The new Twitter has upset the right people



ELON MUSK’s purchase of Twitter has already brought us some unintended delights. A small army of social media’s most judgmental and narcissistic users have quit the microblogging site in protest or threatened to do so. This is the epitome of middle class self-absorption.

Some of these people use Twitter to make them more interesting and dynamic. Psychologists have already begun to see troubling character traits associated with overexposure to social media.

Particularly vulnerable people are those who feel disappointed with how their lives have turned out and are therefore driven to build a more charismatic version of themselves on platforms such as Twitter.

It came to a head in recent weeks as a regiment of self-absorbed middle-class keyboard warriors seeking asylum at a rival site began issuing proclamations about it. These people actually seem to think people really care about their fantasy worlds on social media.

What is even more disturbing, from a psychological point of view, is what is at the root of all this. They have actually convinced themselves that some of their followers will beg them not to go.

Some prominent users have spent the past decade or so fleeing Twitter, theatrically wiping their eyebrows as they leave and railing against Twitter’s “sewage” and “ugliness” while vowing never to return. Real people in the real world didn’t care either.

Their self-imposed exiles never last. The first few days, everything seems to be going well. Then they’re faced with the mind-numbing, miserable reality of their own lives: that they’re not exceptionally interesting and that there are no crowds gathering outside their doors for their hourly statuses.

And so they sneak back to Twitter saying things like, “I need to connect with my audience” or “I can’t let the haters win” or “I believe kids are our future.” What they’re really saying is, “Please let me come back. My real life is unbearable without you.

The purchase of Elon Musk and the emergence of a competing site means they can imbue their ruffles with additional layers of meaning. Now they see themselves as latter-day figures of Moses leading their tribes out of the slavery of Twitter and into the Promised Land of Mastodon. It’s a military-grade illusion and should really require the intervention of a counselor before they start heading off into the hills and living like hermits.

The new place where all the desperate on social media threaten to congregate is reminiscent of my all-time favorite Catholic joke. It is the one where Saint Peter shows the new recruits around the sky. Behind a 20-foot high wall, one can hear sounds of joy and merriment. “What is it, Peter?” they ask him. “It’s the Catholics,” said the Vicar of Christ. “They think they’re the only ones here.”

Many high-profile Twitter users begin their journey on the site with the best of intentions, sharing little videos that caught their eye and sending love and kisses to old friends.

Then the search for the handy fruit of social media approval begins. Is there a war being waged somewhere (preferably on one or two continents). During the Donald Trump era, a battalion of faux-liberal politicians and commentators vied to voice their contempt for the former US president.

They all got stoned through their own supply of sclerotic vehemence. Very few, however, had the wit or the writing skills to make any of their smug warnings memorable.

Then they started to get carried away, especially when Twitter increased its character count. To paraphrase the Glasgow punter at a Mike and Bernie Winters show in the 1960s: “Aw naw, there are 280.”

Now they were issuing political proclamations and statements. They imagined themselves as virtual superheroes, playing on the internet and exposing the disbelievers for not adhering to the new moral frameworks. The absolute certainty of their own virtue and moral uprightness has become quite frightening. Is it really healthy to live each day with such certainty?

I mean I have a pretty well-defined set of beliefs and values, but as life has progressed they have acquired some elasticity along the way. The moral absolutism of Twitter’s self-proclaimed moral guardians scares me.

Twitter’s virtual battleground was a boon for social media warriors who mercilessly nibble at the chalk face of truth. They could express their heroic virtue without having to bother to attend a protest march or go on strike.

It has also spawned a generation of bogus politicians of such low and inexperienced rank and caliber that in a previous existence they would have been dispatched to get the fish suppers for the real militants.

The SNP’s counterfeit independence contingent in Westminster is full of political chancellors playing in their own pantomime and good for very little. They get free trips and tin medals for ‘standing with Ukraine’ or for hurling juvenile slurs at other pro-independence parties or for bullying female colleagues and covering up sexual misconduct from their buddies male drinkers.

Many will have been dismayed that Twitter’s restoration of genuine freedom of expression has seen the return of the Reverend Stuart Campbell and his website, Wings Over Scotland, to the platform. Pensioners and well-to-do workers in the Westminster SNP hated the Reverend Campbell, but not because he was used to speaking hard-line language laced with profanity.

They are terrified of Wings because, more than anyone, he exposed the lies and abuses at the heart of the SNP’s lucrative independence strategy. The crushing of all internal dissent within the SNP; orchestrated hate campaigns directed against gender-sensitive women and the absence of any independence strategy have been a feature of the years in which Wings Over Scotland was banned from Twitter. A ban that resulted from denouncing such behavior in admittedly raw and uncompromising terms.

I can’t claim to be a big Wings Over Scotland fan as it has sometimes put me down over the years. Who cares, though. A Herald list of Scotland’s top political operators ranked Wings Over Scotland as the independence movement’s most influential resource.

Many of the less robust political minds in the SNP – how can I put it – relied heavily on the rigor of Wings Over Scotland’s research in 2014. They are the ones whose lips move as they read their scripts at Holyrood.

If the return of Reverend Campbell and his Wings Over Scotland blog to Twitter has given those political underworld a little squirm, then Elon Musk’s takeover will have at least had a good result.

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