You have probably seen me do this a thousand times in this newsletter—some thing happens, and I freak out and get frustrated about it. I’m someone with a lot of opinions on things, and it’s not easy to satiate those opinions.
But something hit me over the weekend that I think is worth talking about. Friday night, in the hours after Matt Taibbi handed in his press card to do content marketing for Elon Musk, having run my mouth a few times out of frustration with the situation that had unfolded on social media this evening—the owner of a social network actively digging through his company’s old trash to play into a forgotten political scandal—I just felt compelled to lock my Twitter account before I went to bed.
I then unlocked it the next morning. But after another day of the overwrought reaction to Taibbi’s thread, I locked it again Saturday night. I unlocked it on Sunday morning and … I guess, as I write this, I’ll keep it open.
But I instead decided to tweet this:
And after a bit of soul-searching, I think I figured out what exactly made me mad about the Taibbi thread: It didn’t exist to push forward a political scandal, try as it might, but it instead dumped gasoline all over a fractured timeline at a sensitive time. Musk knew it would get a rise out of people, which boosts engagement and attention, so he just let it happen.
At some point, you feel like you’re being manipulated to be a part of a rich man’s soap opera.
I have never taken an anti-social-media stance, and I don’t necessarily think that now is the time that I begin to do so, but I think that, beyond the sheer sloppiness of the effort—failing to block out email addresses, for one thing—the attempt to get us all talking about Hunter Biden’s laptop again feels less like an attempt to build a social network and more like an attempt to see who else will bend and say “screw it, I’m done with this.”
But the thing is, Twitter has always been like this, encouraging you to have an opinion on a topic you didn’t even know was a thing 10 minutes ago. It’s what makes it powerful, but also what makes it toxic. But this combination of toxicity and power is becoming more combustible than usual at this current moment, and I think that in some ways, the best you can do is try to tone back some of the impacts.
In the past few weeks, I’ve tried to take steps to right-size my focus on Twitter. Over the past few weeks, I have grayscaled my desktop Twitter experience in an attempt to make it less enticing to search for hours. I’m posting on Mastodon more instead.
And most recently, I removed the app from my phone and only access it from my web browser, an intentional step making it harder to mindlessly surf the site all day. I think that too often, it becomes second nature to want to complain about things given a soapbox. The problem is that the owner of this platform seems to want to invent things for us to be mad about.
I won’t give in. There are many more ways to live your life than being performatively mad just because a trending topic or tweet told you to focus this way. Let’s find some other way to experience the world. We don’t need this window into the world if all it’s going to do is make us mad all the time.
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