Let’s Be Nicer On Twitter in 2018
As hard as it might be
For whatever reason, the end of the year always feels like a good time to reflect on the masochism that develops from using Twitter. This time last year I took a month off from tweeting, and missed it while also feeling that no one really cared I left.
Well now I’m going to try something new in 2018 — I’m going to be nicer on Twitter. And you should too.
The recent increase in characters has done nothing to quell the nastiness found on the bird platform. In fact, it may have made everything worse, giving keyboard ninjas more ammunition to post vitriolic screeds and, perhaps more annoying, purposely misconstrue or exaggerate and respond as hyperbolically as humanly possible.
Twitter isn’t real life, but it’s also uniquely phony among digital platforms. Most people, no matter if you live in coastal “elite” cities or Dallas (like me) or the middle of Kansas, interact regularly with people who you disagree with and get along just fine. Even talking about politics or other topics that lend itself to heated discussion. You just talk, and make points, and disagree, and move on. It’s not hard.
Twitter is unique in its nastiness even among other forms of media. People like Andrew Sullivan or Joel Pollak may bother you on Twitter, as they put out their in-a-vacuum thoughts, but listen to them on my favorite new podcast, The Jamie Weinstein Show, and they sound smart and reasonable. Charles Cooke’s recent column on Jennifer Rubin is a masterclass in how to disagree agreeably, and it can’t be conveyed in 140 (or 280) character bursts (some who have an inflated view of Twitter and have let it infect their thought process may disagree there). Even Rosie O’Donnell, who comes across as an unhinged maniac on Twitter sounded downright normal during a political discussion with Howard Stern recently.
By the way — Barack Obama gets it. Here’s what he said recently about the danger of social media:
Obama said it was important for people to get offline and meet others in their communities, “because the truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated,” he said.
“One of things we want to do I think is as we’re working with young people to build up platforms for social change,” he said. “Make sure that they don’t think that just sending out a hashtag in and of itself is bringing about change. It can be a powerful way to raise awareness but then you have to get on the ground and actually do something.”
And look — I’m part of the problem. I’m not outwardly mean on Twitter, but I certainly have my issues. I have been annoyed by certain elements of what I’ve called the “Acela Media” this year in the coverage of Trump and his voters, and have reacted defensively in some instances. In others, I’ve felt the need to become a sort of Twitter ombudsman, calling out bias and arrogance and general Jim Acosta-ness (see here I go…). To what end? Am I changing minds? Probably not. As I argue against preaching to the choir, in many instances I end up preaching to my own little choir too, armed with RTs that nod in approval.
There has to be a better way. Twitter doesn’t have to make us so angry, so quick to quote tweet with a snarky response that will really “show them” but actually just signals to our followers that we “get it.” (Obligatory parenthetical here that perhaps the most influential tweeter is President Trump and he has certainly contributed to the overall nastiness of the platform.)
So what to do? I will try to lead by example. I will be nicer on Twitter in 2018. I will limit myself to only one tweet per month that can be construed as not-nice.
I will win more arguments by not participating in arguments that are ultimately unwinnable. I will remove myself from the narrative. I will cringe and save to draft and shake my head, and then put down my damn phone and talk to some people. I hope you’ll join me.
Let’s see how this goes.