New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman announced this past weekend that she was pulling back from Twitter. Her reason? It’s not her, it’s you.
Twitter has stopped being a place where I could learn things I didn’t know, glean information that was free from errors about a breaking news story or engage in a discussion and be reasonably confident that people’s criticisms were in good faith. The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight. It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious. Twitter is now an anger video game for many users. It is the only platform on which people feel free to say things they’d never say to someone’s face. For me, it had become an enormous and pointless drain on my time and mental energy.
I’m not discounting her reasoning. It’s completely understandable that Maggie’s Twitter experience is completely different than mine and yours. She has nearly 900K followers, covers the White House for The Gray Lady, and is an analyst for CNN. Needless to say, she’s a bit more visible than many of us when it comes to online (and offline) platforms. So her need to pull back from Twitter—and the anger directed at her on the platform—may be a valid one.
But that isn’t necessarily the case for everyone.
For the vast majority of users, Twitter can still be a place of fun, information, and inspiration. Here are three ways how you can accomplish that:
- Cull your lists. Who do you follow? Do they anger you? Then unfollow them. Do they spread lies? Unfollow. Do they provide useless info? Unfollow. You aren’t beholden to follow anyone on Twitter. And no one is beholden to follow you. So cut out people you don’t want to follow.
- Use the mute feature. Tired of hearing about a certain topic but still want to follow certain people for other info? Mute a keyword. The Twitter app you use (and you should use Tweetbot) can do most of the heavy lifting for you. Let it.
- Don’t be what you despise. If you don’t like certain behavior on Twitter, then don’t engage in that yourself. Social media, like real life, includes an element of personal responsibility. If you’re irresponsible with your actions, don’t be surprised when that is reciprocated and directed toward you.
Finally, it’s doubtful that when Twitter was created that there was much forethought into what the platform would be like for those with more than a few thousand followers. Maggie Haberman is an outlier. The vast majority of users have no more than a few hundred followers. Don’t let someone’s unique personal experience cloud your perception of the platform. Twitter can be whatever you make it. Make it what you want it to be.