I genuinely didn’t think that I’d be writing this article a year ago. I used to like Twitter. No, actually, I used to love it. Through Twitter, I’ve been exposed to political viewpoints I otherwise wouldn’t see, I’ve met people I like and admire, and I’ve learned to express an opinion more snappily and punchily than before. Also, JK Rowling liked one of my tweets once, which is quite cool.
In fact, in the interests of transparency, I should probably say that my decision to get off of twitter wasn’t one purely made by me. Rather than having a road-to-Damascus style epiphany which convinced me to make this social-media exodus, I forgot my password. I’m not sure what happened, but I did. I’m not sure why it hasn’t let me recover my password for the past couple of months, but it hasn’t.
Actually, I’ve surprised myself by being perfectly ok with that, because it turns out that twitter is a terrible place, and it made me into a worse person. I will attempt to illustrate why, by detailing one of my last twitter interactions before I involuntarily got logged off…
Basically, someone had tweeted an opinion that I thought was stupid. So I retweeted it, saying “This is a stupid opinion by a terrible person.” Five people liked that tweet.
For anyone who has spent any time on Twitter, the only thing that will strike you about that story is how mundane it is. But that’s exactly the point. I took time out of my day to try and humiliate a complete stranger just for disagreeing with me, and just because I could. Five people saw me do that, and decided to applaud. And that was a perfectly normal thing, which would probably be replicated a thousand times that day, probably in more extreme forms than I could imagine. Because ‘twitter’.
Now, I’ve not said anything here that you probably haven’t heard from your grandmother, but there’s another point to be made here too. Like I said, twitter makes you a worse person. But I think going to St Andrews makes you a worse person on twitter. In my (admittedly anecdotal) experience, Twitter warriors from St Andrews can be some of the most brutal. Our takedowns are the most savage. Our retweets are the snidest. Our debating threads are the angriest and most insult laden. And I use “we” very deliberately, because I’ve been guilty of this too. Until my social-media exile, I would quite often take time out of my day to find strangers to argue with on the internet.
It’s obviously only a theory, but I think the size of St Andrews might have something to do with it. Because the University is so small, so cliquey, so interconnected, it’s very, very difficult to tell people exactly what you think of them without offending a friend of theirs who you sit on committee with, or who has an academic family member that your friend wants to sleep with. So you bite your tongue, and let these things go unsaid.
For those of us with- let’s say- narkier dispositions, that can be difficult. So it’s refreshing to be able to pour 428 characters’ worth of digital acid all over an equally narky stranger’s face. Like Fight Club, but stupid.
Now, I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing. Learning how to use the more brutal side of the English language is a useful skill, and I’m not saying it’s one that I’m never going to use. But it is one that I need to get a break from.
And that’s fair, enough, right?
I have a fifty-tweet thread calling you out if you disagree.