We spend a lot of our days chatting with each other about things we see online, trying to make sense of it all. This week in the Styles newsletter, Wait …, Erin McCann, a breaking news editor; Amanda Hess, a critic-at-large; and Choire Sicha, Styles editor, discuss a strange phenomenon: good Twitter.
OK, take it away, Erin!
Erin: Is … Twitter good again?
Choire: Kind of, yes.
Erin: I don’t want to spook it by writing about this.
Amanda: I think part of it is just the absence of feeling of dread that you should be doing something better with your life.
Erin: Oh yes! That explains quite a bit. I have also started not looking at Twitter during peak news conference hours. So what’s left is basically pets and kids and whatever we’re all mad about right then.
Amanda: A person I barely know started fostering a cat a week ago, and I check her feed three times a day.
Choire: I think the idea that Twitter is good again is primarily just in comparison to what it used to be like, which was absolutely the worst. The part I “like” (actually find very distressing) is that it’s more extremely, horrifically earnest. I’m seeing a lot more tweets that are like “My aunt/father/co-worker has just died,” which keeps the insincere levels lower.
The other element is that people are under extreme stress and are being often honest in unattractive ways, a thing that I enjoy.
Amanda: I’m intrigued by the theory that the worse we are, the better Twitter is.
Erin: Dad-joke-level tweets have left me cracking up in a way that I know I would have rolled my eyes at before. But there’s something about wholesome silliness that is helping me make it through. Is that good? Is that bad? What is up? What is down?
Choire: You actually are the main source of dad jokes in my feed. I just looked at Twitter again, and honestly it wasn’t so great. Perhaps I muted a lot of terms, like all of the political candidates’ names. One thing I also see more of: helpful explanatory threads about public health, or oil futures. I feel like I see less pontificating and more people teaching.
Erin: Sure, as long as you skip over @DRBRADMD45642, whose viral opinions on an obscure aspect of virology you should probably cross-check before sharing on your feed.
Choire: Have your behaviors changed? Why are you even on Twitter?
Amanda: Why does a gambling addict keep playing the slots?
Choire: Same. I’m on Twitter because no one will help me and I can’t help myself.
Erin: My screen time actually went down every week this month! All the times I used to pick up my phone — commuting, at the bar, waiting in line for takeout — are consumed by other things. So apparently I am more deliberate about when I am seeking out the black hole that is Twitter. And that tends to be late at night, when Twitter was always a little undressed anyway.
Amanda: At this point, I can only conclude that on some level, I must like how bad it makes me feel. I probably obsessively check Twitter for the same reason I obsessively check my email. It’s not in anticipation of receiving a wonderful email, but out of an anxious need to control the bad email that has surely arrived in the 20 seconds since the last time I checked it.
Erin: I have carefully curated joy, but enough of the crankiness that used to dominate is sneaking through that I know it’s not, like, gone forever. The “Runners are going to kill us all” discourse riles me up, but instead of engaging, I just go find a fox doing something cool and watch that 15 times. It’s like, finally, we have so many people having opinions that I am no longer compelled to even try to care about them all. You did it, everyone!
Amanda: The foster cat I follow just had a bath 🙂
(This conversation has been edited).
Some other things to read on the internet about the internet this week: