When I first got on Twitter it was like usenet in the 90s. Just a bunch of people talking shit about things that they enjoyed. It was small enough that everyone seemed to know each other, but large enough that there were still interesting nerdy people to find and get to know and enjoy the company of. The perfect little club.
But at some point it went horribly wrong.
Because fast forward a decade and an average day on Twitter is witnessing virulent transphobia, arguing with literal nazis, and spending resulting time blocking all those fucks and their followers and living in an echo chamber of increasingly terrible news and bad memes recycled from Reddit.
Where did the fun go?
When did it stop being fun? Was it ever fun? It must have been at one point. I've got those happy memories. I wouldn't lie to myself, surely?
In retrospect, a single giant character-limited IRC server that you can't split up into more interesting channels was a fucking terrible idea. But we went with it, because it was an interesting way to hear from random new people and see what they were talking about.
That cross-pollination of views that you might never have heard before is still Twitter's amazing core feature. I learned so much about intersectional justice from the people on it. I heard disabled people's voices. I saw the world from the point of view of women of colour. I saw political issues that I'd never been aware of before.
But lurking behind those vitally interesting points of view is a host of people ready to push the kindness of humanity through the mincer with their keyboards.
Actual nazis, people who call for trans people to be eliminated, anti-semites, conspiracy theorists, are all tolerated on Twitter. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, has set his site up as a free-speech communication platform and despises the idea of having to moderate the giant anarchic chat room that he owns. Moderation means liability and Twitter has got share prices to think about.
But it's not just the right-wing fucks who have destroyed twitter. There's a anime-gang of kids who mob people with an unwoke point of view, screaming at them until they agree. Even those on the left will be mobbed by them if they make an error. On Twitter you're no longer allowed to learn gradually - it's either get woke immediately, or fuck off. Mistakes will not be tolerated - you're blocked. (You're perhaps going to write me off as a liberal fuck for that, but hey, I think education is just as important as anger. Yeah well, fuck you if you disagree (haha, lol) - if we'd educated people, and advocated our vision for what life could be away from the systems that oppress us all, maybe we wouldn't have Brexit and Trump fucking up people's lives right now).
Oh look, squirrel!
Distressingly, Twitter seems to have robbed me of my ability to deal with long form content. I no longer read blog posts, something that used to bring me real pleasure. I can no longer write more than 280 characters without getting fidgety and bored. I pride myself on loving text and video works - when did I become someone who became irritated that someone posted a 2 minute Youtube link instead of a 3 second gif?
I’ve spent some time recently on Mastodon, and while its just as irritating as Twitter, at least it made me see the cult of celeb that exists on the tweetosphere. Mastodon (currently) eschews that attitude, and its like a breath of fresh air. Sadly Mastodon is also filled with those determined to enjoy the errors of others. The recent mobbing of Will Wheaton (a cis man that I have no particular care for) on Mastodon was ugly. People enjoyed tearing him down. Mastodon isn't an escape hatch from Twitter's anger.
Most importantly, Twitter is absolutely destroying my mental health. The constant stream of bad news and snark is taking its toll (we never post good news anymore, do we? We've become the traditional media that we love to despise). I find myself looking at awful accounts, that I don’t follow (search Twitter for "glinner" to get a taste), just to dose upon anger. How did it get to this? Life is too short for anger.
I’m therefore taking a bit of a break from Twitter. I’m not going to disappear completely. I’ll still syndicate interesting articles here from my bookmarks feed and blog. I’ll probably check my mentions regularly, at least at first. I might even reply occasionally! (I’ll definitely not disappear completely for a year like I’ve done before). But the time for living on Twitter (and Mastodon) is over. I've deleted the apps from my phone, I've put time limits on when I can access the websites.
See you all. Be happier. x
📝 Social media has become death by a thousand angry micro-posts. Maybe it's time to get away.