I always had a love-hate relationship with Twitter. I was on, then I was off. Then I was on again. Now I’m off again. It’s never been an easy place to exist, and I’m sick of it. Now, it’s run by an egomaniac who is one part Bond villain, one part Gavin Belson from Silicon Valley. Twitter has once again shown how some people need to be taxed back to the stone age so as to prevent this kind of impulsive recklessness from happening.
Twitter has always been a minefield. Step wrong, and you could be blown to smithereens. I can say I was “cancelled” at least once, and it was not fun. Talk to me sometime about the perils of “woke” culture.
Over time, though, I learned to navigate the site better. Blocking obnoxious celebrities or otherwise verified accounts became more of a habit. Even people who I followed were often muted. Rich or poor, white or black, male or female or non-binary, Twitter is a magnet for assholes. You have to protect yourself from the unrelenting assault of bad takes.
Once Elon Musk took over, things became worse. I was not convinced he would destroy Twitter, though he is doing a good job of that so far. Nor was I worried a bunch of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers would soon find their way onto my feed.
But reading posts by those in a constant state of fear became exhausting. I was losing followers, too. I only ever had about 1,500-1,600 of them. Most of them were people with whom I never interacted on the site. Nevertheless, as Elon Musk stumbled around and smashed things up, I saw a slow bleed of my followers. What was the point of staying if I couldn’t raise my profile on this hellsite?
For a while I had a code: Trumps’ return meant I would depart. Not long after Musk took over, he let Trump back on, not to mention other Republican scum and high priests of disinformation.
Trump had been banned since the January 6 insurrection. Apparently, he has not Tweeted since his ban was lifted. For me, though, it was the principle of the thing: Trump is a traitor and mass murder. He needs to be in jail, not back on Twitter. With the announcement of Trumps’ return, it was time for me to go.
I had reached a point where I was rooting for Twitter’s demise anyway. Really, Trump should’ve been banned long before January 6, 2021. Yet I stayed on, pleased that Twitter stood up to the most dangerous man in America. Twitter’s problems, however, aren’t just a result of Elon Musk’s narcissism, mismanagement, and incompetence. Twitter has always been a dumpster fire. But it can be informative, funny, and entertaining. At times, addictive. I connected with people I would never otherwise have encountered. Some have been really cool.
On the whole, though, what annoys me about Twitter is the compulsion not just to see what is going on in the world and comment on it endlessly. No, it’s the fact that we’ve been led into the delusion of the efficacy of self-promotion.
Why are we on Twitter, really, other than to be a bunch of mini-Trumps, typing whatever brilliant (or more likely) banal thought comes into our head? Don’t we ever get sick of listening to ourselves whine, scold, and act superior?
Unfortunately, like so many things in America–whether the justice system, our government, or education and business structures–Twitter gives the illusion of democracy. Really, there are two groups in America: the rich and famous and everyone else. If you are a nobody, Twitter isn’t going to raise your profile much.
I’m the author of two books, so I felt I at least needed to be on Twitter to promote my work. I certainly made connections and hyped myself in ways impossible without social media. But how much of a difference does it make? Not much. For every person with a significant Twitter following there are equally famous counterparts who avoid social media altogether.
If you are famous, Twitter will keep you famous. If you aren’t, forget about making much of an impact. Even Instagram seems a better place to become famous for doing nothing (yes, I’m talking about all the influencers out there). America is not a meritocracy and neither is Twitter. Dumb Tweets go viral while funny and insightful posts get ignored. Complete idiots have hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers. And unlike you, they are not accessible.
Twitter’s demise might signal the demise of social media generally. How many platforms are left? I haven’t been on Facebook for years. Instagram is okay, but it’s kind of dull. I have no interest in Tick Tock or any of the other platforms that some people are fleeing to.
Even if you have learned how to navigate Twitter without injuring yourself, you will find yourself spending way too much time on it. Since leaving, I’ve done more on Instagram, but I’ve also had more energies for other things, like reading or this blog post.
Let’s face it, Twitter is not good for your brain. We weren’t made to take in so much information from so many sources in such a short span of time. What’s real, what’s not? Does this person know what he/she is talking about? What’s really happening? On Twitter, nothing ever really gets resolved.
Everyone has a voice now, and often those voices are bitter and insane. The anger of Americans—living in the wealthiest and most powerful nation in history—is visceral, constant, and unpleasant. If you are thinking of leaving Twitter, maybe you should. On Twitter, not mention social media generally, there are no real answers.
When will we learn? You were on MySpace, then you went to Facebook. Then you left FB for Twitter, Instargam, or Tick Tock. Maybe you started a blog, then stopped doing that so you could do a podcast. Then that became a part-time job and a hassle. But Twitter was always there for you, right? But like all relationships, it one day comes to an end.
Yes, you can flee to another site. But there will be people there. And people are the problem. Social media may change, but human nature is a constant.