The problem with Twitter is that we all feel so entitled. Entitled to brag, to share, to scold, to critique. We’ve been emboldened by a platform that is built entirely around the concept of unsolicited opinions. And so we engage. We engage incessantly.
But, and this is a bit of breaking news here so hold onto your hats: nobody cares, love.
I’m sure we’ve all made the mistake of thinking out loud online. It’s all part of the delusional self-importance you need in order to survive on social media for longer than a day. Perhaps you decided to share a photograph of your new house plant on Instagram. Maybe you thought your Facebook followers ought to know it’s your labrador’s second birthday. Or, if you’re a Twitter user, maybe you decided that what your network of followers really needed was a five-tweet thread detailing how appalled you were at the never-ending Regent Road roadworks.
Yes, there’s nothing we Twitter users love more than a bit of well-phrased outrage. A scathing post with just the right balance of exasperation and eloquence; a measured and pre-meditated monologue that makes us come across as both political and poetic.
You see, most people find it easier to be a mouthpiece for outrage than a conduit for actual change. And because of this we often find ourselves over-compensating for our real-world inactivity by becoming insufferable narrators of rage on the internet. We use our Twitter feeds to protest against the rising cost of parking and the gentrification of our neighbourhoods but do we boycott the high-street chains that have displaced independent vendors? We call out billionaires for their paltry donations to charity in times of crisis, but how much of a contribution are we actually making ourselves?
Maybe you’re even one of those PR types who have convinced yourself that your blog posts and Twitter essays about climate change are “building awareness”. Maybe you even gave yourself a little fist bump in the mirror after exposing your local MP for driving a gas guzzling 4×4 on the school run. But I promise you: you’re no Greta Thunberg.
So here’s an idea. Why don’t we just take a break from Twitter? And I don’t just mean logging out for a day. I mean detaching ourselves, even temporarily, from the very idea of it. This notion that we need to rant, drag and cancel in order to reaffirm ourselves as benevolent, well-meaning and progressive. This self-righteous habit of using 280 characters to insert ourselves into every contentious topic. What if we just… stop?
Let’s not complain about things that we aren’t actively trying to change. Let’s not use real issues as an opportunity for self-promotion. Let’s type less and do more. It’s high time we stopped shouting online and started talking offline.
Ashley “Dotty” Charles is the author of Outraged: Why Everyone Is Shouting and No One Is Talking (Bloomsbury, £14.99)