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Is Twitter unusable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators?


Or in the case of Trump, a robot-dictator-troll? Lindy West makes a good case for the idea that spending much of our time on Twitter may not be good for our headspace. Read West on her decision to deactivate her account, in partial below, in full via the Guardian here.

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 nuclear program. And I realised: eh, I’m done. I could be swimming right now. Or flossing. Or digging a big, pointless pit. Anything else.

Twitter, for the past five years, has been a machine where I put in unpaid work and tension headaches come out. I write jokes there for free. I post political commentary for free. I answer questions for free. I teach feminism 101 for free. Off Twitter, these are all things by which I make my living – in fact, they comprise the totality of my income. But on Twitter, I do them pro bono and, in return, I am micromanaged in real time by strangers; neo-Nazis mine my personal life for vulnerabilities to exploit; and men enjoy unfettered, direct access to my brain so they can inform me, for the thousandth time, that they would gladly rape me if I weren’t so fat.

I talk back and I am “feeding the trolls”. I say nothing and the harassment escalates. I report threats and I am a “censor”. I use mass-blocking tools to curb abuse and I am abused further for blocking “unfairly”. I have to conclude, after half a decade of troubleshooting, that it may simply be impossible to make this platform usable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators.

Surprisingly, none of that is the reason I left. 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.

*Image of Trump via Vanity Fair