Rules for Twitter

I’ve been a Twitter user for longer than I probably want to realize. I’m part of the aging social media first adopters generation; I had a Friendster account, MySpace seemed really wild, wikis were the future! In other words, I was delusional when I first started using most of these sites; I genuinely thought tech was a force for good, and that the world was on an upwards trajectory towards good.

Well, I’ve since smacked down that instinct towards optimism and trust, and grown up. Enough, at least, that I’ve deleted the app from my phone entirely. I dream of moving back to a flip phone in the near future.

Still, I want to read news, wade into new opinions, laugh at cat pics and learn about inscrutable memes that seem deeply important to my children. I’d just like to do it without propping up the same 10 not-so-hot takes by the same inexplicably famous dudes that perpetuate white supremacy and patriarchy, knowingly or otherwise. It’s really, like, the least that I can do.

So, here are the six rules I’ve developed for myself, and mostly try to follow:

  1. Limit Use by Design: No Twitter app on my phone (or Facebook, etc). The phone is for calling, texting and noting when my son is making lunch for himself through timely morning smoke alarm alerts. 
  2. Don’t Follow New White Guys: Don’t follow any new cishet white men unless he’s someone I personally know and has opinions that I wouldn’t get otherwise. I put this rule into place for myself a couple of years ago, when I was already following probably hundreds of white guys so I still have tons of white men in my follow list, but now they no longer dominate my feed.
  3. Boost Diverse Voices: If I agree with something a cishet white guy in my feed is saying and am tempted to hit like, I first look to see whether a woman, and particularly a woman of color is also making the same point (or a better one). Invariably, there she is, just one scroll later, and she has far fewer likes and probably a more interesting take on the topic. I hit like for her, not the white guy. After all, if he’s a good dude, he should be totally behind this strategy (and doing the same). My feed has very quickly become far less white and far less male. I very occasionally make exceptions to this rule, though almost exclusively for white men who are tweeting about their awesome cat. Cat dads are welcome here.
  4. Seek Diverse Voices: Follow women of color and organizations recommended by women of color, even if they have few other followers at this point.
  5. I’m Not a Content Generator: Don’t tweet in rage (challenging for me) and, generally, don’t tweet unless I really have something burning to say—which it turns out, is rarely. I have liberated myself from the idea that my job in this world is to generate content for rapid consumption. I just want to be a better human.
  6. Unfollow, Mute and Block: Use them early and often. If you’re reading this, I assume you understand why.
There’s, of course, nothing groundbreaking about this list. However, the way we use social media has an impact on how we operate in the real world: what we boost, what we choose to follow, how we respond to arguments that we find provoking (do we, uh, say, send death threat DMs, my loves?! No, no we do not). So the simple act of repeatedly doing numbers two, three and four above every day, multiple times a day, has been a surprisingly powerful way of training myself to default to doing the equivalents in the real world. Step back, listen and boost the voices of people who are otherwise muted and bring truth to this ugly, complicated, beautiful world.