Twitter and the Art of Psychological Maintenance

In Twitter terms, I’m old. Fifty plus. And for many oldsters like me, Twitter is becoming something of a trial.

But is Twitter’s evolution from relatively gentle, always witty, place of support and learning, to permanently outraged, venomous megabot troll-hole actually a good thing?

I’ve been knocking around on Twitter since 2009 under different account names. I remember when it was regularly described as a ‘micro-blogging site’; when pornbots were young and the worst thing you could get was mildly hoodwinked by an account with a sexy name and avatar that turned out to be a hairy builder from Sheffield (of either - or neither - sex).

These days, well, it’s a little more - shall we say - energetic.

Since I returned from France in 2012, the majority of my work has been ghostwriting. Yes, I’ve ghostwritten a little self-published PR book, but the vast majority of my work has been writing opinion pieces for the national press. And a large proportion of these clients have been politicos. Politicians, political commentators, people with political names to make, or axes to grind.

I’ve got huge respect for all of them.

But the state of Twitter really came home to me when I ghostwrote pieces for one of the Brexit campaign groups. That was when, for me, it changed forever. Overnight, the whole place went from relatively respectful to completely nuts. And, I now realise, it was the true beginning of the political bot.

Thanks to these bots, both algorithmic and human, it became difficult to tweet personal opinions – or even retweet my ghostwritten articles – without an almost instantaneous stream of incoming invective. Even the most balanced and rational comments by quite mild-mannered journalists were seized upon. Personal attacks became acceptable, and professional reputations were regularly and viciously impugned.

Obviously, that was then - and now it’s a great deal worse.

But what if it’s actually a good thing? What if all this rabid anger and uncontained rage is just indicative of a wider a cultural shift; one that I can’t see – or appreciate the need for - because I’m ‘old’. What if this the new 1960s?

I’m not going to try and answer that question. I’m just going to leave it right here. But what I will say is that there’s no going back. Us oldsters need to realise that the barriers are now down; our understanding of ‘respect’ has had its day and what we deem appropriate is not something that’s shared by an ever-growing number of people.

Perhaps the only way to protect my psyche is to leave Twitter. But I know that will never happen. It’s too useful and too much fun. I’m an addict and I’m at peace with that. So to protect my psychological wellbeing, I’m going to Block until I drop.