Cast your mind back to mid-October 2020. Covid’s first fall. Viruses. They grow so fast, don’t they? The U.S presidential election, already rigged, was mere weeks away. Russia earned a spot on the United Nations Human Rights Council. International recognition that would surely keep any authoritarian and militaristic inclinations in check. Canadian Greens elected Annamie Paul as party leader, the next step in what was sure to be the mainstreaming of concrete social progress and legitimate climate action.
This is about none of that, however. Because also back in October 2020, as I’m sure many of you circled it in red on your calendars that year, I got locked out of my Twitter account.
A singular voice of reasoned discourse silenced. Freedom of expression denied. Another innocent victim of cancel culture.
[Hand to heart. Flag waving.]
Actually, it’s surprising it took as long as it did. I’d been slashing away, lashing out on the platform for the better part of a decade. I cussed. I badgered. I railed. I railed a lot. I frequently engaged in non-productive, dare I say, counterproductive behaviour. At times. Not always. But plenty of times.
What was surprising, though, was the nature of the offending tweet of mine, the one that finally brought the hammer down on the account:
Part of a Twitter conversation I was having with an actual IRL friend. Some idle banter, a tweet plucked out of context, as much as I hate to use that rationalization. The string of tweets it got lifted from:
If you’re having trouble following along, it doesn’t matter because, in the end, there’s no there there. Innocuous, inane, very possibly. A painfully obvious use of hyperbole in a lazy attempt at a joke, summoning for those of us old enough to remember the spirit of Primal Scream. Somehow deemed to be ‘abuse and harassment’, ‘targeted’ even, ‘wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm’.
Wishing what someone harm? All the Baby Boomers? An entire generation?
A generation to which the two of us back-and-forthing in that string of tweets reluctantly belong (although there was some disagreement about that which was the genesis of the conversation), a point made somewhere during that conversation.
Now had I tweeted “KILL ALL BOOMERS – except me”, Twitter’s mysterious adjudicators may have had a case, maybe, if there’d been so much as a modicum of seriousness to it and not some off-the-cuff remark, an easy call to make with even the slightest pause for consideration.
Ho-hum, whatever. Blind algorithms unleashed to ferret out proscribed words, phrases and discourse, especially those in ALLCAPS and very likely accentuated with heavy use of aggressive punctuation. See, users? Twitter’s working to keep things safe and civil for everyone on the platform including whole generations.
The real kicker here, and it’s in the very, very fine print of the images, so allow me to highlight it for you:The deemed-to-be abusive tweet (and the discussion from which it was stripped) occurred in May 2016, nearly four and a half years before it got me into trouble. My god! How many of my generation had been abused and harassed since I’d fired off that tweet? Better late than never, I guess.
Initially, I filed an appeal, given fewer characters to do so than you have for a basic tweet. Summarily denied. Delete your tweet or remain locked out. I penned a missive I was going to fire off, stamp my feet, kick up a fuss.
But then, I took a deep breath, a step back and figured, Fuck it. Embrace the lock out and take a Twitter timeout. I’d made it through nearly 50 years of life without it. A couple months, maybe through to the new year. Check your dependency. Experience what millions and millions and millions and millions of other people experience. Daily life without Twitter.
This isn’t some anti-social media brag about how great my life has become without it, you guys should try it sometime, we’d all be better people, society would be a better place, honk, honk, honk.
What I will tell you, from a personal perspective, I came to realize I spent far too much time engaging with and on Twitter, most of it, a heavy preponderance of it frankly, pointlessly, probably arguing with an embarrassing number of bots when all is said and done while contributing very little in the way of insight, interest or even much fun. Oh, him again, is the impression it seems to me my Twitter input left with others.
Upon opening Twitter, my default mood would immediately coalesce into indignation and outrage which I then allowed to paint the tone of the morning, possibly even the rest of the day. Without Twitter, I’ve been able to be more circumspect in allowing the flow of bad news and the state of the world into my life. It’s a contained, quiet rage that I contend with now, moderated by a very purposeful approach I take to information uptake. Is this going to piss me off? I ponder before pursuing a particular subject matter, or should I set it aside until my frame of mind is more prepared?
While there are voices on the platform I’ve missed hearing, learning from or laughing along with, I have not missed not having Twitter in my life. (Two negatives in a sentence make it positive, right?) Any urge I have to whip off some observation, in my mind always witty and/or clever, quickly passes, highlighting, I think, just how little the rest of the Twittersphere needed to hear it in the first place. Mostly, these days, such remarks would involve me being irate at the fact I have to use the fucking pedestrian beg button to be able to cross the street.
Who needs to bear witness to that? Except maybe the city’s traffic department and would they really be listening anyway?
So I can hear the collective you, the four of you, (Hi, mom!), asking, Well, Mr. Self-Righteous, if you’re so happy being Twitterless, why are you back? Especially with the possibility of the Shittiest Person in the World getting his grime(s)y paws all over the gears in the worst Will-They-or-Won’t-They rom-com premise ever, and all the other loathsome aspects of the entire enterprise. You were free of it! There’s nothing here for you anymore. Turn around and save yourself.
The thing is, I haven’t been exactly idle during my absence. Since my last post here, some six years ago – six years! – really?! Time sure flies when… well, it just does, doesn’t it. Six years on and I’m here to tell you that I’ve kept on writing, just not this writing, municipal politics like it matters and all that. Fiction’s what I’ve been scribbling at with two first draft manuscripts to show for it, one pre-Covid and one post-Covid. We’re post-Covid, right? Our deputy mayor said so.
Meaning, I’m back here and on the Twitter for the most mercenary and sleazy of reasons, to flog my wares as an aspiring novelist. To (re)establish a necessary social media presence, and since – saying this with absolutely no pride whatsoever – Twitter is the only social platform I’m even vaguely familiar with, here I am. A kinder, gentler, more constructive presence.
Expect a little bit of this, a little bit of that, maybe some political and social commentary thrown in, a lot of self-flagellation and doubt, and quite likely a preview or two, a few probably, to entice your interest in the work and create a voracious demand for more, more, more, MOAR!
Still All Fired Up. Still In The Big Smoke. Just a different kind of fiction.