I’ve been avoiding this subject for a while now. I had a feeling I would eventually have to address it at some point. I would’ve like to wait until the new year. But lately, I’ve been feeling a greater sense of urgency.
I doubt that’ll surprise anyone because it has to do with Twitter.
If you’ve been following the news surrounding Twitter lately, you probably understand why that is. To call it a chaotic trainwreck would be a gross and generous understatement. It’s gotten to a point now that waiting for things to settle is akin to waiting for pink elephants to fly down from Mars.
I don’t want to get too heavily into all the drama surrounding Twitter, as an organization, since Elon Musk purchased the company for $44 billion. If you want an in-depth overview of that affair, there are plenty of sources more qualified than me to cover it. Thus far, I’ve found this video by the Wall Street Journal to be the most comprehensive.
Beyond the business side of things, there’s the state of the site and service itself. I’ve been on Twitter since 2010. I’ve been using it extensively since then, both as a communication tool and a source of information. Whenever I’m waiting for a new movie trailer or major news to drop, Twitter is my go-to source. Usually, it starts trending before a major news outlet reports on it.
Granted, that sometimes means unfounded rumors start to trend as well. It also means I end up following false information for a time, especially when there are conflicting reports about an event or subject. But for years now, that has been my primary means of consuming news and information. It’s also my primary means of interacting with friends I’ve made, usually regarding comics, movies, video games, etc.
I don’t deny there have been issues over the years. At times, Twitter has been a problem in the sense that I either use it too much or I waste too much time trying to make sense of certain trends or threads. But for the most part, I’ve felt that the positives outweighed the negatives.
That changed recently.
Over the past couple of months, since Musk began his overhaul of Twitter, I’ve sensed a shift in overall experience of the site. It feels like Twitter has become less and less ordered, with respect to managing content and toxic trends. The safeguards that existed before Musk were far from perfect, but they were at least tolerable. Now, I’m not so sure.
I’m seeing more and more instances of people just being unrestrained assholes on Twitter. Behavior that once got people banned or suspended are now becoming distressingly common. I’m not just talking about instances of excessive profanity, racial slurs, or bigotry. The messages and content are so egregiously hateful and antagonistic that it’s painting a nasty picture of people, in general.
Now, I’m well-aware that there are some pretty toxic places on the internet. I’m also aware that people will say horrible, disgusting things when they can hide behind the cloak of anonymity. I’ve been to places like 4chan, message boards, and comments sections in fringe news outlets. The kinds of things people say in those spaces is so over-the-top awful that you do have to take a step back, take some deep breaths, and calm yourself before you say or do something foolish in response.
But those spaces tend to be small and concentrated in nature. You don’t usually see those things in places that also stream mainstream news content. Well, in this emerging state within Twitter, I’m seeing this sort of stuff more and more. It hasn’t quite gotten to the same level as your typical 4chan post, but it’s trending in that direction. And personally, I have no desire to see how close it gets to that level.
This has left me at a bit of a crossroads.
I am seriously considering quitting Twitter altogether.
I don’t think I’ll delete my account completely, since it does contain things I hope others would find useful. But at the very least, I’m weighing the benefits of simply stepping away from its platform because its current state is just too difficult to navigate. I worry that if I keep using it as often as I have over the years, my overall faith in humanity will suffer as a result. There’s only so many hateful, bigoted, whiny trolling I can handle before I start to think less of the human species, as a whole.
My faith in humanity has already taken a severe hit in recent years. Between the COVID-19 Pandemic and the current state of politics, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to believe in the inherent goodness of people as a whole. I know that’s dangerous. I also know that Twitter offers a very small sample of human discourse. It’s not even top 5 in terms of social media sites. In general, it presents a very flawed perspective in terms of humanity as a whole. It also, by design, tends to amplify the most extreme, fringe voices.
That’s a good enough reason for many to leave Twitter altogether. I already know some who have, including a few public figures.
However, there are a few things that keep me hesitant to leave Twitter entirely. As bad as it has become, it is still undeniably useful in many regards. In terms of keeping up with news, especially with comics and movies, it still beats many other social media platforms in terms of getting quick, raw information on specific topics of interest. So long as those topics aren’t too politically charged, you can usually avoid the more toxic side of the site.
On top of that, some good friends of mine that I’ve met through comic book message boards, Reddit, and my YouTube channel are on Twitter and that’s the only way I can interact with them. I’ve even reached out to a few to see if they’re reachable on other platforms. Some are, but others aren’t and I genuinely don’t want to lose those connections.
I also feel like I can mitigate part of the toxic experience by simply avoiding the trending topics, especially when there’s politics involved. Doing so does take more will-power than it used to. Sometimes, you curiosity does get the better of you. It also requires you to use the mute and block functions more often. But that can be tedious at times. It can also mean that you craft your own little echo-chambers, which is not at all healthy.
At the moment, I would really prefer not to quit Twitter, if only because it’s still so useful as a tool for news and information of a certain variety.
At the same time, I don’t like the current trend it’s on. I also don’t like how it’s being managed and developed. If it continues its current path, it’ll become more and more populated by the kinds of extreme, radical voices that have made so many other places on the internet and social media untenable. And I have no desire to be part of any online space of that nature. I don’t need that kind of toxicity coloring my view of people, the world, or various issues.
I just hope it doesn’t come to that.
For now, I’m still going to remain on Twitter. However, I’m also actively looking for alternatives that are just as useful and can easily be adopted by my friends. If I do find one that’s just as good as what Twitter used to be, then that makes the decision to leave a lot easier. Until then, the best I can do is be more cautious and mindful of how I navigate Twitter.
If anyone has any insights or advice on this matter, please share it in the comments. I’m certainly open to input and insight, especially for those wrestling with a similar decision. If and when I do decide to leave Twitter, I’ll be sure to announce it on this site and provide information to anyone else who still wishes to follow me.
Tales From The Comments Section: When Hypocrisy, Lying, And Trolling Converge
Even the most luxurious palace has a septic system that contains its foulest shit. It’s not just a fact of life. It might as well be a law of physics. In the same way the brightest light still casts a shadow, there’s always a dark underbelly to any world we explore.
The internet is no exception. If anything, the internet has more dark underbellies than most and I’m not just referring to porn sites or nefarious Google searches. Those are all plenty disturbing, but if the internet has an overflowing septic tank, it’s the collective comments section of many sites.
They’re not just the comments section to certain news sites.
They’re not just anonymous image boards like 4chan that pride themselves on excess shit-posting.
Even the comments section of mainstream websites like YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit have comments sections that will give your faith in humanity a hefty gut punch. They come in many forms, but they tend to follow the same patterns.
They’re degrading, insulting, whiny, vulgar, immature, and just plain wrong on multiple levels. I’m not calling for them to be censored or banned, outside the kind of comments that incite violence in the real world. I’m just pointing out that this is the ugly side of the internet and we can’t deny its stench.
I say that as someone who has spent many hours, much of them wasted, in comments sections and message boards over the years. Even during the early days of the internet, complete with dial up and AOL keyword searches, I’ve seen this ugliness firsthand. I also don’t deny that there are times when I’ve contributed to it. That’s something I genuinely regret.
While all toxic comments are different, they often employ similar rhetoric. It really hasn’t changed much from the AOL days. Just the other day, I made the mistake of browsing the comments of a YouTube video. I saw the same whiny, angry ranting that I saw on old message boards in 1999.
The topics may change. The verbiage may differ. Even the arguments made, if there are any, tend to be fairly similar. I could single out plenty of ugly comments I’ve encountered. However, I want to highlight one that I’ve seen a lot more of lately, especially among fans of superhero comics, Star Wars, and Star Trek.
They usually go like this.
It’s a sweeping, generalized statement. It’s usually said out of a mix of hate, resentment, and tribalism. Ironically, it’s often Star Wars fans who say stuff like this when talking about characters like Rey. It’s ironic because Obi-Wan Kanobi himself once said, “only a Sith deals in absolutes.”
It doesn’t help that these kinds of absolutes are total bullshit encased in wishful thinking that’s built entirely around head-canon. Certain fans want to believe that everyone agrees with them and those who don’t aren’t “true” fans.
It’s basically the old “no true Scotsman” fallacy, but this one is laced with a mix of lies and hypocrisy. That’s because it’s demonstrably provable that these kinds of sweeping statements are wrong.
Not everyone hates Rey, Captain Marvel, or whoever else is the object of resentment at the moment. For one, Captain Marvel’s movie raked in $1 billion at the box office. Clearly, more than a few people liked her.
The same can be said for Rey. You can go onto Amazon and readily find merchandise featuring her. She may not be on the same level as Luke Skywalker, but that’s not a reasonable bar for a character who has only recently entered the franchise.
I can also attest that Rey has plenty of fans. It’s not just that I’m one of them. I’ve been to comic book conventions. I’ve seen women, young girls, and even a few men dress up as Rey. I’ve seen even more dress up as Captain Marvel. She clearly has plenty of fans.
That makes the whole idea that “nobody likes this character” or “everyone hates this character” demonstrably false. Those who say it aren’t just lying trolls. They’re hypocrites.
Now, I’ve made the mistake of arguing with these people before. I can safely conclude that it’s not a productive use of my time. These people will never be dissuaded. They still want to live in their head-canon where everyone hates exactly who they hate and anyone who thinks otherwise is just part of an evil conspiracy out to get them.
It’s a dangerous, toxic mentality that extends beyond fandoms and into politics. We saw just how bad it could get on January 6th during the Capitol riots. I’m not saying angry Star Wars fans are that bad, but the mentality is the same and it’s just as dangerous.
Again, I freely admit I’ve posted my share of dumb comments. I’ve said dumb things before, as well. Everyone has. We’re only human. We’re not perfect and never will be. I believe in free speech strongly and I understand that this is a byproduct of that. I’m willing to accept that.
I’m also willing to use that same freedom to point out the idiocy and hypocrisy of those kinds of comments. They’re not just a useless waste of bandwidth. They’re a symptom of a much larger problem. For now, the best thing to do is ignore these people and let them live in their fanciful head-canon. It may not fix the problem, but it’ll keep it from getting worse.
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Tagged as 4chan, angry trolls, Brie Larson, Captain Marvel, comic books, comments, Gina Carano, human nature, human psychology, hypocrisy, internet, internet subculture, Pop Culture, popular culture, psychology, rants, Reddit, Rey, Star Trek, Star Wars, superhero comics, trolls, YouTube, YouTube Comments, YouTube Comments Section