“Twitter is a machine for directing self-righteous anger, and it fires all day, every day, whether the targets are deserving or not.” —John Gruber
I would offer some qualifications, because Twitter is at a scale where there sort of isn’t one Twitter, the same way there’s not really one “Internet.” But there is this aspect of it that approaches unavoidable sometimes. As a friend put it yesterday, “I hate seeing names on trending, because it means they’re either dead or did something terrible,” to which I added “… and when they’re dead, it means we’re probably going to find out they did something terrible in short order.” (And either way, if you had to go to a wake every single day, it would start getting hard to go to wakes.)
I know there’s a school of thought that says “you should want to know that,” and I am not going to write the thousands of words it would take to establish why I take some issue with that.
Instead, I’ll offer that one way to dampen the anger machine aspects of Twitter is to:
- Follow everyone you know.
- As a general practice, confine people you don’t know to lists instead of your friends. If you break this rule, unbreak it as soon as someone you don’t know gives you cause to regret your trust in them.
- Get a Twitter client that can filter, and make a filter that removes RTs, quotes, and @’s.
You can selectively disable retweets for individual follows without a special client, but that’s too fiddly for me. Instead, I have Tweetbot set up to filter out everything that isn’t “someone I know using their own words to talk about something.” That effectively makes Twitter about as reasonable as the people I follow, and since I largely stick to rule #1 up there, it means Twitter is about as reasonable as the people I know.
I know there’s another school of thought that considers this a squandered opportunity … an invitation to fall into an epistemic trap. For people who are cognitively and temperamentally wired up to treat Twitter as their front door, that’s great and please do go on. I don’t think I owe Twitter or its denizens unfettered access to my time and attention, and that’s not something I could tolerate. There are better ways for me to absorb a diverse set of viewpoints for me.
Elsewhere in my media diet
I think it’s a sign of my own slow return to merely “whelmed” that I’ve allowed Apple News back into my media diet. I still block sites pretty ruthlessly when I think they’re wasting my time, but I appreciate having an option that’s sort of a very pretty RSS reader with a “shuffle” button to go with my more carefully curated Reeder list. Now that Reeder has its own sync back-end, I’ve dropped Feedly.
I’ve also, finally, let podcasts enter my consciousness. A list of regular listens:
- Bad Faith
- You’re Wrong About
- Still Processing
- Chapo Trap House (the first 30 minutes or so of most episodes)
- On the Media (though it’s really a radio show, I think? … I just consume it via Overcast)
- With Friends Like These (their promo format is terrible and causes me to procrastinate on listening to good conversations)
- The Argument (reassessing with the format change, but also I was getting super tried of Ross and Michelle)
- QAnon Anonymous (relax, it’s about QAnon, not by QAnon people)
And I’ll mention the Slate Political Gabfest, but of all these I find this one the most alienating. It is the professional managerial class embodied. Reading Fear of Falling and The Virtue Hoarders helped me understand why I feel so antagonized and irritable after listening to this, but I do listen because it is also a fine encapsulation of maybe 85 percent of the modern Democratic voter coalition, from its “soft left” wing to its right.
Anyhow, that’s my media brain these days.