Maggie Haberman, the terrific New York Times reporter who is the bane of Donald Trump’s existence, is quitting Twitter. She writes about it in today’s Times, here.
“Twitter has stopped being a place where I could learn things I didn’t know, glean information that was free from errors about a breaking news story or engage in a discussion and be reasonably confident that people’s criticisms were in good faith.
The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight. It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious.
Twitter is now an anger video game for many users. It is the only platform on which people feel free to say things they’d never say to someone’s face. For me, it had become an enormous and pointless drain on my time and mental energy.”
All of that is true. But it also isn’t.
Years ago, I was urged by readers to join Twitter. I asked them what it was. “It’s a micro-blogging site,” one said.
I didn’t think I needed that. I had been writing on my non-blog diary-cum-web site since 2000, and I was getting two million visitors annually (I now get double that). What good is Twitter?
“You can interact with readers,” I was told. But I did that already – in comments on the web site, in emails, over on Facebook.
“It’s fast,” someone said. So is my web site, I responded. I can get stuff up on my web site in seconds – and even play a small role in breaking big stories.
“It’s anarchic and democratic all at the same time,” someone who knows me well said – and I didn’t have a response to that. I was intrigued. That appealed to my inner punk rocker.
I signed up. Someone who didn’t like Twitter asked me why. “It’s the Internet’s mosh pit,” I said. “Everyone is on the same level, which a lot of journalists like Paul Wells hate. You can get hurt, and others can get hurt. But it can also be awesome, even if only for an instant.”
Since joining, I’ve (deservedly) gotten in big trouble on Twitter – such as when I asked a stupid question about the 2014 mayoral campaign of John Tory. (We’ve since made up – but I don’t have anything to do with his 2018 campaign.)
Since joining, I’ve also felt like Twitter has helped me achieve things that my web site never could – such as helping me and others to shine a light on critically-important important #MeToo stories, like the ones involving Justin Trudeau, Patrick Brown and Kent Hehr and other powerful men who abuse said power.
Since joining, I’ve also met some amazing people (like Kristin Raworth or Laura Jane Grace), discovered things I didn’t know (usually grammar-related, at which I suck), blocked countless bots and trolls (life’s too short, etc.), and cheered, laughed and cried.
Does it suck, sometimes – or even a lot of the times? Sure. But there’s ways to deal with the haters and the trolls – and I even put together a tip sheet. Clip and save.
But, mostly, I still like Twitter for the reasons I joined it years ago – it’s anarchic, it’s democratic and it’s never static. It’s online punk rock.
And, if you remain unconvinced – and you still don’t like it?
Do what Ms. Haberman did. You’ll be missed, but you’ll be happier.