No one has more nemeses than the writer Roxane Gay. Since 2011, she has tweeted blind items about various foes in a stream of captivating updates. “All last night, I visualized crushing my nemesis this weekend,” she tweeted in 2013. “My nemesis is having a good year professionally and has clear skin. It’s a lot to take,” she noted last summer.
Gay’s anonymous nemeses have become so well known that on Friday, Monica Lewinsky declared she would be dressing up as one for Halloween. “Not that i know who it is … just, ya know, generic nemesis costume,” she tweeted.
While having an opponent is nothing new, the nebulous concept of having a secret digital adversary is a more modern condition. Broadcast-based social-media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have allowed everyone to have real-time updates on other people’s biggest accomplishments, and that can make it feel as if everyone on the planet is getting married, writing a book, or winning an award. It’s easy, when you see someone leading a seemingly perfect life, to want to tear that person down.
I must reluctantly admit that my nemesis has been tweeting good stuff lately— your friend Helen (@hels) July 23, 2018
As a result, the term nemesis is having a cultural moment. Claire Fallon of HuffPost declared a “nemesis Twitter” phenomenon. More than 260,000 posts on Instagram include the hashtag #nemesis. And high-profile YouTubers have generated billions of views by declaring feuds and then creating diss tracks against their digital competitors.