Now this is going to be a long one, bear with me. Twitter, one of the most popular social media sites out there, having an enormous user base, has its fair share of problems. It’s often regarded these days as a “toxic” place and such a label isn’t unwarranted in the slightest, in my opinion of course.
Let’s go right to the root of the problem, it’s character limit. With 280 being the maximum character limit, there isn’t much scope for an actual substantial discussion in the first place. Twitter is at its best when the user base makes use of the character limit to come up with creative jokes, sharing stories or thoughts that may cross their mind, with people responding to it in a fun healthy discourse. The main problem arises when people use the site to address significant and debatable issues because usually the character limit isn’t enough to give it justice or credence, especially when in a discourse with someone else. The ideals behind the original point become muddied when you don’t have enough space to actually explain the nuances of your statements and put it forward in a more precise and detailed manner. Such an issue becomes abhorrent when combined with the major issue that is performative activism and virtue signalling, which Twitter loves to participate in.
Sharing posts about issues going around in the world isn’t wrong in the slightest, it helps bring attention to them and could actually cause pressure for the concerned authorities to take action and rectify the issues to the best of their capabilities. The problem is when it’s used as a tool to promote themselves. In many instances you see internet celebrities dodging criticism by putting out a tweet speaking vaguely about how they respect and support oppressed communities and see them as equals, literally the bare minimum, to earn praise and virtue points. They don’t care about hopefully bringing attention to the issue at hand. They do it to save face, earn praise for doing the bare minimum, increase their following and earn more clout and internet points. It becomes a selfish desire rather than a selfless act. These people use the plight of oppressed communites such as other races, people of different sexualities, transgender and non binary people, people with disabilities etc. for their own gain and clout by treating them with the barest minimum of respect. These less privileged people’s lives aren’t made for one’s own inspiration story! They are normal people as well! One isn’t a superhero for treating them as such and shouldn’t be rewarded with undying love and loyalty for doing the bare minimum. You might be wondering that even though one may have scummy ideals, atleast they are doing a good act and inadvertently helping, so why do I care so much. The reason I do ties into the next problem I have which is the “Stan” culture.
Being a fan of something/someone is completely normal and human. When I talk about Stan culture, I talk about the obsessive fan culture that not only significantly harms the mental health of the person who they are obsessing over, but even themselves. To get too obsessed towards a certain thing is never healthy, especially when the Stan culture is over a person. This leads to the dangerous phenomena of parasocial relationships as well where the fan convinces themself they actually have a relationship with this person who they know nothing about, all they know is the online persona a person has created. This can severely impact the mental health of both parties involved. The major problem with this is that most of the time it’s minors who get involved in such stuff. This leads to predators with a significant fan following having a platform to be able to groom their minor fans thanks to parasocial relationships, preying on them and taking advantage of them in disgusting ways. Stan culture is an obsessive thing that is very prevalent on Twitter, trending everyday in some sort of hashtag. Such fan culture shouldn’t be promoted. By allowing stans of a person to exist, who elevate a person to such a superior status for doing the bare minimum, we strip away the concept of accountability from them.
On the other end of the spectrum however, is the issue of “cancel” culture. The funniest thing to me about this is that people in fiction love redemption stories, stories where people realize their mistakes and improve on them slowly and gradually to become a better version of themselves. However when it comes to real life, Twitter for some reason forgoes the concept of redemption. Any mistake a person has ever made is held against them throughout their lives, even when they have shown regret for that mistake, apologized for it and have improved themselves and changed their behaviour. It’s good to hold people accountable for bad stuff they might do, but it’s obnoxious to never give them an opportunity to change, to approach them with hate instead of trying to educate them. No one is perfect, all of us have made mistakes we regret in our lifespan. Not everyone should be “cancelled” and have everything taken away from them for a mistake they made in the past, especially when they have shown progress and change. Forgiveness is a trait that’s completely forgotten when it comes to Twitter.
Another major issue is that dissenting opinions are seen distastefully. It’s like people there want a collective hivemind of thoughts and emotions and any differing opinion must be silenced and banished. People there have a problem of treating their opinions as facts and facts as opinions. Differing views and ideals should be encouraged to force an open dialogue and discussions. People with differing opinions are just blocked. For the record, blocking someone isn’t a sign of weakness or something you should avoid if they are actually troubling you and spamming you. But when you start blocking people with a differing opinion than you, even on harmless topics, you’re just creating an echo chamber for yourself which is detrimental to discussions and debates as a whole. To combat bigotry, there needs to be a dialogue. To reconcile and unite, there needs to be an acceptance of differing thoughts and ideals and finding a common ground should be encouraged. Battling hate with hate is a recipe for disaster. Being mean and rude for no reason shouldn’t be celebrated as a positive trait. Some people would prefer to be praised as a villain rather than be obscure. This is just harmful and detrimental on every front.
To conclude, I do not in any way mean to generalise every user there as having these problems. But there is a big audience which causes these issues. A large part of Twitter has these problems which makes the atmosphere overall “toxic”. This piece is for addressing those parts of Twitter.