Today is New Year’s Eve and I’m quitting Twitter. Almost 11 years of posting, 1500+ followers, and thousands upon thousands of tweets will soon become a past chapter. Yes, I know I can download an archive. No, I will not. I associate Twitter with ephemeral pleasures and feel no need to preserve all those words I’ve long forgotten. I admit I’ve screenshot some of my biggest hitters (like the viral tweet about an absurd floor plan that got so popular it jumped to various clickbait articles and YouTube channels). But I don’t see myself poring over those old moments of glory. My minor brushes with internet fame had their own short-lived seasons. I guess I’ll miss the occasional thrill of going viral. But way more than that, I’ll miss the patchwork communal space where I’ve shared random thoughts with an assortment of like-minded friends, many of whom I’ve never met in person.
And then there’s the much fatter list of things I won’t miss about Twitter. Like the way this platform has encouraged us to be so judgmental, resentful, and angry toward one another. It’s especially a big problem among the socialist left. My number one reason for leaving Twitter (or secretly hoping it would implode under Elon Musk’s watch) is that it’s proven to be a very toxic platform for members of the Democratic Socialists of America. While debate is a wonderful and necessary feature of any democratic organization, the DSA discourse that happens on Twitter could rarely be described as debate. It’s more like a putrid stew of projection, conflation, sanctimony, attention-seeking, bullying, passive-aggression, manipulation, and all sorts of other ego-based flaws this website elicits by constantly pushing us to share our opinions. And if you don’t have an opinion on the controversy of the day, DSA Twitter will provide a seemingly endless stream of content to encourage you to formulate an assessment.
I’m embarrassed when I consider the number of hours I’ve spent trying to figure out how I feel about whatever latest left debate was rocking DSA Twitter, but I’m learning to give myself grace around my old bad habits. And I’ve actually been pretty good at resisting the pitfalls of discourse these past couple years (as discussed in this early 2021 essay). I’ve been careful to not comment on the ugliest battles, but I’ve still witnessed plenty of carnage from the sidelines. I find all this mean-spirited sparring very discouraging and not good for recruitment! In general, I don’t care if random people waste time arguing on the internet, but I think it’s actually very bad for a fledgling socialist organization that needs to build working class power ASAP. All this time and energy we’ve spent could have gone toward building campaigns with people who’ve yet to be organized.
Ultimately, I don’t think socialist organizer opinions or ideology matter 1/10th as much as how we treat each other. We can only build together through clear, respectful communication. Twitter amplifies the meaner parts of our consciousness, which works against that goal. Social media commenting isn’t a discussion. At best, it’s a thought-provoking message board. At worst, it’s people taking turns screaming at each other.
Luckily for me, Twitter has been way more than just a DSA-centric experience. I thought for a while that maybe I could just enjoy this app as a place where I can share my writing, some Columbo jokes, or photos of terrifying staircases – you know, the kind of goof-off content that makes social media fun. And at the same time, I could use it to catch breaking news before literally any media outlet (for example: when the last Oscar broadcast froze for a few seconds, Twitter told me what Will Smith did to Chris Rock in less than one minute). When leftist discourse got extra nasty, I would temporarily mute words like “Bernie Sanders” or “DSA,” so I would stop seeing people tweet about whatever infuriating, bad faith argument was polluting the timeline. Even if this website was bad for my organization, perhaps I could prune my content so the yuckier parts of the experience wouldn’t get to me.
Then Elon Musk bought Twitter, and it all started falling apart pretty fast. Following massive employee layoffs and resignations, the app became noticeably glitchy. The algorithm seemed to shift chaotically every few days. For a while, I wasn’t seeing any DSA content (which honestly felt like a blessing). During that time, I was mainly seeing inane content aimed at 20 year olds – lots of bad dating advice for girls and “women be crazy” content for the guys. For the first time since I joined Twitter, I suddenly found it quite boring. The only consistently entertaining part of this new experience was watching Elon Musk fumble his $44 billion acquisition in real time. Sure, I like seeing one of the world’s richest men humiliate themselves publicly – to a point. Even that becomes dull after a while.
And then it occurred to me – he won’t stop humiliating himself because it brings him attention, which is the one thing a narcissist wants most of all. As the brilliant poster @maplecocaine once said, “Every day on twitter there is one main character. The goal is to never be it.” Elon Musk has been the main character almost every day since late October. And though that burden would break most of us after a single day, I think he actually feeds off of it, because that is the closest he’ll ever come to feeling love.
That was when I knew I needed to leave. I can’t tolerate the bruises to my political organization once the fun is gone. And I don’t want to feed a billionaire’s demented addiction. It’s been fun watching everyone mock him. That hater energy so often misdirected toward each other can be quite hysterical when aimed at our ruling class. I will miss bearing witness to all those slam dunks. But I have seen enough.
Mostly I will miss sharing all my assorted, silly observations! I never had that big a following for someone who tweeted as often as I did. But for a shy, quiet, forgotten child from a big dysfunctional family, all those likes, retweets, and the occasional viral fame felt like being seen. I made some friends, hobnobbed with some fancy media people, and even got followed by one of my labor movement heroes and a certified genius. If I were more outgoing, I might have more connections to show for all that. Maybe I would have gotten published more than just a few times. My purported goal for joining Twitter was to promote my writing, which was why I always tweeted under my real name. Then I became more of an organizer instead. And now I really don’t know what’s next for me. I don’t know what it will be like to be a DSA member who isn’t on Twitter. I don’t know what it is to be a writer who isn’t posting random thoughts a dozen times per day. I just know I’m ready to move on.