David Roberts+ Your Authors @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for vox.com/ about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Dec. 13, 2018 1 min read + Your Authors

1. Acknowledging the obvious background here -- that Twitter is a soul-draining swamp & no one should ever tweet or even go to the website -- here are the only strategies I've ever found that actually improve my Twitter experience.

2. The first is blocking MFers -- just blocking willy-nilly, at the drop of a hat. I used to have weird reservations about blocking people, as though I had some responsibility to allow a-holes to have their say on my feed. But there is no such responsibility.

3. With many (honestly, most) people, you can tell within a tweet whether they are here to discuss & exchange information (or even argue & dispute, respectfully), or whether they're just grinding an axe or looking at people to yell at.

4. For instance, I have never once encountered a MAGA tweeter who provided interesting new info or a reasonable argument. Not once. At least in my experience, they are *all* yelling slogans. And if they yell at you, they frequently tag in mobs to follow with more yelling.

5. It's not just MAGA types though. Axe grinders come in many shapes: the guy who's figured out that nuclear is the *obvious* solution to climate change & everyone who disagrees is an idiot. The guy who thinks Clinton "stole the primary." Etc. (Usually guys, face it.)

6. Anyway, nobody pays me to tweet or to be here, so I have zero obligation to listen to a-holes, so these days, it's one-chance-only. Sometimes I even express opinions purposefully designed to elicit a-holes, just so I can block them. And it works! Twitter is now more pleasant.

7. The second is fuzzier & more difficult, but even more important. It is an unfortunate feature of the human brain/psyche that negative comments activate our emotions (our fight-or-flight instinct, ultimately) more than positive comments. They're like barbs that hook us.

8. This translates, on Twitter, into an inability to ignore a person who is criticizing you in an unfair way, or saying something incorrect, or making a bad argument. Every little comment like that is like a mosquito bite. They itch.

9. And so people get drawn into fruitless, aggravating exchanges. Constantly. And that feeling - feeling misunderstood, hurt, & unfairly treated - is what people hate about social media. It's best just to accept that Twitter is a terrible format for settling differences.

10. It can settle *small* differences. Like if you share a bunch of background premises & a basic political orientation, sometimes you can fruitfully hash out the details. But big stuff? Nah. So what to do?

11. What I've been trying to do, fitfully & with mixed success, is twofold. First, if it becomes clear a fruitful exchange is impossible (and it becomes clear quickly) just stop. Let it go. You don't have to have the last word. You don't have to respond at all!

12. It's weird that it takes willpower not to do something that's going to hurt you (our evolved emotional machinery is not helpful here), but it does. Like anything that takes willpower, tho, it gets easier w/ practice. Don't engage ugliness. Breathe ... and let it go.

13. And second, I keep trying to remember that Twitter contains wonders & it's my choice how much of my attention they occupy. I'm trying to focus on people who are smart or funny or decent. I engage with positive or interesting or educational comments.

14. Any writer - any creator of any kind - will tell you that, in general, it's the people who disagree or get angry who are moved to respond. 100 people can like something & just nod; the 1 who hates it will write the angry comment. Doing otherwise takes some conscious effort.

15. So I've been proactively trying to respond to or engage with good stuff -- nice comments, funny stories, jokes, insights, whatever. It's not that hard to just say "haha" or "thanks" or "that's interesting" - just drop a little positive feedback in the world. It's rare!

16. I guess I'm just making the simple point that we don't have to be reactive. Positive engagement (of any kind) doesn't just happen - we can consciously increase its incidence! We can do it on purpose. I've been trying & it really makes a difference.

17. You create your world by how you direct your attention, on Twitter as in life generally. If you block twerps & engage people of good will, you improve your world -- and because it's *social* media, you incrementally improve other people's worlds as well. Yay! 🌈🦄 </fin>

You can follow @drvox.


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