I find reaching for my phone, opening Twitter and scrolling to be a hugely compelling activity.
The thrill is something like a soap opera, reading updates from the various dramatis personae. As 2020 scaled the heights of the culture war, a narrative was imparted on their posts. Idle thoughts become skirmishes in a grand battle. And the format of Twitter allows for me to model responses and reactions as I read. Half-imagined repartee I could post, but why bother when I can play it out in my head, getting half the rush with none of the risk.
I mostly lurk — realistically I’m not quick-witted enough to wield the high irony at breakneck speed that I think best suits the form. Someone said, “social media is for girls and gays”, To which we can add “aspiring journalists”. As I’m not trying to build a career in online drama, there’s a considerable downside in even attempting to irony-post. I don’t want to be anonymous online. Don’t most people suffer from a surfeit of anonymity?
The trouble is that so much of the narrative arc is a dead end. The American culture war, while it impacts me tangentially, and I need to know about it, there’s nothing from it I can use creatively. The only outlet would be to criticise, or cheer along the various factions.
Yes, one should speak out, etc. And I would, if it came to it. But overall it’s a distraction. When people post on Twitter about other interests of mine – NLP, literature, whatever, it lacks the spark of the narrative arc, and seems dull in comparison, despite being actually creatively useful.
In this way, the culture war captures the narrative and holds mine and I suppose everyone’s interest. My Twitter addiction is a symptom of its hold over us. I suppose for journalists this is even worse. Posts that are grist to existing narratives shine like gold dust. Whereas posts that point to facts and opinions that should be widely disseminated lie ignored.
And so, I delete Twitter from my phone. Only to wait the few weeks until I forget why I did it.