The blogging tradition is to publicly announce to the world all your New Year’s resolutions, at which point they sink out of sight, never to be mentioned again. This year, I’m breaking that tradition in two ways; I’m waiting until mid-January before making such pronouncements to make sure they’re going to succeed in some way, and I’m only announcing one at a time.
I put a very short list of resolutions together in December that I wanted to work on in 2017. At the top of my list is reducing my use of social media, particularly Twitter. The tool I had high hopes would be a powerful tool for positive social change and direct democracy has metastasized into anything but. The biggest driver behind this is the election of the Donald as president (but #NotMyPresident!). The fact that Trump could use Twitter as his bloody pulpit, that he could digitally spew his constant corrosive stream of lies and hate to his many millions of followers (a sizable percentage of which may actually be bots) without any management by Twitter itself goes to show, paradoxically, just how little value the service holds now in the social media universe. If it was truly valuable then Twitter would have put practices, procedures and tools in place to more tightly curate and control the out-of-line users, including Trump himself. But they haven’t, and those who could bring value to Twitter through their participation have been driven away, some publicly, but most privately.
An example of what’s wrong with Twitter (besides Trump) is what happened to Leslie Jones, co-star of the new Ghost Busters (which I liked) and her abuse by Milo Yiannopoulos, one of the “alt-right’s” poster boys. Here, in one story, are all the elements that make participation on Twitter so toxic: hate speech, racism, misogyny, white supremacy, white entitlement… And what happened? Yiannopoulos, who had had a number of prior run-ins and temporary Twitter bans, was finally permanently banned in July 2016. But not before inciting quite a bit of destructive (to Twitter primarily) hate tweets directed at Jones. And all the while this was happening, Trump was dumping his Twitter drivel, one tweet at a time, to the perverted delight of his followers…
Twitter is a free service, the only requirement being I put up with “promoted” ads injected into my timeline (which I’ve diligently marked them all as irrelevant, and which seems to have slowed their appearance). This marks my second appearance with the service. The first time was as a lark back in the very late aughts, and after about two years of aimless wondering through the Twitter hinterland I deleted the account. I came back into the Twitter fold back in February 2011 as @wbeebe4, and I’ve hung out there ever since. Now I’ve decided to move away again, but this time I’m just walking away. Rather than delete the account I’ve clicked the “Tweet privacy” checkbox to protect my tweets and keep the bots and twitter influencer wannabes from following. Which reminds me of another major dislike of Twitter, the formalization of media whoredom as influencer following.
I’ve enjoyed being away from Twitter since Christmas. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to using it to the same level I did before the November elections. Perhaps, as 2017 progresses, and the Trump presidency grows even worse than I believe it will be, I’ll be driven completely away from Twitter. My exit certainly won’t bring Twitter down, but it certainly won’t help keep Twitter up. It may come to pass that I actively become part of some movement that helps move Twitter along into total irrelevancy and its final complete failure. Twitter no longer deserves to succeed, let alone exist. The stewardship of Twitter by those who supposedly created it, and should thus care the most about it, has been almost totally non-existent. It’s best to let it finish its slow-motion collapse and to move on, hopefully to something far better.