Twitter, You Break My Heart

Posted inCreative Voices

I would like to ask a favor, if I may:

Help me work through this.

It’s not quite as simple as “I’m out.” I’ve seen that a lot since Twitter went through The Change. Maybe you’ve said it yourself. But I’m twisting it around in my head every which way because I’m not sure what to do.

Actors, news anchors, celebs with millions of followers on other platforms will be just fine. People who lurked on Twitter for news and celebrity gossip will find other venues. But there’s a whole lot of us in the middle — those of us who find it’s not so easy to “just leave” when you’ve invested 15 years building an audience, making connections, maybe just making Twitter your first stop when you open your phone in the morning, simply to confirm that the world is still here.

(Okay, sometimes my first stop is Wordle. But mostly it’s Twitter.)

For all the crappy things about Twitter, and yes there are plenty, it’s always been my fave. I mean it is the one social network where pithy commentary beats over-filtered photos or made-for-video personalities, so writers feel right at home.

Twitter is where I’ve created authentic connections and meaningful relationships. It’s where I’ve learned and grown so much from communities where I was most definitely not on the guest list, but allowed me to listen in quietly anyway. It’s where I’ve “met” so many people who have truly enriched my life and it’s not like we can’t meet somewhere else (say, here?) but still.

And 15 years? That’s a long time. That’s like 498 Scarmuccis!

You’ll get that if you’re on Twitter.

Twitter and I, we have a history.

I’ve been feeling a little melancholy since my friend Rita Arens (also the person who first published a parenting essay of mine) reminded me— on Twitter— of the day we created accounts at the BlogHer Business conference.

There was no app. To post, as Elisa Camahort Page explained to the crowd, you had to text your tweet to 40404 from that shiny new Motorola Razr in your hand.

My first tweet was cringe, as the kids would say. I own that.

Moms were among the earliest of adopters; take a look at some of your favorite OG parent bloggers, should you have any, and notice the dates they joined.

My kids are still amazed that Obama follows me, although I explain every time that I just happened to be one of the not-too-many accounts there at the time. Around half-million or so, his team eased up on the following of us mere mortals.

Twitter is not the place to share all your baby photos or wish everyone a happy birthday. It’s not a maker space. It’s not a scrapbook. But nothing has ever matched Twitter for immediacy and breaking news.

It’s the first place I’ve run when there have been the sound of helicopters over the Brooklyn Bridge by my apartment. Wildfires out west. Another mass shooting. Hurricane Sandy. An attempted coup on the US government.

It’s where I went when I wanted to see which other NYC public school parents were keeping their kids home in March of 2020, before lockdown was official. It’s where I went when there was an election win to celebrate, a cause to fundraise for, a death to mourn, a movement to amplify, a live speaker to quote at a conference.

It’s been the best place to be when there’s a a silly thing to debate. When I want to hear comedians one-up each other during an award show. Or if I just need to find likeminded people who can make me laugh when things are their absolute worst.

We came together on Twitter. We really did.

I’ll stop there though, because this isn’t a eulogy. Not yet.

So now…what? What exactly?

We can delete our accounts because we don’t want to contribute to the hellscape it may become. Or is already becoming. I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby or eat at the bigoted chicken place so hey, maybe this is next in my list of SJW virtue-signaling.

But then I ask myself, how is Twitter different from Facebook, which has done plenty to foment hate and misinformation and bring democracy to the verge? Do TikTok users know about the dark underbelly of TikTok? How about Instagram? Snapchat? Spotify? Amazon? When we talk about staying on a particular website or social medium, is there confirmation bias at play, in which we’re more willing to find the good in the platforms we like because we like them?

If we leave, are we ceding the public squares to the voices of hate and giving up a valuable platform for progress? But if we stay, are we tacitly condoning the hate?

Phew, it’s a lot.

Rob Reiner, whose activism I greatly respect, says he’s staying and fighting.

Other voices I respect, like Shonda Rhimes, say not so fast, Elon.

As for me, right now, I am currently taking the approach that Benjamin Wittes cleverly calls Radical Diversification, which is why I’m still on Instagram, dabbling with Facebook again, and giving Mastodon a shot.

Oh, and I’m here! Hi!

I don’t know. I really don’t.

Look, I come out of advertising. I’ve become increasingly adept at navigating the gray areas of life and finding that ends often justify the means. Maybe that’s good and maybe that’s not.

And so I ask, 100% without judgment on your decision (and with the hopes of having a reasonable discussion): Will you stay on Twitter? How are you working through this? Where do you draw the line? Or are you not losing sleep about this like I am? Would you rather talk about literally anything else?

Liz Gumbinner is a Brooklyn-based writer, award-winning ad agency creative director, and OG mom blogger who was called “funny some of the time” by an enthusiastic anonymous commenter. This was originally posted on her Substack “I’m Walking Here!,” where she covers culture, media, politics, and parenting.

Header illustration by the author.