A few of you have noticed* that I haven’t been twitting lately. Sure, the posts here appear in twits, but that’s an automated function of the blogging program. Set it and forget it. My last actual twit was on November 14th, ten days ago.
I’ve taken what I delightfully call a twitter hiatus. There was no announcement. I just stopped, cold turkey. Twitter went on just fine without me.
It’s been unfun for a while. There are still the usual eggboy nutjobs, the n00b geniuses who must correct anyone on the twitters who is wrong and the stigmatized sufferers of the Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. But these are just the flotsam and jetsam of the medium, perennially present and presently ignored.
My decision came in the midst of the Purge, the uprising of the peasants, torches and pitchforks in hand, to rid the town of witches. Not their witches but the bad witches. They other witches. It was reminiscent of the experience years ago when listservs and chatgroups were popular, when you learned that people you thought were smart, were principled, were bold, turned out to be dumb, intellectually corrupt followers of fashion.
Among the things that made me cringe on the twitters was the shift from words designed to convey thoughts to others to words designed to convey the emotional status of the twitterer. I recall years ago twitting “I don’t care how you feel, but I might care what you think.” Apparently, I was in a distinct minority. I watched as smart people started gushing their feelz on the twitters, to the deafening applause of the unduly passionate. “Oh, yes, yes, we share your feelings.”
Collecting followers is the opiate of the twitters, and the whiff of desperation grew to a stench. There are some exceptionally witty twits, but they are few and far between. People were trying too hard to be funny, snarky, whether by infusion of memes to every turn of events or latching on to group ploys. George Takei did a Thanksgiving one,
Uh, “George Takei is coming”? Cute, right? There is nothing wrong with playing with your friends on occasion, but is that the best we can do? This transitions into an even more troubling problem, the growth of the Happysphere on the twitters, Communities of the terminally insipid are growing, the only qualification for membership being the fawning adoration of other members’ self-congratulatory twits.
This used to be called a circle jerk, but such a pejorative phrase would be cause for ouster. Pandering gained one prominence and followers, a home base where you would find validation by doing nothing more than running with the herd. Twit idiocy and get a bunch of likes, for which you would express your deep appreciation, completing the circle of devotion. And once inside, the peer pressure was overwhelming, precluding the occasional urge to twit, “well, actually that’s kinda stupid.”
When this happened on the listservs and in the chatrooms years ago, the community grew and the thoughtfulness died. It’s happening again on the twitters. By “again,” I mean that this isn’t the first time this happened on the twitters. Remember the @Rex7 affair?
As if to validate my decision, and likely because Nick Kristof couldn’t think of anything to write about, he gave up his real estate to the twitter gods.
My tutor on Twitter has been Liriel Higa (@iDiplomacy), who works on social media for The New York Times Opinion section. I asked her to write this quick “How to Tweet” guide for the public. Liriel, a former nationally ranked gymnast, was a congressional reporter early in her career, then oversaw social media for the Half the Sky movement, and finally joined the Times in 2014 and has been with us since. Here’s her guide to how to make Twitter work for you.
While the “advice” is not necessarily unsound, if quite banal, Higa is a curious choice of twitter ninja. Less than 20,00 twits, under 4,500 followers and only on 27 lists, she’s not an eggboy but hardly a thought leader. Maybe it’s her social media voodoo for Half the Sky movement, whatever that is, that made a “nationally ranked gymnast” the person who can teach the public how to twitter?
Then again, Kristof could have bought Adrian Dayton’s 2009 83-page twitter book for a mere $473.01. Or Toledo law prof Agnieszka McPeak, who taught the other prawfs how to use twitter. See how these things repeat themselves with each new “generation” of users who reinvent the twitters?
Of all the things that made twitter unpleasant for me, perhaps the worst was the new breed of social justice-oriented criminal defense pundits on the twitter. They must be important, as they have blue ticks next to their names, and seem to be gaining vast numbers of followers. And they twit exactly what appeals to the unduly passionate, the “heartbreaking” and “horrifying” stories of sadness, almost invariably about how the legal system sucks, women and minorities are most affected.
The “why” is rarely stated, as it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s enough that their tales are tragic and exhausting. On the odd occasion when they offer some bit of explanation, it’s usually wrong. It’s not that there aren’t good argument, but they either don’t know them or can’t be bothered thinking hard to express them. In the beginning, I made the grievous error of trying to urge them not to make people stupider. It was not appreciated.
Should I play be Higa’s rules, since she is the New York Times-approved twitter guru? Or pander to fools to gain their appreciation and follows? Or perhaps join the circle jerk, and pretend my fellow gang members aren’t blithering idiots?
Twitter started to make me sad and angry. Life is too short to be sad and angry, especially over something as insignificant as twitter. It seems like a good time to take a break.
*My use of twitter has always been idiosyncratic. I don’t follow very many people, and that’s a deliberate decision on my part. I’m told that people are angry with me, don’t like me, because I didn’t follow them, or follow them back, as if they’re unworthy. It’s not that at all, and I sincerely apologize to anyone who is offended by my failure to recognize them as follow-worthy.
Rather, the people I follow serve to curate twitter for me. If I followed all the people who interest me, it would be a monumental time suck and I would never be able to get any work done. This is just an old-man hack for limiting the amount of information I need to process. It’s my way to limit the stimulation, and not a reflection of any lack of interest in you. You are awesome. Hugs.