Twitter is toxic, delete your account.
I will, of course, be sharing this on Twitter as soon as I hit the publish button.
And there’s the problem. Is it possible to be engaged with current affairs without engaging on social media?
I don’t know. And let’s be fair, Twitter does has some positives.
It enables ideas not represented by the mainstream media to disseminate. By the time regular journalists pluck up the courage to deal with an issue, it will already have picked up momentum and been thrashed to pieces on social media and in the blogosphere. At which point, mainstream commentators will note that there’s enough support for a previously off-limits position that they can cautiously begin to advocate for it.
The clearest recent example of this is the debate in the UK around transgender activism and gender self-identification. Online, a sprawling coalition of radical feminists, conservatives, contrarians, and—to put it simply—people who deal in common sense, weathered threats and name-calling, and questioned (with logic and good intent) whether the new tenets of the trans activist movement were fit to be implemented.
Eventually, people in the mainstream media took notice, or put aside their cowardice, and started dealing with the issue, and it seems like finally the bubble will burst and trans issues can be discussed more critically.
So, Twitter helped enable that, providing a medium by which to break down politically correct stonewalling.
Twitter can affiliate people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to organise, and it can provide a means by which to challenge the dominant media message, acting as an outlet and exchange for subversive and unorthodox thinking.
But, for my money, these benefits are greatly outweighed by the negatives.
During a recent conversation on The Rubin Report, neuroscientist and public intellectual Sam Harris put it like this,
“It’s a kind of hallucination machine, where you begin to think you need to pay attention to certain voices that in the real world you would never see”
Referring to controversial engagements he’s had on Twitter, he states,
“The net result has always been that you’re getting back to zero if you’re lucky”
And he also remarks,
“You become what you meditate on, you become what you pay attention to”
Offer it too much of your mind, and Twitter has the power to distort you, along with all the rest of its component protagonists.
In his newest book, Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now, philosophical computer scientist Jaron Lanier says the following of his early experiences on social media in the 1970s,
“I just stopped using the stuff because I didn’t like who I was becoming. You know the adage that you should choose a partner on the basis of who you become when you’re around the person? That’s a good way to choose technologies, too.”
He goes on to explain,
“Some have compared social media to the tobacco industry, but I will not. The better analogy is paint that contains lead. When it became undeniable that lead was harmful, no one declared that houses should never be painted again. Instead, after pressure and legislation, lead-free paints became the new standard. Smart people simply waited to buy paint until there was a safe version on sale. Similarly, smart people should delete their accounts until non-toxic varieties are available.”
And in my opinion, not only is social media heavy with lead, it also doesn’t emancipate, improve, or expand your thinking. Instead, it boxes and reshapes it, as you are forced to operate within the restrictions of its non-human, sometimes claustrophobic formats.
After all, what kind of a way to communicate are skeletal 280 character statements, stark of nuance, caveat, or context? They volley between anonymous entities, picking up dangling tails of spite and psychic bilge as replies are attached, while good faith is stripped away and burned.
Who talks to strangers that way? Well, it turns out that anyone might if they spend enough time in the tweet dungeons. If you’re smug, arrogant, dismissive, shitty and neurotic in real life you won’t get far. On Twitter, you’ll pick up a few thousand followers.
And remember, again: you are that on which you meditate.
But there are several versions of you now. There’s the real one, and there are the ones in the machine. Those creased facsimiles: glitchy impostors approximated in grainy, fading ink.
Twitter is a version of high school so treacherous and unpleasant it should have a warning sign at the entrance. There are bullies and cliques; snobs, snitches and show offs; cowardice, conformity, and cackling mobs putting the boot into whoever’s turn it is to get dragged and humiliated, perhaps for fear that the boot will be turned back on them if they don’t laugh long enough.
There are no grey areas, just low resolution black and white, within which howling, infantile conflict can whip and flare forever, there being neither means nor desire to seek resolution. Twitter is an endless game with no prizes, only psychological loops that keep you trapped in its infinite descending corridors.
In reality, I confess, I haven’t deleted my account. But I’m aware that what utility Twitter has is very limited, that it’s an enormous waste of time, that it’s addictive and bad for emotional well-being, and that it entrenches division more than it brings people together.
So if you care about yourself, delete yourself.