I used to have some variation on a certain conversation about Twitter from people who didn’t use it. They didn’t see the point. They’d tried it out, and couldn’t figure out why anyone would use Twitter. My explanation always amounted to this: Twitter is a tool. If you don’t need that tool, don’t use that tool. Not everyone has a use for it. It’s just that simple.
For me, Twitter was kind of a crucial tool for a long time. I found about open calls for anthologies that led to some of my favorite short stories. I cultivated a community of other people who were crazy enough to take a whack at this lonely, chaotic writing thing. I needed Twitter for marketing when short stories and occasional novels were published because if people don’t know about them, no one will buy them. Even though sometimes it’s like shouting into an indifferent wind.
I started following people who widened my world view, got plugged into social movements that made me a better, more aware person. I’d always advocated for social justice, but Twitter helped connect me to the people on the ground doing the work, helped show me the how much work still needed to be done, helped me shape my narrative to push towards progress.
But no tool is perfect.
That’s been made abundantly clear the more I use Twitter. Their platform is not a public space. Sure, it FEELS like one at times. But it’s not. It’s the difference between a public square that’s owned by the people and a food court at the mall that’s owned by the mall. And the mall has a vested interest in controlling parts of that conversation. And more importantly, monetizing it.
That’s why they ban and silence people who cause waves. Who name names. Who disrupt their paradigm. They’ll allow thousands of pro-Russian bots, actual Nazis, and every flavor of abusive troll under the sun because it encourages engagement. (Note: Nazis are blocked on Twitter in some European countries, which proves that not only does Twitter know who they are, they have ways to ban them here, too.) Twitter played an active role in spreading propaganda generated by foreign intelligence operations. They are partly responsible for Trump, and almost seem to encourage some of the president’s most irresponsible, patently abusive and dangerous online behavior. He’s practically their mascot at this point.
And yet when decades of sexual harassment in Hollywood is exposed to the sun, they silence those trying to hold people accountable.
In Twitter’s logic, blaming Puerto Rican’s for dying, calling for the silencing of voices speaking out against police brutality, and goading North Korea into nuclear war from the highest office in the land is acceptable behavior.
Calling bullshit on a movie star who turned a blind eye and helped cover up decades of horrible sexual misconduct that you were a victim of is call for censure.
We see you, Twitter.
You’re a tool.
And if a tool is toxic, if a tool causes cancer, let’s say, it doesn’t matter how useful it is. It has to go.
So I’m taking a break from Twitter for a while. It sucks, I know. I have a book to promote that just came out. I’m gearing up for a busy month of writing. The world is quite literally on fire and I can’t honestly trust the news to keep me informed of all the nuance of the worst of it.
But I can’t do this anymore. I need a break. I need to be able to get to work and not already be angry. I need to turn off my lights and go to bed and not be terrified, depressed beyond words, or disgusted with what’s happening in the world you put at my fingertips.
Enjoy your trolls.