Springtime For Twitler

I deactivated my Twitter account today. It was more of a spontaneous impulse than a New Year resolution, although it does feel like a juice cleanse, a moulting, a polar-bear plunge, a clean slate (except the opposite—like throwing your slate into a volcano and running). One moment I was brains-deep in the usual way, half-heartedly arguing with strangers about whether or not it’s “OK” to suggest to Steve Martin that calling Carrie Fisher a “beautiful creature” who “turned out” to be “witty and bright as well” veered just a hair beyond Fisher’s stated boundaries regarding objectification (if you have opinions on this, don’t tweet me—oh, wait, you can’t); and the next moment the US president-elect was using the selfsame platform to taunt North Korea about the size and tumescence of its 11hitlernuclear program. And I realised: eh, I’m done. I could be swimming right now. Or flossing. Or digging a big, pointless pit. Anything else.

I still loved Twitter—the speed of information, the breadth of analysis, the jokes, the gifs, the fortifying albeit intermittent solidarity, the chance to vet your instincts against those of people much smarter and better informed than you. Every day, people on Twitter—particularly people of colour, trans activists, disabled activists and sex workers—taught me how to be a better person and a better neighbour, a gift they persisted in dispensing even (always) at great personal cost. I still believe, at least in the rear-view mirror, in Twitter’s importance as a democratising force—facilitating direct, transparent access between the disempowered and the powerful, the marginalised and the ignorant. But I’m leaving anyway, for a while.

The breaking point for me wasn’t the trolls themselves (if I have learned anything from the dark side of Twitter, it is how to feel nothing when a frog calls you a cunt)—it was the global repercussions of Twitter’s refusal to stop them. The white supremacist, anti-feminist, isolationist, transphobic “alt-right” movement has been beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities for years now—how much hate speech will bystanders ignore? When will Twitter intervene and start protecting its users?—and discovered, to its leering delight, that the limit did not exist. No one cared. Twitter abuse was a grand-scale normalisation project, disseminating libel and disinformation, muddying long-held cultural givens such as “racism is bad” and “sexual assault is bad” and “lying is bad” and “authoritarianism is bad”, and ultimately greasing the wheels for Donald Trump’s ascendance to the US presidency. Twitter executives did nothing.

On 29 December, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “What’s the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017?” One user responded: “Comprehensive plan for getting rid of the Nazis.”

“We’ve been working on our policies and controls,” Dorsey replied. “What’s the next most critical thing?” Oh, what’s our the-producers-11second-highest priority after Nazis? I’d say No 2 is also Nazis. And No 3. In fact, you can just go ahead and slide “Nazis” into the top 100 spots. Get back to me when your website isn’t a roiling rat-king of Nazis. Nazis are bad, you see?

Trump uses his Twitter account to set hate mobs on private citizens, attempt to silence journalists who write unfavourably about him, lie to the American people and bulldoze complex diplomatic relationships with other world powers. I quit Twitter because it feels unconscionable to be a part of it—to generate revenue for it, participate in its profoundly broken culture and lend my name to its legitimacy. Twitter is home to a wealth of fantastic anti-Trump organising, as well, but I’m personally weary of feeling hostage to a platform that has treated me and the people I care about so poorly. We can do good work elsewhere.

I’m pretty sure “ushered in kleptocracy” would be a dealbreaker for any other company that wanted my business. If my gynaecologist regularly hosted neo-Nazi rallies in the exam room, I would find someone else to swab my cervix. If I found out my favourite coffee shop was even remotely complicit in the third world war, I would—bare minimum—switch coffee shops; I might give up coffee altogether.

Apparently that sentiment is in the air because, as I was writing this column, I came across a post by my friend Lauren Hoffman, a writer for Vulture and Cosmopolitan: “I’ve made many real/good friends on Twitter but I guess if I met all my friends working at, like, the mall and the mall became a tacit endorsement of fascism I would keep the friends but stop going to the mall.”

Keep the friends. Ditch the mall.

Lindy West

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2 Responses to “Springtime For Twitler”


  1. 1 sally January 5, 2017 at 10:19 am

    I don’t know how to twitter. I don’t even know if I have whatever one needs to twitter, BUT I do like the word “hashtag”– I like the sound of it! But can I use it in a sentence — hmmm? Maybe in the past tense — “I hashtagged my way into the kitchen for a cup of coffee.” Or “It’s not nice to hastag someone when they aren’t looking.” or maybe — oh, hell, forget it… Namaste

    • 2 bluenred January 5, 2017 at 11:21 am

      Hash is a horror they make you eat in the Army. A hashtag I figured was a label they put on the hash when it went bad to warn that if people ate it they would have the vomit.


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