Sure as Tax Day and hurricane season, Meltdown May has arrived. A whole month at the height of spring when you’re guaranteed to see people lose their shit online. Will you keep your cool? Only if you log off till June — and we know that’s not gonna happen.
“Oh, great,” you’re saying. “Another weird internet culture thing that like a dozen alcoholic dirtbags with bad posture and drinking problems would ever care about.” Wrong! Meltdown May is to be enjoyed by everybody — well, except for the people melting down — and I’m going to explain it as simply as possible for the uninitiated.
What do you mean by “meltdown”?
You know how, as soon as you refresh Twitter, you see a post from someone who’s mad online? It’s a natural thing: they saw something that pissed them off, either a bad take or a reply to a dumb comment they made, and they’re venting that anger in a way that usually makes them look mildly preposterous. Now, when someone’s really mad, that can trigger a full-on meltdown, which tends to be marked by prolific posting, not letting shit go, and a general dissolution into hysterics. For an exemplary case, look at Ed Krassenstein, some thirsty rando who, along with his twin Brian, spends each day on Twitter yelling that Trump is bad so they can get lots of likes and be viral or whatever. His style is pretty unhinged already, but sometimes you get pointed tantrums like this:
Complaining that you haven’t been verified while another, verified account is making fun of you in their display name is close to meltdown territory, yet Ed does us one better. See, Ed likes to aggregate political headlines that suggest trouble for the Trump administration with the exclamations like “BREAKING” and, especially, “BOOM!” A few observers have ribbed him for this. In response, he entered total meltdown mode:
This, to me, is the essence of the meltdown — overreaction to the slightest provocation.
Why is May the month for meltdowns?
Hard to say! I’m tempted to blame the explosions of pollen and animal horniness that we traditionally associate with the time following a winter thaw. As temperatures rise, so does our inclination toward heated and ultimately ridiculous rhetoric. With weeks to go before summer vacations or even Memorial Day barbecues, we are antsy for release. Those who can’t stand the tension unburden themselves by flipping the fuck out, while the rest of us maintain by laughing at them. That laughter keeps the meltdowns going.
From what I can tell, 2018 marks the fourth official Meltdown May, which solidified as an accepted phenomenon in May of 2015. Few references predate this heady period, during which it seems a since-vanished Meltdown May account showcased screenshots of various public meltdowns, delighting its audience and further enraging its targets.
But don’t people have meltdowns year-round on Twitter?
Absolutely. You may recall that in June 2017, journalist Kurt Eichenwald tweeted a photo which led to speculation — due to a telling open tab on his internet browser — that he masturbates to hentai, or anime porn. Embarrassing, sure, but Kurt didn’t do himself any favors by then spinning a wild tale as to the perfectly innocent reason he’d been looking at the niche adult site. Thus was his meltdown forever enshrined in Twitter lore.
Likewise, April is not without earlybird meltdowns. Check out this tasty vegan drama:
Indeed, with MSNBC host Joy Reid bizarrely claiming that hackers had altered an archived version of her old blog to add homophobic content (instead of simply apologizing and letting the news cycle move on) as Kanye West returned to Twitter to praise Trump’s “dragon energy,” many commentators declared that Meltdown May had begun early this year. Amazingly, however, Kanye’s worst take in this meltdown cycle — that American slaves had a “choice” in the matter — landed with a thud on May 1, as if to officially kick off the celebration. Afterward, he didn’t let up for a moment, comparing himself to Harriet Tubman and sharing a quote falsely attributed to her.
This is known as “tweeting through it,” and it’s an integral part of most big meltdowns. Eventually, as Kanye has demonstrated before, you can delete it all or deactivate.
What other meltdowns does this month have in store?
Half the fun is not knowing. But as Meltdown May is more a state of mind than a verifiable fact — it can strike at any point on the calendar — it also serves to manifest the chaos. Think of May as a vision board upon which to project the ideal meltdowns. Maybe you’d be into New York Times limpdick Ross Douthat trying to retroactively edit the opinion column where he legitimized the violent misogynists known as “incels.”
Or perhaps you’d like to see Rudy Giuliani botch his talking points on Sean Hannity’s show not two weeks after joining the president’s legal team. Mmmmmm, melty!
And, as ever, we can count on the leader of the free world to have at least one meltdown a day, in addition to several each weekend. That’s his job, after all.
Isn’t all this meltdown culture a little… concerning?
You mean, should we be worried that the citizens of the world wide web have a near-universal tendency to jump the rails one in a while? I guess. But think of it this way: Everyone has a limit, and everyone has a breaking point. It’s part of being human. If you don’t know enough to put down the phone or walk away from your laptop when you reach that threshold, you’re going to pay a heavy price. Your angst is someone else’s triumph. Never give your enemy an ounce of content. As you rack up meltdowns, they become your signature and reputation. Soon you’ll have trolls prodding you into the next one just for sport. Make it through May without a major episode, though, and you might have what it takes to survive the rest of the social media age. Good luck, and godspeed.