were probably going to tender Jenrry Mejia a contract for 2016, which, as we now know, they eventually did. There were some #hottakes about it, including several tweets from distressed fans who literally used all caps to emphasize their outrage at the mere notion of resigning Mejia. By and large, fans' vitriol seemed to arise from either moral opposition to Mejia's PED use or the "cheapness" of the Wilpons. I firmly disagree with those takes, but it didn't take much effort to simply make note of them and scroll onward.

I should pause here to make a statement about objectivity. In research, as in reporting, objectivity is the ideal. But it is also impossible: The researcher is going to leave their mark on the research one way or another. This is all by way of acknowledging that whatever I’m saying here is deeply subjective. I’m comfortable with that.

What I was uncomfortable with, however, and what caught me deeply off guard, was the one-two punch of the next few tweets I encountered. The first one, still about Mejia, expressed a sincere desire for the Mets to sign him, and for him to test positive for PEDs again so that the "idiot front office" might learn a lesson. The tweet hit me hard. I had been so naive. The person who tweeted that was astonishing in both their eloquence and their ability to get under my skin: They had managed, in the space of 140 characters, to say something that gradually proceeded from callous and repugnant to astonishing and absurd. It was the sourest word cocktail I had consumed in a very long time, and I, fighting the urge to take the person to task, needed to log off for a while.

I came back for another round of research a day later and a little while after Sandy Alderson had been named Executive of the Year by Baseball America. I was guarded about what I would find, certainly, but otherwise fully recovered from the violent disgust I had felt the day before. I typed "#Mets" in the search bar, tapped the Enter button on my keyboard, and saw the thing that nearly dismantled my resolve about the entire project. It was a link to an article someone had written on their blog that went to great lengths to assert that Alderson had, in fact, had a flat-out bad year in 2015.

I was stunned. Had I stumbled into an alternate universe in which the 2015 New York Mets hadn't gone to the World Series? Certainly, I could see how someone might criticize some of the moves Alderson made this year. I could also imagine how someone might argue that a different GM should have won the award, if one was particularly inclined to give a damn about such a thing. But no: This person went to 500-word pains to claim that Sandy Alderson had done a bad job by putting together the 2015 National League Champions. Silent and invisible volcanoes erupted in my chest as I furiously typed out a scathing, sarcastic rebuttal tweet. I paused, thought better of it, and deleted it. The impulse to reason with madness rumbled up again like lava, and I typed out another retort, only to delete it, too. I probably repeated this process two or three more times before I finally gave up and walked away, having not said a word.

When you drill down deep enough on anything, whether it's an object or an idea, it ceases to resemble itself in its whole form; it seems to become something else entirely. Sometimes it stops making any sense at all, like what happens to a word when you repeat it over and over and over. Similarly, one can parrot the "what for?" question as it pertains to people's motivations on Twitter—Mets Twitter being no exception—until one is left thinking that none of the conceivable reasons for tweeting have any meaning other than to satisfy the basic human need for attention. The temptation there is to view that realization in a cynical light—"pathetic needy animals, we are"— but such an interpretation is not necessarily correct, let alone inevitable. Humans do, in fact, need to be paid attention to, to admittedly varying degrees. Like other needs and characteristics observed among human beings, the need to be noticed exists in a continuum, and presents differently at different times in each of us. Some people are content remaining practically invisible, while others will go to incredible lengths to secure others' attention. It can all feel quite shallow; but it also reminds one, perhaps, of our basic human frailty. We are not impervious, and we are not infallible; indeed, we have needs. We are flawed. I would venture that each of us could probably relate on that elemental level.

And so perhaps Mets Twitter, like the Mets and their accomplishments and tribulations, is both meaningless and profoundly meaningful, and its various artifacts, pugnacious and benign alike, are mere permutations of that paradoxical and basic truth. Of course, there's the other angle—the one that resonates with me after this first round of research: With apologies to Kurt Vonnegut, Twitter, Mets Twitter, and whatever it is I'm doing in particular, is pretty much just a whole lot of farting around.