In 2017, I’m done with Twitter

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on January 2, 2017

I used to regularly calculate how much time and “content” I’ve pumped into Twitter. Figuring conservatively, at an average of 10 words per tweet, I’ve pumped more than a million words worth of news, arguments, and asinine quips into the social media site.

A million words.

For the sake of comparison, my book, “Turmoil, As Usual,” is a paltry 80,000 words.

“War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy is 587,287 words.

And my idiotic twitter feed is a million words — some of it news and politics, lots of it vapid observations, stupid arguments and meaningless rejoinders.

Twitter is terrible.

I feel like it’s wrecking my brain, in exactly the same way that Russell Wangersky described in a recent column, “Confessions of a social media slave.”

My attention span is shot. I crave big ideas and real discourse, but I fall into the same trap of snarky quips, because that’s all that fits comfortably into those 140-character chunks.

I find myself posting about the happenings in the House of Assembly, trying to distil the back-and-forth of question period into tweets, and I’m so distracted by my phone that I miss critical bits of what the politicians are saying.

I write stupid things, asinine, superficial little attempts at observational humour, because I crave the validation of “favs” and “retweets.”

It can be a lot of fun. I’ve made friends. When it’s good, it’s a community.

But it’s getting harder and harder to squeeze the good out of it.

Is it any coincidence that U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s favourite mode of communication is Twitter?

The toxic brew of narcissism and oversimplified feelings is perfect for Trump. It’s a place where discourse goes to die, while calcified opinions thrive.

And it’s become harder and harder to ignore the ugly side of Twitter.

Telegram reporter Tara Bradbury was the subject of a campaign of vile harassment, threats, and outright neo-Nazi propaganda earlier this year, after she reported on a feminist arts festival.

Twitter does precious little to control the misogynists, the anti-Semites, the white supremacists, who have found a home there.

So what to do about a website that’s infecting my brain, encouraging my worst impulses and providing a platform to anonymous people posting morally reprehensible hate speech?

The answer seems pretty obvious: My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is shutting down my account.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to quit completely, although I’m hopeful.

Like all New Year’s resolutions, there might be some backsliding.

I still don’t have a fully-formed plan, and I know that news happens on Twitter, and I cover the news, so I don’t now if I’ll be able to turn my back on it altogether.

And if I’m successful, hell if I know what I’ll do with all the free time.

Maybe in 2017, I’ll get back to reading books.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com