Why I Quit Twitter
The Most Navel-Gazing Post You’ll Read This Week
Four plus years. Approximately 200,000 tweets (which includes retweets to be fair). 3500 follows. At the end I had a number of Twitter luminaries following me- Ramesh Ponnuru, Dana Perino (I miss you), various and sundry writers and editors from all of the big conservative publications. Political consultants, various influential conservative and Radiohead afficionado accounts, a NYT writer, and even a few other left of center accounts who were curious about an iconoclastic conservative #NeverTrump person. For someone who really enjoys politics, it was quite the dream come true and ego boost; I had important people actually reading my ideas and commentary. Maybe those words would influence a piece that would in turn influence some political leaders? Who knows? A Twitter butterfly flaps its wings….
I met a number of very nice people as well. Likeminded regular people who are living their lives and have an on-the-side obsessive Twitter habit. I knew I was too far gone when these normal conversations between people on my feed would somehow feel obtrusive and strange. I thought perhaps a book club could bring some normalcy to the bizarre corner of the world that is political Twitter. (The Atlantis Gene was a fun read though.)
But I am done with it.
There are a number of “blame everyone else” reasons of course. I’m done with defending my every tweet, and not only, but thinking about how I would defend each prospective tweet prior to tweeting it only to have to defend it on the same grounds. Over and over. I’m done with the crush of the social media crowd- even a moderately small account such as my own would feel it at times. A semi-viral tweet that draws in randoms from all over the Twitterverse is exhausting. I am done with the neverending outrage, of which I also freely partook, on issues that warrant no such response. “Oh, look, famous person X said a dumb thing! Yay, fodder!” And of the often concomitant lack of outrage over truly terrible occurrences around the world and in our own localities. The information overload. The trolls and trolling and trolling trolls who troll.
I’m done with being a bloviating blowhard. Well, at least on Twitter.
These were the truly trying aspects of Twitter. There were some very good things as well. The defense of the Mormon Church against Lou Dobbs with the #MormonMafia hashtag highlights one such warm, fun and memorable occasion.
“Just step back from it.” “Turn off notifications.” “Take a short break?” “Spend less time on it.” “Don’t worry so much.” All good advice for anyone using Twitter, and I certainly don’t fault people for continuing to do so; it’s a world-leveling, wide open platform that connects people in a revolutionary way that I’m not sure, after millenia of human history of not having access to the entire world in a moment, we really know what to do with yet. *insert funny .gif file here*
But there’s something else, too. I have come to the conclusion that everyone has a point to make and everyone is wrong all in one breath. Not in a cynical, pox upon all ye ennui sort of way. I mean in a fundamental fallenness of the world, Reformed Theological total depravity kind of way. I still consider myself a conservative type of political person. Markets as a baseline work and benefit the world the most given our nature. Individual freedom is better than not. Limited government is better than any alternative. Abortion is in most cases an abomination. etc, etc. My pinned tweet read: “The problem with liberalism is liberalism; the problem with conservatism is conservatives.” But it’s deeper than that. The problem with the world is that it is sinful and fallen and no one can escape it. (It gets more hopeful. I think.)
Take an issue like healthcare policy. The Left will put out an idea like Nationalized Single Payer healthcare. In its view everything is run by this utopian government that has only noble people working for it. Everyone will be covered by awesome healthcare and it will be great. The Right is just greedy and selfish and motivated by pharmaceutical company greed that is attached to these pretextual principles like limited government, federalism and an unhealthy skeptical view of government. The Right will say “Let markets win out. Government anything is a disaster. I also happen to not want to pay for this thing that I’m attaching broader principles to. Let the states decide how to do it (which has been the case and state by state insurance regulation has acted as an impediment to interstate commerce, but that is an argument that no one seems to consider when one opposes whatever government policy is being enacted). Charity will take care of the rest (though I will only give more when these gosh darn taxes go down.)”
Yeah? I mean everyone has a point. People should have access to healthcare as a moral obligation that should we as a nation should expend resources to provide. The markets are better than nationalized healthcare. The markets also have problems like “What do you do with the person born with a $1m heart defect and who pays for that?” People don’t want to spend their own money- Left or Right. Let me know when there’s a Lefty celebrity gala for a free healthcare clinic. The Dallas Cowboy Stadium could have funded 100 free healthcare clinics in perpetuity. As you might have heard, Americans spend about $1.3T on vehicles each year. Cars and trucks. That is more than Russia’s GDP. Everyone has their own selfish priorities.
If any solution in the world would have the perfect confluence of Left and Right ideas, it would be in healthcare. But no one wants to listen. No one wants to admit fault or flaws in in their own imperfect ideologies meant to solve different problems in an imperfect world. We all get our marching orders from our respective tribes and off we go.
“Government needs to get out of the way! Oh, hey love this new federal highway I can drive my new Ford truck on.” “Government can solve any problem! Oh whoops just killed a bunch of people at the VA and poisoned a river!”
(It is not to say, by the way, that moderates are some noble tribe. No, there are actual values in play that people adhere to and picking a midpoint between them isn’t always the principled thing to do. There’s a difference between compromising and sitting intellectually in the middle.)
I could use any number of examples. Guns are bad. Guns are intended to kill people and have been used to do so en masse. A school slaughter is maybe the worst thing in the world. But also (guys, it’s time for some game theory), I want a gun if someone else has a gun. And you can’t ensure they don’t.
“The Founding was pure genius! (And in no way simply a practical response to an overreaching goverment that resulted in a rebellion that in no way fully justified violence). “The Founders were purely selfish; they included slavery and disenfranchised women. We’re invaders and we’re illegitimate and we can’t stop self-flagellating ourselves.”
It’s all madness and we’re all wrapped in it. We’re characters in The Great Divorce muttering about things in 140 character increments.
I also can’t escape the idea that $100 sent to a Syrian refugee camp is worth far more than all of the words and retweets I put out to the world in four years.
So it was a good run for me. But traveling intellectually in this direction would only lead me to arguing with everyone until the end of time. Because, again, we’re all wrong even when we’re right. And while we’re all eternal beings made in the image of God and our words and thoughts have consequences beyond what we know, we’re also not really doing anything on Twitter but entertaining ourselves. I should have more pressing things to do in my limited time here on earth.
So I will post some thoughts here that will be partially read by about 50 people from time to time. I still need an outlet for thoughts that grip me. I can’t completely unplug from politics as an intellectual sport; the flesh is weak.
I wish all of you Tweeps well in the Twitterverse and the real world. I will miss you even if I don’t miss everything else.
PS: Ugh this was so difficult to write mostly because thoughts strung together in 140 character increments are easier to produce and look smarter due to brevity.
PPS. “Interstellar” stinks.