Monday, December 12, 2016

tweet no more?

I'm pondering leaving Twitter. I had hoped to move over to, but I never received a Gab invitation despite having signed up for one.* Non-receipt may have been my fault, especially if the invite appeared in my trash, only to be accidentally deleted. The real problem, though, is that Gab makes it impossible to contact customer service so that I can explain my problem and be re-issued an invite.

So I've mentally put Gab aside, and I'm also thinking about leaving Twitter. This would be a big decision for me, as Twitter is now my main source for news: when something huge happens in the world, I always hear about it on Twitter first. News sites update more slowly: when Park Geun-hye was impeached, the English Chosun Ilbo website didn't update itself until an hour or two after everyone on Twitter had already started talking about the voting results. Twitter moves fast; standard websites are slow.

I also like Twitter for the way it allows me to float random thoughts quickly via phone, laptop, or desktop. Reactions are almost instantaneous, which is its own form of gratification. At the same time, this is one of Twitter's worst qualities: it traffics in superficiality. Every little event demands your attention, to the point where your consciousness becomes that thing Zen Buddhists hate—the monkey mind, leaping and swinging from tree branch to tree branch, never settling, never going deeper. Twitter is monkey mind incarnate.

And that, ultimately, is what is turning me off about Twitter: it turns us all into quick-reacting drama queens who over-inflate the significance of every moment in "trending" topicality. How many times have I reacted without thinking after merely reading a headline? How many news articles have I retweeted after reading only the headline and skipping over the substance? Far too many. And this is the opposite of how someone who is academically minded ought to think. The entire mechanism of pause, ponder, and only then respond is thrown out the window in favor of pure, witty reaction merely to score points with one's "followers."

Twitter is also a terrible place to have any sort of deep conversation. I've been involved in several exchanges that bordered on the idiotic: in every case, it came down to two people just quipping at each other, neither person capable of saying anything deep. Oh, for the good old days when two people could have a substantive email discussion!

Finally, as my brother David noted, Twitter is arguably a greater security risk than even Facebook. Everything you do on Twitter is being quietly noted and tracked. All that info is being fed into the enormous and ever-growing creature known as Big Data, all the better to inform increasingly capable A.I.s that will then market to you or "accidentally" release your private information through a security breach. I had quit Facebook primarily because of my increasing paranoia about its security problems; Twitter, for some reason, never seemed all that unsafe to me, but several articles note that it's a wide-open field for data-mining folks and their bots. I've finally started to feel a Facebookish paranoia about Twitter.

So despite Twitter's instant-gratification appeal, its ability to distribute news faster than news agencies, and its usefulness as a platform for sudden random thoughts, the medium is both too superficial and too unsafe. I'll miss Twitter, for a while at least, but I think it might be best to start 2017 free of the grabbiness of the Twitterverse. Thinking out loud about this on the blog has helped me make a decision: December 31, 2016, will be my final day on Twitter. I'll delete my account a bit before midnight to ring in the new year in a blissfully quiet way, without all those damn voices in my head.

Oh, and the same probably goes for Instagram, too.

*UPDATE: Just checked the site, and I'm now #912366 on Gab's waiting list. Don't know how this happened, and my wait-list number has certainly dropped down from #37634, but I suppose I'll keep my eyes peeled for a Gab invitation that's very likely to appear in my trash folder. The attraction of Gab, vis-à-vis Twitter, is that the speech is supposedly freer there. People like Milo Yiannopoulos don't get banned for calling an actress ugly; people like Scott Adams don't get "shadowbanned" for explaining why Trump won and how clueless the media have been. That said, Gab's FAQ page is up-front about the fact that speech is still policed on the site, and users can still flag (i.e., tattle on, like in the USSR) other users. My feeling is that, if a tattler tattles too many times, s/he should be banned from Gab. Get rid of the oppressors, suppressors, and repressors—the frequent flaggers!

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