Quitting Twitter shouldn’t have been as hard as it was, but I felt a small part of myself die as my finger met the big red “deactivate account” button and I said goodbye to the chirping bluebird. Then, of course, I came to my senses and realised that Twitter is a mere social network and not a friend. To observe Twitter right now is to see a company that seems unsure of its future and unable to police its present. I’ve left the site for several reasons that criss-cross back and forth, between flaws inherent within Twitter’s culture and an increasing sense of unease at how people use it.
If I were to tweet something along the same lines as Mr Trump, then I would rightly get banned. Instead, Twitter is behaving as though it doesn’t matter what you say so long as you’re the President. This is the opposite of how things should operate. Those in positions of huge power should be held to the highest standards and not given a free pass. Especially when the pass in question is being given to a tweet inciting violence against people protesting against systemic racism in America.
Twitter is a private company and can police their site in the manner they wish (within the confines of the law of course), and my sense of morality is not objective, but I do not wish to use the services of a company that does not share my values in this regard. The case of Mr Trump is just one such example of Twitter’s asymmetric policing of the site, and ignorance of incitement and abuse.
It’s not the only reason I’ve let the bluebird go, though. Twitter seems to be having a devastating impact on our political discourse – because it isn’t actually an echo chamber, it’s more of a boxing ring. When I’m lucky (or unlucky) enough to have someone engage with a political tweet of mine, the responses are in no way appreciative of my opinion, they are often abusive attempts to undermine my argument. Twitter is not a space that perpetuates my existing view of the world; it’s a space that undermines it through spite, rather than intellectual challenge. Meanwhile, the instantaneous nature of the site provides no time to stop and think, resulting in communities from the youth wings of political parties to the Doctor Who fandom turning on eachother and starting to attack people’s intentions.
I loved Twitter – indeed, it was the app I used most according to the “Screen Time” notifications my phone decides to shame me with on a weekly basis. But to me, the site does more harm than good, and from the outside, it seems to do a lot of the harm to the people I was following too. I’m sure Twitter must be a great place for some people. But one of the great challenges of navigating the digital world is realising when something isn’t fun anymore, when a site that should offer new ways of interaction is no longer doing so, and when a platform that should improve the quality of debate does the opposite. I hope that by leaving Twitter I can take a better view of the here and now, and maybe you can too.