Actually, social media is the worst thing ever devised. Twitter’s just the ugliest side of it. The seething, malignant id of the internet.
I’ve talked about Facebook many times in this space, and my having quit it has made a marked improvement in both my mood and productivity. However, to do a true cleanse, a social media high colonic, the next step would be to quit Twitter.
Like everything, Twitter is what you make of it. My Twitter is an unmitigated horror, because it involves the two non-family things that I spend the most amount of mental real estate on: politics/current events and writing. So my abhorrence of Twitter is my own fault: I choose what to see and what not to see. It’s the mirror of my worst self.
Writer Twitter is a cesspit of indie/self-published book advertisements, writing tips given free of charge by people who can’t write, memes/cartoons about writing Retweeted by people who love the hashtag #writerslife, left-wing political hot takes, and J.K. Rowling quotes. For some, it’s Heaven. For others, it’s a thing to be endured on one’s way to social media-fueled publishing stardom. For the rest of us, we unhappy few, it’s Hell. If you’re lucky you’ll meet some nice people to talk shop with, particularly if/when you get off Twitter and go to a less communication-hostile medium. Genre fiction Twitter, such as horror Twitter or sci-fi Twitter, isn’t much different except that it has more Stephen King quotes.
Political Twitter is far, far worse. Imagine an unflushed convenience store toilet five miles past an all-you-can-eat fried chicken restaurant. The hot takes are the worst: snarky quote-lets designed to make both reader and writer feel superior to the issue being commented upon. At 140 characters, that’s pretty much what Twitter’s made for. That and online slap-fights where nobody’s mind is changed, no relevant information is transferred, and everybody walks away having owned one’s opponent. If you’re popular enough you’ll get an audience of like-minded people who appreciate the time and effort you took to Tweet that sick burn off Donald Trump with the proper hashtag. That your time was utterly wasted is of no moment: you stood up for your side and put the other guy/gal in his/her/xer place.
You want to know what’s worse than both of these flavors of Twitter? When they mix. The combination of politics and genre fiction is one short step above the approving Retweets of jihadist beheading videos. Every minute of every day you’ll see no-talent hacks nobody’s ever heard of Tweeting hot takes like, “If you believe in X, unfollow me right now,” as if they’re the universe’s gift to ethics. Your political stance doesn’t make you more ethical than anyone else: it’s what you do that makes you ethical. Hard to hear in the era of internet slacktivism, but someone had to break it to you. Very, very few people can write both fiction and political commentary with any degree of insight, original thinking, or competence. Despite their popularity, neither Rowling nor King, both political activists, are worth reading outside of their respective fictional spheres. Stay in your lanes, guys. You don’t have it. You never did.
When I see someone with many thousands of followers and tens of thousands of Tweets, I see someone who’s underemployed. Political pundits can’t help it: they have to Tweet or they’ll die. The world has to know what they think about everything in 140 characters or fewer. Writers have to approvingly Retweet Stephen King’s latest broadside against Donald Trump; the King of Horror might notice them and lift them up out of undeserved obscurity. And what’s the point of being virtuous if nobody sees it?
Got me, man. I’m off to check my mentions.