“If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.”–Romans 12:18 (CEB).
I just took a gander at my Twitter profile. I joined in March, 2009. Ten years ago! In those ten years, I’ve tweeted at least 76,400 times! That’s a lot of hot air going into the atmosphere. In fact it’s almost twenty tweets per day, everyday, for the last ten years, but today I’m here to announce that I’m leaving it all behind.
Why is that? Well, I have two reasons. First, I don’t like what Twitter has become. Second, I don’t like the person I turn into when I use it. Let me explain.
I don’t know why I joined Twitter. I suspect that it was because either:
A)–My cool, hip friends told me that MySpace was now LAME-O, and what I really needed to do was join this other cool, hip, social network.
B)–I was laboring under the delusion that people actually cared to read about what I was having for dinner, the TV show that I was watching, or about how I just couldn’t get to sleep that night, all in 140 characters or less!
And that’s what Twitter was at first, right? “Look, he’s eating at that new restaurant downtown! That sounds really good!” Then you found out that you could use it to talk to other people who had the same interests as you without having that creepy, “To Catch a Predator” vibe that you often got in chat rooms or on IM. That’s when Twitter was best for me. At one point, I was part of a vibrant community of soccer fans from all over the country, and indeed the world, that got together and tweeted back and forth about Major League Soccer. My friend Rick and I would even meet up with people from Twitter when opposing clubs came through Salt Lake to play RSL. I still count many of these folks as good friends.
You also found out that you could get news from around the world in a heartbeat! Some people even credit Twitter with helping fuel the “Arab Spring” protests that began in 2011, and I think there’s a lot to that. Dictatorial regimes took to blocking access to Twitter, as well as other social media, to try to prevent these kinds of things from spreading.
But interestingly enough, I think that’s what started to turn Twitter into something I was no longer interested in. First off, you have to learn rather quickly that just because it appears in a tweet, even a tweet with a photo, doesn’t make it true. The fundamental failure of large segments of our population to realize that is just part of what is wrong with our society today. Next, it morphed into an argument generator. I think a lot of this started around the 2012 Election. All of the sudden you started to see that all those people you talk soccer with have vastly different opinions about things like religion and politics. Now, that in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, 140 characters didn’t leave much room for the nuance that is often required to have meaningful discussions on these topics. Now we have twice as many characters and the ability to thread tweets together, but trust me, just like people don’t actually read the news article before they leave a comment, they don’t read past the first tweet of your thread either. In fact, many people key in on a couple of words or even an image in your tweet and then just assume they know what you mean and where you’re going, without even thinking about engaging the totality of what you have to say. The 2016 US election was an even bigger joke. First off Donald Trump successfully leveraged Twitter to push straight garbage and fear into the blazing furnaces that kept his ravenous base moving at full speed. Meanwhile, little to no concern was paid as to whether anything he bloviated and prattled on about was actually true (spoiler alert, most of it wasn’t). Thus began the great gaslighting of America.
The Democrats have been, and often are, just as bad. Many of my left leaning friends divided into Team Bernie #FeelTheBern and team Hillary #StrongerTogether. After spending months tearing each other to shreds, each side blamed the other when Trump won. Now as we approach 2020 it’s even worse. Team Bernie is still around, but now joined by Team Warren, Team Booker, Team Beto, Team Tulsi, Team Harris, Team that other guy from Texas, Team that one lady who berates her staff and eats salad with a comb, maybe Team Uncle Joe Biden, and Team all those other people who I can’t remember right now. There’s nothing wrong with supporting a candidate of course, but these days Twitter has turned into a circular firing squad made up of people who think that only their guy (or gal) can fix the country and they’re damn sure not about to listen to someone else’s opinion. Talk about a messiah complex!
Long story short, Twitter has gone from a place where you could form actual community to a place where everyone is just obsessed with getting the perfect “mic drop” moment while berating someone else. As I said, a character limit doesn’t lend itself to nuance, but it sure does come in handy when you’re looking for that perfect zinger or insult!
So I’m done.
But when I say that, I have to account for the fact that I am also part of the problem. You see, I don’t like who I become when I use Twitter. I am too easily drawn to the allure of the drive by zinger or the hit and run joke. I’ve always been told I’m pretty quick on my feet when it comes to thinking about or engaging in arguments or debates, and unfortunately sometimes (a lot of the time) I would rather win the argument and preferably drop you like a sack of rhetorical potatoes than hear what you have to say. That’s not Twitter’s fault, that’s a failing of mine that God is helping me deal with, but the temptation to engage in that is simply too high for me on Twitter. If you’re a gambling addict, you best stay away from the casino. I believe that being on Twitter is keeping me back from being the person God wants me to be.
It’s straining my mental health in other ways as well. It’s so easy to get consumed by needing to feel up to date on everything all the time. Then you buy into the stress that comes with reading up on everything that is going on, because the way people get hits on Twitter is to write pieces that claim that there is never any middle ground. Every issue is a take no prisoners, no quarter given, life or death battlefield.
Then there’s the fact that there is hardly any gating or regulation of content on Twitter. Last week I was following a developing story of a mass shooting terrorist attack in New Zealand only to have the video of the sicko mass murdering innocent people show up before my very eyes, unsolicited. Then later I’m stuck with a video of a college student up in the face of a pregnant Chelsea Clinton and accusing her of fueling the anti-Muslim sentiment that led to the massacre. What?
Not to mention that it’s now almost impossible to even talk about what you’re having for dinner without some self-styled Nazi showing up in your feed with all kinds of colorful metaphors about white power, the Confederate Battle Flag, and just I can go do to myself or my mother.
I don’t feel like being a part of that or subjecting myself to that anymore. Maybe someday someone will come up with a social media platform that actually kicks out Nazis and where people don’t argue politics all day, but I’m not holding my breath.
But hey, maybe I can find time to do more blogs!