Content Warning: this article contains screenshots of violent threats and abuse
It’s been 5 months since I deactivated my Twitter account. The verified Nazis who targeted me are still there. And while I was harassed and threatened more often than most, this year it has been daily. A couple of them are local to me and talked publicly about “finding me” on multiple occasions. Here’s a sample of the beginning:
After Twitter refused to take down/suspend any of this nonsense (if they were suspended, they just made 8 new accounts, but that was only the accounts with less followers/no verification), I had to leave for my own safety. This lead to needing to shut down most of my social media. The problem with that is that I work in social media, and have for over 10 years. This completely cut off my ability to work as no one is hiring a social media director with no social media accounts. The Patreon account that I used to fund my own work online suddenly became (and still is) my only income. Weekly rape and death threats continue 5 months later.
I didn’t leave Twitter thinking how much I hated it. I had genuinely enjoyed it. Facebook had long ceased to be a useful tool to talk to people, and Twitter made finding an audience for my work easy. I made friends from other countries that I crashed with while travelling, and local ones who come to brunch in Los Angeles. When I left Twitter I wasn’t angry – just disappointed. Like when you are really supportive of a friend but they keep going back to some asshole who’s abusive but has a lot of money and think they need him so you give them an ultimatum and they choose the rich asshole. Is that relatable? That’s not actually ever happened to me.
But as the weeks passed, I was no longer disappointed. I was disgusted. As I detoxed from the daily barrage of horrific text and imagery, Twitter actually looked worse as the days went on. From the outside I could see it for what it was – a giant outrage machine sucking the life out of genuinely good people. Never mind the Nazis or the fact that the CEO is openly promoting white supremacy.*
I kept hearing creators say that they needed Twitter to reach people, yet with tens of thousands of followers they had no more than one or two interactions on any single tweet. I saw screencap after screencap of vile abuses being shared with the same thousand people in a loop. It was a Hieronymus Bosch featuring the death of decency.
Meanwhile, the world keeps turning. The sun keeps coming up. You rearrange the apps on your phone and you move on.
I didn’t just move on from the toxic orgy of Twitter (or as we are now calling it on Mastodon – HellBirb) but also a lot of people who I had considered to be friends. But that friendship was entirely based on who I was on Twitter, or on social media as a whole. I’m pretty sure your friends would try to help you when Nazi come after you, and I’m happy to be rid of people who were only using me as a face with a follower count.
But I am still genuinely concerned about Twitter users, and I mourn the time and effort being lost to it. There are, really and truly, very few reasons to be on Twitter at this point compared to the numerous reasons not to be. I had just happened to work in one of the few fields where it is absolutely necessary. But that’s probably not true for you. There’s hope for you.
If the decent people of the world were ever going to actually take a stand about it in any meaningful way, it would have happened by now. I’m not here to try to convince you to organize a boycott or start a hashtag. I just want to let you know that deleting your Twitter account isn’t giving up or letting the bad guys win. Who do you think benefits from your daily outrage? Because it definitely isn’t you.
I want you to know there is life after Twitter. We are in a time where our mental and emotional energies need to be rationed, and Twitter is not where it needs to be spent. This is your permission to let Twitter go. This is me handing you a sock.
* That was sarcasm. You should absolutely mind the Nazis. Holy shit, why are you still using Twitter?