Debeaked

A cartoon of a blue bird with a yellow beak.
Twitter icon from the BUUF set by Mattahan (Paul Davey)1

This morning I deactivated my Twitter account.

I feel strange.

I have only been using it regularly for a couple of months. I set up my account in 2015, so that I could keep up with the rapid and exciting changes within the Labour Party. Then Facebook took over, and I largely ignored it. After deleting my Facebook account, I had a blessed period of no social media activity whatsoever. I think of this as a golden era. I might have been a little out of the loop about some things, but I was very productive. My work performance improved and I read more, and blogged with a little more depth.

Then, two months ago, (just two months!) our supreme leader2called a ‘snap’ general election. The ‘common sense’ view was that Labour would roll over and die. It didn’t work out that way. Like an awful lot of other people, I leapt into enthusiastic action, and my dormant Twitter account was a major tool of my involvement, although not the only tool. I set up a webpage within this site3, and blogged about the election campaign on the Island, and I leafleted and marched and went to rallies, and I had a whale of a time, and we achieved a result that no one had predicted.

However, it was not a victory, or a clear-cut loss. My intention had been to shut my Twitter account on the day the election result was announced, but I was hooked and it felt -feels- as though the battle goes on. I had gathered over sixty followers in under a month and I was enjoying the instant gratification of pontificating, congratulating and dismissing people on a public forum. I think, on the whole, I was in control of my tone. I certainly continued to gather followers and likes and retweets: all the psychic gratification of a system built around conditioned response, but I also was getting dragged in, in the way we love to see others dragged in, to the twitchy, snarly arse-sniffing of a social-media bubble.

Yesterday, I posted a comment about the odious, racist, right-wing ‘commentator’ Melanie Phillips4 and my sister took exception, suggesting that my use of the word ‘shrill’ was gendered. Now, I don’t regret lashing out at a privileged, fascist conspiracy-theorist. Indeed, I so dislike Phillips that I had trouble, for an hour or two, accepting that my sister had a point. Phillips uses a form of rich-people’s victimy hysteria as a cover for her selfish, spoilt vitriol, and I feel justified in despising her, but I was in danger of taking – indeed, I did take – the ugliness of my subject as an excuse for behaviour, or at least, language, that was as inconsiderate of decency as the poison spouted by the person I was attacking. As Phillips’ racist hatred has proved, words can have consequences.5 And, with social media, even the most inconsequential, trivial and apparently anonymous voice is only one careless tweet away from personal disaster.6

The medium, social media, had shaped my behaviour. It was too easy to publish – albeit to under a hundred people, directly – language of which, in the cold light of day, I was ashamed. Twitter didn’t even have Facebook’s one redeeming virtue, that it can facilitate discussion. On Twitter, you are constantly striving for the punchline: the killing blow, without going through the intermediate and potentially enriching process of an exchange of views. It had to end, and so I clicked deactivate, and am now back to being an isolated blogger, publishing my thoughts to the void, and to Diaspora, which, while it is free of Twitter and Facebook’s most obvious failings, cannot, in its restraint, provide quite the same interconnectedness.

However, if you are reading this and would like to keep up with my posts or even engage with me without signing up to this site, you might want to look at Diaspora. It uses a distributed model, and a hub can be set up on any server, which I would like to do some time. For now, I have joined a hub run by the developers, and have come across quite a few interesting people. It is not so compulsive, and it is a little quiet, but it is there.


Note from December 2021: I didn’t keep up my Diaspora account. It attracted the same extremes as the more famous social media. The medium is the message. I am working on notes for a long blog post on my reading into the ruination of the internet. Watch this blog.

  1. http:[//www.mattahan.com/ []
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/30/kim-jong-may-awkward-and-incredulous-as-journalist-asks-question []
  3. Long since deleted []
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanie_Phillips []
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/aug/06/anders-behring-breivik-melanie-phillips []
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So_You%27ve_Been_Publicly_Shamed []

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  1. Under The Hammer – Danceswithcats

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