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.