Tiffany B. Brown

01 September 2016

Twitter Is Dying

Abuse is killing the social web, and hence it isn’t peripheral to internet business models — it’s central. It has significant chilling effects: given a tipping point, people will simply stop using a network, and walk away.

That's the very smart Umair Haque in his 2015 essay Why Twitter’s Dying (And What You Can Learn From It). I agreed with him then, and I agree with him even more now.

I've been a Twitter user since 2007. My original Twitter account no longer exists. I started my current one in 2008. That was still before Oprah, so I guess I can call myself a Twitter OG.

I spent? Spend? A LOT of time on Twitter. It's a habit I developed while living by myself in a city where my friends were neither close in emotion nor physical proximity.

Something started to shift on Twitter a couple of years ago. Abuse, misogyny, and racism ratcheted up to new levels. Everybody got woke. Witnessing the barrage of misogynist and racist harrassment leaves me feeling like a sitting duck many days. On days when I don't feel like a sitting duck, I want to burn down the world thanks to the river of Shit That Pisses Me Off.

I still do experience moments of connection, joy and laughter. But as often as not — perhaps more often than not — Twitter is just a torrent of rage-inducing 💩. Complicating matters, the joy and the 💩 usually comes from the same people. I can block rank assholes, fuckboys, unrepentant sexists, and racist eggs. But that still leaves the woke, most of whom I really wish would take a nap.

There's not really a good way to navigate the 💩 river either. The only real option is to hide it. I can do the work of sorting the 678 accounts I follow into lists. I can mute or unfollow. Or I can just … spend much less time on Twitter.

I've noticed a mini-trend in that regard. Several of my closest friends and a few Twitter acquaintances have radically reduced the amount of time they spend on Twitter. Their accounts are dormant, or they post every other week. They report being happier for it. I've noticed that on days when I ignore Twitter, I'm happier for it.

That doesn't mean that I'm spending less time on line. Just that my attention is shifting elsewhere, and to places that don't slowly turn me into a misanthrope.

I think the next logical step is to make those days without Twitter far more frequent. I suspect this will become true for more of its users. Who knows how many people the repeated, high-profile cases of abuse have kept away? Twitter is dying. Twitter is killing itself.