First I should probably dispel the widely-accepted notion that I was “harassed” off of Twitter. The truth is, I deleted my account on a whim, and I un-deleted my account on a whim. There was no grand plan in either direction, which I’m not proud of, because that’s not a good way to do business.
It did have to do with Ta-Nehesi Coates, however, and also the wider discussion of what we gain from using Twitter in the first place. I woke up the morning of December 20th to a fervent discussion regarding Ta-Nehisi Coates’s decision to leave “The Hellsite”, as it has become known to many who use it, and all I could think was, why does his decision need to be significant? The misery of the Twitter experience was no longer worth any potential benefits to Coates, so he left.
And then, in a moment of epiphany, I realized that Twitter was a massive source of unhappiness for me, as well. It wasn’t like I was getting tons of bile in my mentions, or at least any more than I usually do, but rather there was the unhappiness concurrent with the act of using Twitter. Half of my timeline is impotent rage at the state of the world, and the other half is about the attendant misery of simply being on Twitter.
And I wondered, why am I doing this to myself? Why is anyone doing this to themselves? So I deleted it. It’s pretty telling that I un-deleted it to complain about The Discourse surrounding the Golden Globes. For Christ’s sake, we call it “The Hellsite” – why are we spending so much time and energy on a platform we have nicknamed according to the widely-accepted pain and misery that come with its use?
The flipside of this is, of course, that it doesn’t matter. Twitter’s user base is so large that no mass act of protest, let alone one user, will yield any change. Nothing will. Misery and anger is baked into the very coding of the platform at this point, because misery and anger means engagement, and engagement is Twitter’s endgame.
It’s also fallacious to act like Twitter is a tool I can really afford to throw away on a whim.
But I think it’s also useful for everyone, not just me, to reevaluate how we use Twitter. It does turn into a compulsion, almost an addiction, and I still wonder at how many hours I wasted just scrolling through my timeline, being ground down by the misery and anger everyone projects, but how doggedly determined everyone is not to leave. I’m not magically happy and enlightened all of a sudden, but I am trying to evaluate how I use the platform. It should, at the very least, not be more miserable than any potential benefits.