Lindy West is not known for understatement, going along with authority figures, or sugar-coating. She takes a fierce stand when it comes to trolls: She wants to defeat them or remediate them, sometimes through fart jokes, sometimes through kindness. (Usually fart jokes.) The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author Thomas Friedman says we've got figure out some way to enforce a culture of the Golden Rule on social media, and Lindy more or less agrees with that, but she gets there in a different way. She thinks Twitter should have better controls, and since Twitter doesn't have better controls, she's out. She explained why in her Guardian column yesterday:
Twitter, for the past five years, has been a machine where I put in unpaid work and tension headaches come out. I write jokes there for free. I post political commentary for free. I answer questions for free. I teach feminism 101 for free. Off Twitter, these are all things by which I make my living – in fact, they comprise the totality of my income. But on Twitter, I do them pro bono and, in return, I am micromanaged in real time by strangers; neo-Nazis mine my personal life for vulnerabilities to exploit; and men enjoy unfettered, direct access to my brain so they can inform me, for the thousandth time, that they would gladly rape me if I weren’t so fat.
I love Lindy's writing and obviously I think she should do whatever she wants, but:
1. I'm going to miss Lindy on Twitter.
2. Seriously. God damn she's funny. She's seriously not going to be on Twitter?
3. Isn't Facebook just as bad? We're all writing free jokes and political commentary for Facebook when we could be writing books, going for walks, finding out what our friends are eating for dinner by actually eating dinner with them, etc. And since more people are on Facebook, wasn't Facebook more responsible for disseminating/perpetuating fake news and tilting the election in Trump's/Putin's favor than Twitter was?
4. I guess Facebook requires a person to use their real identity, so yeah maybe Twitter, where people easily get to hide behind avatars, is worse. And yeah, I guess Trump really harnessed Twitter's limitations to his advantage, its character limitations helping him hide and dodge and mislead and attack and make all kinds of stuff up, its retweeting functions letting him pour kerosene on vortices of white supremacist doggy doodoo while he feigned ignorance, etc. But... and I can't believe I'm saying this... but, geez... I can't imagine living without Twitter anymore. I don't have a TV. Twitter is my connection to what's happening moment to moment in the world. I would burn my Facebook to the ground in a second if only it weren't the way my family stays in touch with each other, place where I can easily find photos of my cousins getting married, etc. But Twitter is where I find a vast array of things I'm interested in reading—poems, essays, stories, reporting—that I would never find on my own, and that I rarely find through Facebook. Facebook is like visiting family, but Twitter is a streaming reminder of things I love, like Moby-Dick, Pac Man, Gertrude Stein, Maggie Nelson, Virginia Woolf, musical theater backstage stories, funny things Carrie Fisher said, brilliant things Hannah Arendt said, and more. Plus horrifying breaking national news and hilarious local news. I guess I could somehow rejigger Facebook to show me only things Gertrude Stein, Maggie Nelson, and Virginia Woolf said, but all I ever get on Facebook is "Why don't you call your second cousin thrice removed she misses you!!!" and "Why didn't you come to that PR party I invited you to—does The Stranger hate us???" Somehow, on Twitter—unlike on Facebook—I just get to read and enjoy things I might not otherwise encounter, and not be bothered with obligatory interactions.
5. Bet you anything women have a different experience of Twitter than men do.
6. Bet you anything the fact that I'm not on Twitter to make the world a better place—Lindy volunteered a lot of time on Twitter to trying to get through to trolls—explains why I don't get stress headaches from it. I'm a selfish Twitter user. I use it to find things I want to read, and to get news, and to laugh. I don't write a lot for Twitter, and if someone's clearly just trying to get my goat, I block them asap. Hands off my goat.
7. Speaking of getting goats (and this isn't really related but bear with me), the last couple times I've turned off comments on Slog posts before posting them, I haven't regretted it. The last couple times I didn't turn comments off on Slog posts before posting them, I did regret it. Recently, I put up a post about a family in Seattle who campaigned hard for Hillary Clinton, whose struggle and resilience brought tears to my eyes, because of the creativity and grace of the two parents and the preciousness of their two young kids, and the first Slog comment was so mean-spirited and wrong and clearly intended to horrify, harass, and embarrass the family, for absolutely no reason other than "Look at me, I can be a total jerk on the internet!" that I zapped the comment unceremoniously and closed comments on the post retroactively. Lots of other Stranger writers already have closed comments as the auto-setting on their Slog posts. Increasingly, I'm persuaded that's a good idea. And if every time I posted something on Twitter, I got a reaction like that, and if when I told Jack Dorsey, I got a tin-earred reaction like his at the top of this post, I'd quit too.
8. But Twitter also has porn, which I enjoy. But which I won't link to, because it would be NSFW. But which, again, I enjoy. It's a joy that Facebook lacks.
9. In conclusion, I'm going to miss Lindy on Twitter. She was a big source of the laughs. I don't begrudge her, but it won't be the same.