Only one incident in recent memory has made me want to rage quit off of Twitter, bury my smartphone in a ditch and move to a country with an internet penetration rate of less than 50%. During the past week, young and woke protectors of the vulnerable, trashed and attempted to cancel internet personality Gabbie Hanna.
In all of my years of writing, I never expected to be rushing to defend Gabbie Hanna, but here we go.
Before I begin: Gabbie Hanna is annoying, not a very good singer and sometimes even mildly of- fensive or blissfully unaware of herself. But her actions this week, which inspired the internet’s ire, were mildly ignorant at worst and partially truthful at best.
Hanna replied to a Tweet, asking how the internet felt about tone indicators saying: “Y’all are doing too much.”
I, like most people, was seemingly unaware of what a tone indicator even is. Tone indicators are abbreviations used on the internet to help readers fill in the blanks and imply tone, like /j for joking or /lh for lighthearted. These indicators are used by those who identify as neurodivergent — all for conditions such as autism or dyslexia. Tone indicators have also become frequently used by K-pop and anime fandoms, which view their use as an inclusive gesture to people in these communities and help make the internet a better place.
This movement seems sincere but has taken the wrong approach in attempting to make them more widespread.
Tone indicators may very well be a tool to help make the internet a more accessible place to navigate and maybe more appropriate and thorough than emojis, but to accuse someone of ableism upon being unaware of or dismissive of tone indicators is absurd. It is safe to say that no one outside of these specific communities has ever heard of a tone indicator, and when looking at a list of them at first glance, they seem pretty unnecessary and silly. Some opponents of tone indicators argue the attempt to universalize them contributes to the further colonization of English to other languages. No amount of tone indicators will be able to pick up the nuances in the human voice.
Instead of advocating and explaining why tone indicators might be useful, members of Generation Z have attempted to cancel Hanna for ableism, as if tone indicators have now been the set standard for so long. To them, not respecting them might as well be like wearing blackface. This marks another instance of Generation Z meaning well, but missing the mark so widely it only aids their opposition.
The New York Times wrote an article in their style section about tone indicators in December of 2020, explaining what they are, why they are used and who uses them. If this type of article is necessary to introduce what they are in December, they are certainly not ubiquitous at the end of February.
These activists, while well-intentioned, are only hurting their cause. They are aiding the likes of Ben Shapiro to be the “anti-snowflake” warrior, and no one wants that.
Tyler Spence can be contacted at [email protected]