A few weeks ago I came to the realization that Twitter was more of a burden than a tool in my professional and personal life. I asked myself whether I would even have a Twitter account if I didn't work in media, and the answer was an overwhelming "hell no."
So I erased the Twitter app from my phone, and I encourage anyone who finds this post relatable to do the same. If you want to taste true happiness, try living in a world where trolls can’t access you.
While I acknowledge that Twitter has given entire countries the ability to mobilize people for political revolutions and social change, for me it slowly became nothing more than a collection of everything I dislike about my profession.
On a good day it’s a forum for snarky jokes that journalists confuse for witty humor. But on most days Twitter serves as a direct line of communication in which the saddest people imaginable can reach me with their ignorance and hatred. The abuse on Twitter has become so commonplace and accepted that people have literally made careers out of it.
At the Republican National Convention, a well-known troll who was permanently banned from the site due to his targeted abuse toward actress Leslie Jones was walking around with his entourage as if he was some sort of accomplished celebrity. In reality he’s nothing more than a human pile of garbage with a terrible dye job and questionable fashion sense. But Twitter provided him with a forum to be a modern-day shock jock, and the media treated him as if he was worth paying attention to.
Not only do we give these clowns a place to be as horrendous as they want to be, we reward them for spewing hatred simply for shock value and attention.
As Buzzfeed News reporter Charlie Warzel perfectly stated, “For nearly its entire existence, Twitter has not just tolerated abuse and hate speech, it’s virtually been optimized to accommodate it.”
I’ve dealt with the hate on Twitter for seven years because I thought I had to. I thought it was critical for me to show my credibility and popularity based on the number of followers I have. As a result, I never deleted my account and just kept telling myself to grow thicker skin.
When anonymous eggs threated to rape me while sharing my personal information I quietly muted or blocked them. I remember anxiously waiting at a hospital while my mom was getting a kidney transplant when I read a tweet about how my Armenian parents deserve bullets in their heads because I work for a Turk. For nearly a decade I regularly tolerated the most extreme trolls while believing the onus was on me to find solutions to what Twitter has refused to comprehensively address.
But now I’m done. I’ve deleted the Twitter app off my phone, and I find myself basking in this joyful world void of notifications, mentions and bullshit. The trolls don’t exist anymore. They hold no real power in my world, and I couldn’t be happier. If I’m on my laptop and come across a story I find interesting, I’ll tweet it to my followers if the article has a tweet option. But I no longer go straight to Twitter or read my mentions.
Reporters at Buzzfeed spoke to as many as ten former high level executives from Twitter and discovered that those behind the site have no real desire to address the harassment and abuse spouted at public figures. It seems like the execs don’t even know what the site’s true identity is, which is why they’ve been so inconsistent in dealing with trolls.
What concerned me the most about Twitter wasn’t just the violent vitriol I was exposed to regularly. I was more worried about what it was doing to me as a person and how it was changing my overall perception of humanity. I have this incredible life with loving friends and family, and I was lucky enough to find my dream job right out of college. Yet my experiences and interactions on Twitter were making me jaded and guarded.
When the vast majority of strangers you interact with are trolls on social media, it slowly begins to chip away at your love for humanity. It made me start to believe that people were inherently evil or abusive. My optimism also took a hit, and so did my desire to get to know anyone outside of my own social circle. I was usually wound up with anger, which I would unleash in the most destructive and misdirected ways. In essence, was allowing trolls to represent the general population, and that gave them more power than they’ll ever deserve.
It's been a few weeks since I've deleted the app from my phone, and I already feel a hundred times better. Trolls live in their own pathetic bubble and it’s called Twitter. We don’t need to live there with them. Our value is not dependent on how many people follow us on a site with oblivious executives who have no interest in looking out for us. Safe to say I’ll never download the app on my phone again.