I still (mostly) enjoy Twitter. There are definitely times when I actively hate it, others when I feel like being on Twitter is watching the trainwreck of civilization in real time, and still more times when it just reinforces whatever negative spiral I’m in. To be entirely fair to Twitter, though, there are more times I actively hate existence itself (or maybe Humanity as a whole), even more times where I feel like merely paying attention to the world around me is like watching a more confusing version of the civilization trainwreck, and I am perfectly capable of reinforcing my own negative spirals, thank-you-very-much. Twitter is a slightly better version than all of the non-Twitter versions because it has cute pet pictures, neat art, and Conan The Salaryman. The world physically around me has none of those things.
Sure, I can go almost anywhere on the internet for pictures of animals being cute (that’s maybe fourty percent of the internet, let’s be real), but they’re hand-delivered to me by accounts I trust to ethically source and share their cute animal pictures. No content mills for me. It’s all shelters, animal rescues, and people who are single-handedly skewing the average pet-per-household numbers with a dozen cats, five dogs, an ever-changing number of rats, one to six snakes, and maybe an awkward bird wearing a sweater because it has anxiety that makes it pluck at its feathers. Also Jorts the Cat, who is an endless source of cute cat pictures, worker solidarity, and commentary geared toward furthering equality. This way, you not only get to enjoy pictures of animals, but you can do so with confidence knowing that no animals are being exploited for clicks, that no one’s content is being stolen, and that you have ready access to causes worth supporting.
Another twenty or thirty percent of the internet is various art-hosting sites, many of which are better suited to viewing art along specific themes. I like twitter, though, because I don’t care about themes or what specific fandom is being represented. I am not terribly interesting in browsing galleries of fanart from a specific TV show or of being guided through a series of artists who all draw sci-fi landscapes. I enjoy those things, but I like having a greater variety in my browsing, which means I prefer the slow aggregation that happens on my Twitter feed or the single-artist deep dive that occurs when I enter the media section of one of my favorite artists. Most of the artists I follow do a mix of fanart, original art, journal comics, and more. I like a good variety, you know? I don’t even have specific style preferences. I just want to see different stuff and I’m too lazy to be constantly searching the internet for it. I want to click a button and have it occasionally delivered to me via the “latest tweets” version of the Twitter app.
As a side note, did you know that if you browse via the app using only the latest tweets timeline, you don’t see the random shit that accounts you follow like (as of writing this, anyway. They recently added promoted tweets between the original poster’s tweets and the replies, so who know what other new bullshit is next)? It is the only way I’ve found to actually limit my Twitter feed to the stuff I’ve chosen to fill it. Sure, I get a bunch of retweets from streamers, artists, and authors I follow, but I tend to only follow people whose taste I trust enough to know that retweeting the actual tweet of some asshole only gives the asshole more of what they want (attention). I am incredibly selective of which accounts I follow and will not hesitate to unfollow someone who is bringing my timeline down.
Which brings me to Conan The Salaryman. Now, novelty accounts are nothing new. There’s all kinds of niche interest accounts that tweet about whatever random interest you’ve selected. Everything from the same gif every thursday to stories told in a single tweet to descriptions of feasts from Redwall books is available on Twitter if you take a little time to look for it. Technically, most of these are still content mills, generating tweets for likes and attention, but they go from being kind of dystopian to just entertaining when they don’t try to sell you anything. Like Conan The Salaryman. In all my time following the account, it has never asked me for money while keeping me entertained with one or two tweets a day written in the style of the Conan The Barbarian books but about Conan being an office worker in a giant corporation. It has tweeted in support of some good causes, but the account isn’t trying to generate money or sell advertisements. I’ve seen such changes happen in the past, for a variety of reasons (some of which I’ve supported and some of which I’ve disagreed with), but the power of Twitter is that you can just unfollow an account if it changes in a direction you don’t like. Worst comes to worst, you can just close the app. Or delete your account and start over. It’s free.
The last tool I use to ensure I have a good time on Twitter is blocking accounts. I get such an immense degree of satisfaction from watching Twitter struggle to put ads in front of me now that I’ve blocked most major advertisement accounts. Some of them are starting to get around my past blocks by making side accounts for specific purposes and advertising those tweets, but I genuinely enjoy those moments. I get to think “Not today, brand!” as I click “block” on this account and move on with my day. And that’s not even mentioning how nice it feels to block an asshole. I’ve had a few people get on my case during my time on twitter, and it’s just so fun to block them and never think about them again. I’d love to provide a specific example, but the whole “forgetting about them” thing means I only remember they happened at all, not who or why. It’s so simple. Can’t get outraged by whatever made-up bullshit is happening if you can’t see it.
Except, you know, for a few times. Like the recent celebrity trial. Given that it involved domestic abuse and a bunch of celebrities whose lives have no impact on mine, I decided I was going to do my best to ignore in pursuit of my own day-to-day peace of mind (it’s not like my feelings or opinions matter in regards to said trial), and put up my best defenses, but Twitter itself sidestepped those to keep throwing it in my face. And every so often people forget to not retweet assholes and I have to spend some time considering if this disruption to my generally enjoyable Twitter feed is counteracted by the enjoyment that account brings to my timeline. Usually the answer doesn’t result in an unfollow, but sometimes it does. I’d love to follow ever creator, writer, and artist whose products I enjoy, but I need to protect my mental health first and foremost. There’s room for reminders of how terrible the world is in something that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but if they take over and become the only thing left, it will quickly taint any chance you had of enjoying your experience. Which is why I left Facebook. And because the most fun I ever had with Facebook was that day in 2021 when it was down for a few hours, and I didn’t even have to break my streak of days not logging into Facebook to enjoy it. It was a true win-win for me (though I do understand that Facebook being down was troubling for a great number of poeple who rely on it for communication and access to anything not immediately near them in the physical world).
Social media objectively sucks. There’s no denying it. Many of the ills of modern society can be linked to how rampart use of online spaces has only strengthened that which divides us, but there are examples of how those spaces can still do good in the world and in the life of an individual. Like my Twitter feed, for one thing. And the Nerdfighter communities, that are still probably the only positive online community I’ve been a apart of that has surived popularity and expansion beyond a few hundred people. It just takes a LOT of work to make those spaces positive, healthy, and safe. It’s work worth doing, in my opinion, but it is definitely work.