The night before Elon Musk took over Twitter, I deleted my tweets. I’d already purged more than a decade of archives last year, so it didn’t take long. It’s impossible to estimate how many hours I’ve spent on Twitter over the past fourteen years, how much joy I’ve experienced, how much I’ve learned, how many friends I’ve made, how many hoaxes I’ve fallen for, bots I’ve argued with, damage I’ve done to my telomeres. But I won’t be paying Musk’s platform a goddamned cent, not to maintain verified status (which Twitter offered many years ago, unsolicited, after someone impersonated me) or for anything else. I’d subscribed to Twitter Blue a few months ago for access to the edit button, to avoid inflicting so many tweets-and-deletes on my tweeps, but my subscription was conveniently set to renew on the date of the takeover, and I canceled before it did.
At times I think deleting my account entirely is the only reasonable and ethical course of action (though I don’t judge anyone who has to be there). At other times I think the opposite. I don’t want to be silent about politics, about this terrifying and precarious period we’re in as a country. I don’t want to shut up in deference to a right-wing egomaniac billionaire who bought control of what he himself called “the public square” even as he tweeted a meme of himself playing social media space lasers with Donald Trump and Kanye West. What the hell is this timeline we’re living in? Far more asinine than I ever imagined (though Alex Balk did try to warn us).
Like so many writers, I’m asking myself: do I cede the primary platform I use to a billionaire who actively spreads disinformation, stokes confusion, and seeks to gain from opposing progressive policies? Or do I keep showing up there and lining his pockets and giving the platform the validation of my words and my presence? Do I give up the place where most people who follow my work — which, having spent time writing and then chosen to put it into the world, I believe has at least some value — also follow me? How do I parse the self-interested aspects of my hesitation versus the ones that are less about myself? I don’t have an answer to these questions. Mostly I’ve been staying away. And waiting for him to get sued for negligence and defamation when someone verifies accounts in the names of celebrities and posts crypto scams and/or libelous lies. Ugh, I’m sad though.
I do in my heart believe that trying to beat a billionaire on a platform that he owns and controls, where he is actively encouraging a complete race to the bottom on the eve of midterm elections that could have dire consequences for the shreds of democracy we have left, is ultimately almost definitely a losing proposition. But I have also watched a lot of movies, probably too many movies, where the underdog emerges victorious. And I don’t like to give in to bullies. So I’m keeping the account for now.
Most importantly: please vote. And thanks as always for checking in. I’m grateful.
Updated November 22 to add: I have deactivated my Twitter account. I have a year to decide to reactivate it, and maybe I will, but right now it’s hard for me to envision doing that.
Updated November 28 to add: To avoid confusion as to which Maud Newton on Twitter is me, I reactivated my account and will leave it dormant indefinitely–permanently as long as Musk is the owner.