Twitter isn’t “cool” anymore.
Maybe it never was. Maybe it’s always been the social media platform for people to begrudgingly promote themselves, or spout racist garbage at strangers. But for me, starting a Twitter account helped me process my anxiety when I felt completely isolated from my surroundings.
I joined Twitter in 2016, the year the universe unanimously decided to take an enormous shart in everyone’s faces. It wasn’t just the US election, Brexit, police brutality, scary clowns, and celebrity death that made 2016 unbearable for me.
It was also the year I moved in with my parents after three years of teaching English abroad, triggering the worst depressive episode I’d experienced since adolescence.
When I moved home, I hardly knew anyone in my town.
Other than my mother, whose political commentary is never more nuanced than “these fucking Republicans, Hannah,” (a valid point, to be sure) I didn’t have anyone I could process with.
Living in a foreign country allowed me to disconnect from the harsh realities of the toxic racism and violence of my own culture. When I was abroad, I could read the news without letting it affect me. Coming back after three years wasn’t just weird because I wasn’t sure what I was doing my life. I was also contending with the most divisive political environment I’d ever seen.
I was watching my country fall apart.
My feelings were not the issue, but I still wanted to see how other people were processing. People whose commentary mattered to me, people outside my social circle.
I’d obviously rather have a strong community of real-life friends with whom to discuss current events.
But when I joined Twitter, I didn’t.
The people who make the argument that social media is isolating are the same people who tell you they’d “rather do it the old-fashioned way” when you explain your online dating experience. Yes, so would everyone, but not all of us have the ability to miraculously manifest potential partners from the ether whenever we’re single. I didn’t have a community in my vicinity, and I needed to know how other people were feeling.
Twitter is an outlet for people to share their most visceral, instantaneous reactions to current events.
For some people, that’s what makes it toxic. For me, it started as a helpful way of watching the world collectively process the 2016 election.
It wasn’t about staying informed. It wasn’t about activism. It was about being able to watch people who were funnier than I make jokes the second something happened. It’s about knowing that other writers, comedians, and poets were also looking for space to safely process our increasingly apocalyptic-seeming society.
In the aftermath of 2016, I still find it difficult to have conversations with my friends in person about what’s going on. It’s hard to have anything more nuanced to say in person beyond “UGH” and “I know, right?” But social media allows me to have a space to see how people more articulate than I have those conversations using humor, outrage, memes, and gifs.
I know there are a lot of valid reasons to hate Twitter, but it helped me to understand how to collectively process horrific events.
A lot of things have happened since I joined Twitter. I’m no longer isolated in my community. I have a network of local activists and artists with whom to have conversations and take action. It’s not just my Mom texting me from her work about whatever our cheeto-leader said this time.
But I still find Twitter useful.
I now have people in real life I can process current events with, but my community is still relatively small. It doesn’t include perspectives from people of all backgrounds. I don’t get my news from social media, but I do find that the people I follow on Twitter who tend to share news in the same sentence with ways to take action.
For me, it’s a lot less overwhelming that following the news without hearing the perspectives of people who know how to respond and resist.
I can understand the urge to disconnect, but for now, I’m keeping my Twitter.