A few weeks ago I stopped using Twitter. Cold Turkey.
I don’t think I’ve quit, just taking a sabbatical. I’ll go back sometime, but not just yet.
I’ve had a twitter account for quite a while, but like a lot of people I didn’t really know “what to do with it” or “what it was all about”. As such I didn’t really use it at all.
One day, there was something leading up to an election and I saw an article from a person who was tweeting regular updates on something (I forget what now). I decided it was something I was interested in and started to follow them. One thing led to another and I found myself with a heavily politicised twitter feed. I have several other people of interest that are non-political, but the politics stuff pretty much drowns out most of the rest.
This wasn’t really a problem as I now found myself finding other people who shared my thought (I’m NOT the only one!) and others who held differing points of view (HOW can you believe that rubbish?). As many other observers have noted though, twitter is very very good at acting as an echo chamber for your own thoughts. If you already hold a particular view, Twitter is not the place to go an be educated on alternative theories, but it is a great place to find confirmation that you are not alone and that what you think must be correct because so many other people do as well.
Politics on twitter attracts some really crazy people. They exist all up and down the spectrum. Each “side” constantly accuses the other of having the crazies, bots, shills that try to distort the “truth”, but in reality Twitter contains ALL the “truths”, it’s just that some of the wrong “truths” sneak into your carefully filtered version of it.
Over time, I found myself getting quite involved in conversations and occasional troll baiting with people. Most of the time it was “arguing” over how much we agreed with each other, or who agreed more.
The flip side was arguing with someone who had entirely locked in philosophies on things (unlike myself who is opened minded about everything). It didn’t matter what you said to them, they would either ignore you and continue repeating the same ranting mantra, or would spout some oft quoted mis-truth or ad-hominem. Clever conversational stuff.
Occasionally there would be intelligent discussions with people of alternate viewpoints, but twitter is not a good medium for such things. Short snippets of sentences force nuance aside, and needing to split a longer though over multiple tweets often leads to a fractured conversation following many branching threads that spawn from a particular part of that multi-tweet. In the end you always just seem to “agree to disagree” having felt that you put in a good innings for your team, despite the game ending in a draw.
It was the rage what done it. There is an overuse of the term “outrage” with anything regarding twitter now. Twitter is an immediate and very real-time engine for gauging peoples feelings and reactions. Where shouting at the TV was a thing, Twitter allows you to shout at the world, and of course the echo chamber of followers and followees that you have crafted is likely to amplify that same sentiment. This leads to accusations that none of those “feelings” are real, and that your disappointment over something or other has been whipped up into an outrage because of the twitter echo chamber. Perhaps there is some truth to that
For me I found the “outrage” was already *very* real. The problem was, twitter was no longer acting as a pressure release as it once had been. I was becoming aware of more and more things that upset me as twitter provides an enormous library of happenings in real time that I would not normally have been aware of, or would have only been aware of in dribs and drabs over a period of days.
Instead of giving me the feeling of release by “shouting into the crowd”, I found myself being buried in the noise and constantly thinking ahead to what even I knew was happening the next hour or day and how that even would further infuriate me. The greater awareness of what was happening and about to happen was consuming me.
So I changed my password to some complex random one that I saved away and that effectively locked me out. I figured a week break would be a good start.
A week later I hopped back on to see how thing were. The first tweet I saw was Joe Hockey being a dick to which I responded… realised that I was still raging, and reset the password again.
I have conflicting feelings about the need to be aware of the crap I feel the country is currently being put through against the ability I have to do anything about it anyway. Twitter isn’t going to change anyones mind about anything. It’s not going to convince a politician they are being a dick.
I will return to twitter. I will probably need to cull a lot of the “political” people I follow. That would be a shame as there are some great non-political discussions I have with a lot of those people, but the politics will still keep popping up. The outrage is very real, and it’s hard to hide from it.