A confession: I used to Twitter, but I don’t Twitter anymore.
I didn’t want to do Twitter. Ever.
I have lived a full and mostly good life without having to share a moment of that full and mostly good life on Twitter or any other social media platform.
These days, I’m a Twitter unicorn.
Still, about nine years ago, a publisher in Ottawa that I wrote for encouraged me to join Twitter because some journalists, his friends, asked on Twitter why I wasn’t on Twitter.
He was eager for me to “push” my stuff on Twitter so he could generate “more traffic” and “views” for my weekly column back then.
More hits meant more traffic. “More traffic” generally translates to more “followers” on Twitter. Attracting more “followers” was going to make him, me and my “followers” happy to be on Twitter.
I didn’t need or want to find happiness on Twitter. The prospect of having “followers” was strange and daunting. I didn’t want or need anyone to “follow” me online. Read me: yes, please. Follow me: no thanks.
Reluctantly, however, I agreed to create an account and “push” my posts on Twitter.
Hey, you might have been rewarded with a blue checkmark. Validation. Condition. Influence. Twitter can transform you from a nobody to someone, instantly.
Twitter can also help you build your “brand.” Maybe one day you can leverage your “brand” to make money. Many renowned journalists do. Good for them, I guess. God knows, with so many jobs going, journalists need other ways to make a living. I was not interested in becoming a brand.
At first, I thought Twitter was harmless. I wrote a column. I “pushed” the column on Twitter. Soon, people began to “follow” me. Over time, I gained more “followers,” some of whom wrote kind and thoughtful tweets about me and my column. Others don’t.
Slowly, I began to be sucked into the disfiguring vortex of Twitter. If you’re on Twitter, you probably know what I mean. It’s that place and state of mind that you can descend into on Twitter, consciously or unconsciously.
It’s not a happy place, not at all. It’s a sullen, petty, often ugly place and space where you write and do things you may or may not regret writing or doing. Maybe not in the moment, but later, when, if you’re lucky, you take some time to think and reflect on what you’ve written or become on Twitter.
Like so many others on Twitter, you attack, you hit back, you get nasty, you seek to prod people deeply.
They respond in sadness, equal measure. Some use their real names, others hide behind a nom de guerre.
You start to attract even more “followers” who enjoy when you attack, hit back and be nasty or try to poke a common enemy.
They applaud you and encourage you to continue. They “like” and “retweet” your tweets. it’s fuel. So you tweet and tweet until, one day, you look up and see that you’ve spent hours inside the vortex. So much wasted time. You could have spent that time doing something much more valuable and rewarding like reading a book or enjoying a quiet moment.
So, you realize that, in a way, you’ve become addicted to that ephemeral thing called Twitter. It is an unhealthy and destructive addiction. You can’t wean yourself off. You resign. cold turkey You are done with Twitter. Your tweets and “followers” disappear into the ether like a gust of dusty wind.
you feel free
By now, you may be wondering why I’m sharing the mundane arc of my experience on Twitter with you.
Well, as you know, Twitter has a new owner: Elon Musk. He is, as you know, the richest man on earth. Musk says that he bought Twitter to defend democracy and protect free speech. He apparently wants to “fix” Twitter.
Musk may be a “visionary” and fabulous huckster, but he’s a lousy liar.
There are no benevolent plutocrats.
Musk is buying Twitter for $44 billion not only because he is one of the few white men who can raise that staggering amount of money, but also to feed his narcissism. It’s the same corrosive strain of narcissism that made me stay on Twitter as long as I did before having a belated epiphany.
I also think that Musk is buying Twitter because he wants to be loved. The Beatles wrote that “money can’t buy me love.” I think Musk believes that, beyond power, Twitter can buy him love.
Musk has been getting a lot of love lately from people who use Twitter to hate people, ideas, and events they hate: “liberals,” gays, minorities, scientists, doctors, journalists, and all manner of anonymous people fighting injustice and inequality. . and lethal viruses, including children who know the earth is burning and want to do something about it.
That is, with an apologetic nod to Led Zeppelin, a lot of bad love.
It is true that many people who use Twitter try to do something good. It appears that Musk plans to “fix” Twitter by emboldening haters who use Twitter to do harm in the convenient name of “free speech.”
Sure, it’s “free speech,” Mr. Musk. It is also hate speech. Every moment of every day. Day after day. On twitter. I hate women. I hate immigrants. I hate black and brown people. I hate people who want to love and marry people who want to love and marry. I hate love, charity and knowledge. I hate progress. I hate democracy. I hate anyone who doesn’t think, act or look like them.
Admit it, Mr. Musk, you’re buying Twitter to defend hate speech. Right? I mean, you have to because what would Twitter be without the global cesspool of hate that is such an undeniable and defining aspect of your microblogging site, Mr. Musk?
Take your time, Mr. Musk. I can wait for your answers, if they please a nobody without a blue check mark who left Twitter long before I decided to buy it.
While I wait, may I remind you that the far-right lunatics who have fallen head over heels for you have, in the last nine months, banned more than 1,500 books from US school districts, including a graphic novel about the Holocaust.
His response, as far as I can tell: Silence. Stranger to the American marquee and messianic savior of “free speech.” However, on June 4, 2020, you did cheep that it was “insane” for Amazon to ban a small self-published pamphlet that accused the mainstream media of “exaggerating the threat” of a virus that has killed nearly a million Americans.
And, come on, Mr. Musk, admit it: like any other plutocrat, you need to buy a new toy when the irresistible urge strikes. Old toys, like electric cars, inevitably lose their shine and appeal. Even the richest man in the world gets bored. Then it’s time for a new toy to feel that life-affirming burst of joy and attention, like riding a gleaming rocket into space.
Above all, I think Musk is buying Twitter to make even more money. The “ideology” that guides the decisions made by plutocrats like Musk is not the defense of democracy or freedom of expression. Oh please. It’s the pursuit of cash and its twin, influence, even if it means aiding and abetting a fascist demagogue to become president again.
If you believe that laissez-faire capitalists like Musk are altruistic, then you probably believe, in your heart, that America is a glittering city on a hill.
Musk has to get a return on his gigantic investment. If he doesn’t, he will lose money. Plutocrats don’t like to lose money.
The way to make money on Twitter is to draw more people into the vortex I once inhabited. So, you have to keep them there. Addicted. That means feeding the insatiable beast with more hate, more anger, more ignorance.
Admit it, Mr. Musk.
Your silly, sentimental, transparently fatuous defense of freedom and democracy is so inappropriate.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.