In mid-January, after several months of feeling like it just wasn’t fun anymore, I had decided I was done with Twitter. Having a public account allowed some truly reprehensible people to show up in my mentions and spew their misery and I was tired of providing the platform which gave them access to me. The bad was starting to outweigh the good, and so I finally deleted my account, and it felt wonderful. The next day I wrote a post about why I left and it turned out someone who works in the Trust and Safety Department at Twitter read that post and emailed me about it. After a few email exchanges, we decided to talk about it further over the phone. I had a great conversation with this person, who then invited me to attend a private symposium Twitter was having for 30 representatives and leaders of organizations which assist a wide variety of communities online that deal with an absurd amount of abuse and harassment. I agreed to attend and three weeks later, I flew up to San Francisco to participate in this all day event at their headquarters.
I had mixed feelings about being part of this symposium. I felt frustrated at what seemed like a lack of support from Twitter for their users when they know all of this horrible abuse is happening on their platform. I felt sad that they didn’t provide easier ways for users to protect themselves from the attacks that constantly happen and as a result of that, I felt the only thing I could do to protect myself was to just leave it. I also felt scared and REALLY out of place once I arrived there. At the beginning of the symposium, each person attending stood up, introduced themselves, and talked about these incredible organizations they were there to represent. And then there was me. I stood up, said my name, followed by “I’m just a woman on the internet. I didn’t have a verified Twitter account, I’m not a celebrity, I’m just a woman who is passionate about rescue animals and human equality who somehow has a voice people like to listen to.” As soon as I said that out loud, I understood why I was there. There are so many people just like me who liked Twitter for the social part of it but who end up dealing with the dregs of humanity who show up in their mentions. I was there to offer my point of view, just like all the other representatives there, on how Twitter can make their platform a more user friendly and safer place to be.
I won’t bother going into all the details of the entire day but I will say I felt really good about the things we talked about. We had discussions together as well as splitting up into groups to discuss tools that would be incredibly useful to users to manage their timeline, since we all know the horrible people online are always going to be there. Everyone came up with great ideas on how Twitter could expand their own software instead of users needing other third party software companies to make our personal Twitter experience more enjoyable. I’ve known about these third party software tools for a while but for me, I felt if it ever got so bad that I needed a third party to help me manage what I see, it just wasn’t worth it anymore. If Twitter just provided this themselves, it would make the platform a simple and pleasant experience again.
One of the things suggested to me by the person I spoke with at Twitter was to just lock my account to protect my user name from being released for anyone else to use in the future. Apparently, there were some online articles written about my Twitter departure and some asshats are waiting for my user name to become available so they could pretend to be me. People sure are neat. Anyway, I did what Twitter suggested and locked my account (and deleted tons of my old tweets because who knows who follows me. Now all anyone gets to see is basically my pet pictures.) After a few weeks following my departure, I had friends suggest I also auto-link my blog and Instagram posts to Twitter since people who follow me there may not know I am still online, just on a different platform, so I did. I don’t look at Twitter, I don’t read any mentions or comments to me, and I don’t read my timeline. I know. I’m putting the “anti” in social media. How boring.
This past week, Wil and I went on the annual JoCo cruise along with 1100 super awesome nerds. This is the sixth one, and I was really excited to see new faces as well as all the old, familiar ones. But an unexpected thing happened for me. I ended up having dozens of conversations with people I’ve only interacted with on the cruise, at conventions, and on Twitter, who all came up to tell me how happy they were that I was back on Twitter. Woops. I hadn’t considered my auto-link posts would appear that I was back to actively participating in anything there, so I had to explain that I wasn’t reading anything there and I wasn’t engaging in any tweets to me. That’s when I realized I should probably write this post.
At the end of the symposium day at Twitter, I did feel that if the company could create this software to give the tools to users to make our Twitter experience what we wanted, I would probably go back to it. Once on land yesterday at the end of our cruise, I decided to look at my Twitter account to see what others see on my profile page. First, I saw that I had several follower requests. Woops. Apparently, making my account private means the only way to follow me is if I approve these requests and honestly, the only way I’d be okay with that is if I looked at each profile to make sure the person isn’t an asshole, and that isn’t something I feel like investing any time in right now. For months, the abusive attacks at me were so massive that I would make the effort to report the truly awful ones but just mute the accounts of all the others in a quick way to not see them in my mentions. I looked at that mute list (which is thousands of user names long. So long that as much as I scroll through, I still haven’t seen the end of the list) and there were dozens and dozens of those awful and abusive users actually following me. I’m assuming they’re waiting for me to post something they can run with, which is why I will continue to keep my account locked, not read any of it, and not engage with anyone in my mentions. Enjoy those pet pics, people.
I am reluctantly optimistic that Twitter will eventually create the software so many of us would love to use to have control over our Twitter experience. It may take a few months and hopefully it’ll happen before it’s too late. In the meantime, I don’t blame you for unfollowing me now that you know I’m not really there and won’t be reading what you say to me. And maybe someday I will be back on there for real when there’s a way to make it the experience it used to be for me before all of this crap started. I know there are so many wonderful people I used to interact with on Twitter and I do miss that, and I appreciate your understanding of why I’m doing this the way I’m doing it. Any of my life I choose to share online is so much better now that it’s on my own terms, and that makes all of this worth it.