My name is Grace and I’m addicted to Twitter.
In the weeks leading up to the election Twitter became a constant source of both anxiety amplification and reduction. I checked my feed obsessively, looking for good news about a new poll, or another misstep by Trump, or news, like Comey’s letter to Congress, that I knew would be bad for Clinton. Every time I had a quiet moment, my phone was in my hand and I was hitting the little blue bird.
I’m not alone. Yesterday’s NY Times has an article “Breaking Up With Twitter” that describes almost exactly what I’ve experienced.
If I stayed in my own feed in Twitter I was okay, but I kept clicking in to hashtags I thought were going to reflect my own view of the campaign, only to find them full of hateful vitriol. Getting in to bed at night to read, instead of picking up a book, I picked up my phone and clicked links and read about rallies and campaign strategies and what Nate Silver’s latest forecast map looked like.
Finally, I decided I was going to limit myself to checking the 538 website and the NY Times. But then I’d be back on Twitter and ended up subscribing to the Washington Post digital edition, in addition to the Times, because I couldn’t get enough news fast enough and I had to be sure I was always on top of what was next, what was breaking, what the progressive journalists I admire were saying and what trolls were saying back.
Between the hateful tweets swamping any election related hashtag and the nasty comments in the Times and Post, I started to wonder if there was any place left in the world to have respectful disagreements. At one point I tried to take solace in Facebook, but that became as bad, people yelling at each other through comments and trying to have political discourse through cross posting of links to stories out of their own echo chambers.
Election night I did manage to get off Twitter fairly early and go to sleep. I was exhausted by weeks of anxiety and hoped to wake up to good news. When I did wake up at 4:00 a.m. and checked the NY Times I was horrified to see “Trump Triumphs!”
Sitting at my computer, stunned and feeling sick, I clicked in to Twitter. There was the best tweet I’ve read in months, from the writer Gary Shteyngart. “Want to change this country? Write a book. Read a book to your children. Tell your friends about a great book. Get off twitter. Now.”
Last night I read two books to Emilio, one of which sent him into giggling fits and I giggled along with him. I talk about books with my friends and family all the time and am hosting my book club this week (The News From Spain, an excellent collection of short stories by Joan Wickersham).
Writing a book? Not so much lately, as my pre-election anxiety took me so far outside myself and any kind of productive focus that I haven’t worked on my memoir for a couple of weeks.
I’m not going to normalize what has happened with the election. I’ve already been to one protest and plan to go to more. I’m upping my activism in anti-racism work and I’m always active in ending violence against women. That’s not going to change.
But I’m not going to let the divisive discourse on social media absorb my energy anymore. Good-bye nasty Twitter hashtags and disparaging comments on news articles and comment-thread-fights on Facebook. I’m quitting. For real.
I have a book to write.
But you know what’s most interesting in all in this? When I just searched Twitter to find Shteyngart’s tweet to be sure I had it right, I didn’t. It starts with “Read a book,” not “Write a book.” But I guess what I needed to see was “write.”