The Big Secret Twitter Doesn't Want You To Know That Might Be Killing You

Do you like that Upworthy (Upchuckworthy!) style headline? It might promise quite a lot — but I’m going to deliver.

That’s right. I’m going to tell you the one thing on Twitter that it seems like most people don’t know. And it’s bad for them. And the solution to it? Added bonus: it’s bad for Twitter.

And I’m going to do it for free.

One unintended consequence of Twitter, and it’s a real flaw baked into the medium — (Medium? No pun intended) — is that it’s a fast stream. It probably wasn’t in the first couple years! But now you follow 600, 800, 1200 people. Your Twitter stream is hauling ass.

And then came the notifications, which are multiplying shockingly — “someone favorited a tweet you once looked at sideways while creeping on your ex’s follower list!” So now, unless you’re smart and you turn them off — for the love of cats, TURN THEM OFF — you get a notification by email or by banner or even worse by alert every time someone sneezes in your direction on Twitter.

And yet, it’s still yours. “Each user winnows the data stream in a radically different way,” as the New Yorker put it today. “One subscriber can create a virtual tabloid by following only gossips; another can construct a bespoke community of particle physicists and hot-yoga obsessives.”

What members — creators! — of most of these winnowed communities have in common is one terrible thing. Here it is: they don’t know how to not respond. That’s the secret. It’s the place where everything on Twitter goes wrong. You don’t have to respond to anyone on Twitter. Ever.

Freeing yourself to not respond is a gift. And you can do it for any reason! Here are some reasons you can choose not to respond:

1. You don’t care.

2. You don’t know who you’re talking to.

3. You have actual work to do.

4. Your cats are doing something more interesting.

5. You hate the person who’s tweeting at you.

6. You like the person who’s tweeting at you and you don’t need to fight in public where everyone can see.

7. Because there are better places to procrastinate. Don’t you have a chat room awaiting your input somewhere?

8. You’ve been sitting down for six hours straight and that means you’re going to die early.

9. There are literally one million more reasons.

Recently, the famously argumentative Glenn Greenwald learned an important lesson: he doesn’t have to respond to every egg icon and #tcot spammer that tweets at him — and that’s a lot of eggs and conservative wingnuts. He’s free now! Free from a life of strife. If you survey his whole feed these days, you’ll find him having a few side conversations, and actually being quite funny, which is relatively new for him, but no feuding, no arguing. Well, mostly.

@TomCooper @Asher_Wolf @ioerror I suspect you’re a moron who mistakes your own fantasies for realities.

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 3, 2013

Haha, that’s a good one. Anyway. This is quite a feat, with 275K followers.

There is a total shitshow unfolding in the greater Ruby community, which apparently, when you are a Ruby developer, you constantly attend conferences. This seems counterproductive and also not very fun, but what do I know? This is the story of what happened to one woman at such a conference. It’s not good. It’s really bad. Obviously, a lot of people got involved in talking about it. Some less well. Many of them did not need to say anything.

Being called a ‘slut’ ‘whore’ etc won’t get me to take it down. Not this time. For every troll I have 50 more supporters. That’s progress.

— Justine Arreche (@SaltineJustine) October 12, 2013

But there is a conversation that needs to happen, right? Here is but one of many tough but important conversations that ensued, in which David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails, felt compelled to involve himself by saying he wasn’t going to involve himself.

Where did that go wrong? Looks obvious.

At least some of these branching conversations went places.

@ginatrapani @steveklabnik I’m even more keenly aware of their limitations.

— DHH (@dhh) October 14, 2013

Look! Everyone said what she or he had to say. An agreement was not made. Unfortunate. Oh well. Everyone got on with life. No one made a courtesy “end of conversation” favorite either.

Others took it to their blogs, with well-meaning and mathematically interesting posts, which include unfortunately an impossibility: “women making sexist comments to men.” (There is no such thing, just FYI.)

Some of these branching conversations online went to bad places. And some became a veritable advanced placement class in what not to do.

Not to “time-police” anyone here but, why? Why would you do this to yourself, to other people?

What’s interesting is that it’s the white dudes who are all flapping their hands, all upset that now there’s “two sides” in the community. (There always were two sides, fellas.) All these poor white dudes are really scared of conflict, it looks like. Yet they are always willing to respond, making their positions ever-weaker. You’d think they’d recognize their position of power and use it in the traditional manner: silently.

@swombat @tundal45 Good classification. I think there’s little to be gained from speaking up in the middle right now.

— Andrew Cox (@coxandrew) October 14, 2013

That’s right, for the wrong reasons. The best thing we can steal is the privilege to be silent. Old white men have been using silence for centuries, obviously. That’s because it works. You’ll enjoy it too. And you’ll get to spend more time with your animal companion of choice.

The Daily Dot made those gifs of the enigmatic and wealthy Jack Dorsey!