Bullfighting on Twitter

This past Monday, I’d had it with Twitter. Rather than give up, I took the bull by the horns. Because that’s what we do here.

I deactivated my Twitter account @everydayepistle. Please follow me now @AimeeWhetstine if you like. 

matador, as seen in the Plaza, Kansas City

matador, as seen in the Plaza, Kansas City

Inquiring minds want to know. Why this change? Why now? Here’s the skinny:

1. Forgive me for being undiplomatic, but I hate Twitter.
Maybe I just don’t get it. People have explained Twitter to me as a cocktail party where you can chat with absolutely anyone. How cool is that?!

Eh. There’s something to be said for hanging out at a barbecue with people I already know. Dear Mr. Zuckerberg’s endless string of arbitrary changes is tiresome, but Facebook is more my speed. There’s context to Facebook—mutual friends, profiles, photos, a virtual paper trail of posts, comments, likes. Yes, some people present falsely, but only the hopelessly diabolical can keep up a Facebook farce for long. True colors shine through.

Meanwhile, Twitter is context-free. Commitment-free. A breeding ground for trolls and propaganda. It’s easy to hide behind 140 characters. Olé!

Unless you have a gazillion tweeting friends or followers, Twitter is also like an echo chamber. It’s you, standing alone in the arena, waiting for the bull to rush you. Your tweets disappear into the chaos of the crowd. Who knows where they’ve gone or who’ll read them? Who knows if anyone will read them at all or if you’ve just wasted two precious minutes of your life distilling a profound thought into an acceptable tweet. There isn’t enough time in the day, folks.

And yet, if I want to write, if I want to participate in social media, if I want to connect with people in the 21st century, Twitter is a necessary evil.

2. If I write it, my byline needs to be on it.
Ross Douthat has more than 21,000 followers on Twitter and follows 110. Peggy Noonan has nearly 75,000 followers and follows 85. Beth Moore has more than 300,000 followers and follows 50. Seth Godin has more than 260,000 followers and follows no one.

These are a few of my favorite writers. They don’t follow. They tweet and leave the following to others. They invest their time doing what they’re obviously good at and what I suspect they enjoy most. Notice it’s not Twitter.

They tweet with their own names—except for Seth who uses @ThisIsSethsBlog. It’s rather spiffy to use a cool Twitter handle, brand name, or blog title. It’s just that for me, for now, I want ownership and accountability. I’m no Peggy or Beth, but I want you to know who’s speaking and who you’re speaking to.

3. It’s time to clean house. 
The terrorist attack in Boston was less than two hours old this past Monday afternoon when a writer I was following tweeted something beyond irresponsible. I’ve told you here before that if you so much as breathe the wrong way on my child, Momma Bear will make an appearance. Well, kicking my country when it’s down isn’t a good idea either.

Liberal news outlets have carelessly, callously promoted inappropriate ideas since the bombing, but this writer was first to do it on my feed. I’d mistaken her for someone she isn’t. I’d been gored.

I've heard Spain is nice. Photo credit: Contando Estrelas

I’ve heard Spain is nice. Photo credit: Contando Estrelas

And you know what? It’s my bad. I’d assumed without knowing. I’d trusted without verifying. Her response to my calling her on the insensitive tweet showed she clearly couldn’t care less who I am or what I think or even how her tweet insulted citizens who still love America and emboldened those who hate us. (By the way, if you live in America and hate America, please consider moving. Abroad. Think of how much happier we’d all you’d be.)

That was the last straw. Within 24 hours, I’d closed my old Twitter account and started over, determined to make a fresh start. Ah, catharsis.

Between you, me, and the fencepost, I’d like to continue writing about things that are important to me, but life isn’t a popularity contest and Twitter doesn’t have to be a blood sport. Read and follow if you like. Block me if you don’t. I’ve got work to do. As myself. As Aimee Whetstine.

God bless America.

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Pasodobles Españoles by Pepe El Trumpeta.

I cannot be the only person out there with Twitter malaise. Can you relate? Or if you love Twitter, won’t you kindly share a tip or two?

photo credit: Contando Estrelas via photopin cc

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29 Comments

Filed under America, blogging

29 Responses to Bullfighting on Twitter

  1. I love Twitter and find it very useful, especially in the agriculture/food discussion world. (Ex. #agchat and #foodchat) Although, you make a very good point… bullfighting does happen, but I don’t like it either. I try to avoid it at all costs. People do feel more comfortable with doing it on Twitter because it does easily get hidden down on the feed and isn’t in view as long as on Facebook. No one really looks at profiles like they do on Facebook so people feel more confident to say rude things.

    In my world of agriculture, I try to follow a lot of people (with various view points) in attempts to help educate or answer questions about food, etc. I do my best not to correct them in an attacking manor just for that reason, to avoid a fight. I just try to present info in an unbiased way and let them take it how they want because in my experience, it is rare if one tweet will change their whole viewpoint on something.

    I’d he happy to try to help you if you have any other questions about Twitter, feel free to shoot them my way! Best of luck with your new account! :)

    • Thanks, Chelsea. I would have been wise to take your advice about avoiding a fight Monday and just unfollowed the writer. My Momma Bear took over instead, mostly because she professes to be something she’s not… Grrr. I do have a question for you. Another friend of mine said she uses a lot of lists to focus on who she really wants to connect with. Do you use lists? If yes, what’s been most helpful for you with them?

  2. Don’t worry about the occasional Mama Bear instinct taking over, I have had a few unintended arguments over the years if I get overly passionate about an issue or something just plain makes me mad ( like in your case with this) so don’t sweat it, we’re all human :)

    Anyway, I haven’t really gotten into using lists that much actually. I know a lot of people who do use them and I am on a couple of their lists, I just haven’t looked into it much. I probably should though, it does seem like it would be useful! Let me know if you decide to take the jump on using lists and maybe we can take the journey together!

    • I will. I have a lot to learn from you younger communicators. In A Nation of Wimps, Hara Estroff Marano describes technology as a foreign language to people who didn’t grow up with it, while it’s the native tongue of younger generations. Usually I can figure it out, but sometimes I could use a translator :)

  3. I go back and forth with Twitter. Sometimes I love it, but other times I think it is too many links and hashtags. Whatever happened to the conversation on Twitter!? That’s what I miss!

    • I’ve heard other bloggers say that about the conversation being gone… I don’t know what they mean because by the time I began on Twitter last year, there was no conversation. lol! In fact, you touched on a point I want to make in my first post as a Project Underblog contributor… the one that’s late and that I’m supposed to be writing at this very minute :)

  4. Aimee I am glad you are on Twitter because today I found your blog post through it. I noticed your comment about lists. I use them a lot. I think my favorite ones are my Canada Ag one, I can pop up that list and get a lot of quick news about what is going on at home. During K-State sporting events I always have my K-State list up. I have an Iowa Ag list too. I haven’t done a “these are my favorite people to follow” list yet because I haven’t decided how to be discrete in what I call it. Good luck!

    • Crystal, thanks for this comment. You are a pro at this, and it was encouraging for me to hear from you. I need to explore the lists and figure out how to make them work for me. There’s more information out there than anyone can possibly ingest; the trick seems to be customization: figuring out how to make the most of your limited time and find the best of what’s out there as it applies to you and your work.

  5. I use Twitter and I enjoy it sometimes, but I am becoming more careful about who I follow back and I have even blocked some skeevy followers. . .all it takes is one bad experience to make you twitter shy. Good for you for taking control!

    • Thanks, Pam. We give up a lot of control by just being on social media in the first place. As you suggest, I’m vowing to be more careful about who I follow back this time around. And I learned during the fallout from the Chick-fil-A post last summer, if ever a troll speaks to me or appears to be lurking about, I block. Immediately.

  6. Aimee- Glad you decided to return back to Twitter. I find a lot of times my FB gets clogged up and I miss things from people I like reading their posts, so Twitter allows me to do so. I understand Twitter isn’t for everyone and that people utilize Twitter differently, but I love Twitter. I was fortunate to come in contact and met IRL with MANY wonderful individuals via Twitter and really without Twitter, I would have never met and fell in love with @sunflowerfarmer. :)

    At the same time, Twitter is much easier to find yourself among ALL sorts of people or like you say, in the middle of a bullfight and unable to do much about it. At least FB has ways to eliminate things you don’t care to see. And yes, it gives you a much harder read on people. I usually scroll through their tweets before following, just to get an idea of what they tweet about. I don’t usually follow people who all they do is promote content, I enjoy Twitter because of it’s ability for people to be real. I like to have real conversations with real people. And if you come across something that isn’t worthy of your follow, don’t be afraid to unfollow. Sometimes I think Twitter is a great exercise in patience and that commandment to love your enemies, which doesn’t come easily to me… :)

    And if you need an example of beauty to come out of Twitter: http://jldphotographblog.com/2012/12/31/2012-the-year-of-love/

    • Oh, Jenny! A Twitter love story! Thanks for reminding me good things happen on Twitter, too. Now I have to stay the course.
      PS: I told my husband yesterday he *must* pick up his activity on Twitter bc I *need* him there. Your story just made my case.

      • I will admit, it totally *does* help to have someone who’s got your back, always on Twitter. Mark and I talk about A LOT of people (by their Twitter handles, I’m bad with names) LOL. He is not only my perfect match when it comes to life but also social media. He’s the one who encourages me to be positive, not to fight with the trolls, and to simply walk away, unfollow, or block when I get into a bull fight. :)

  7. Haven’t found any love for twitter yet…most of the time I forget I even have an account…

  8. Too bad you aren’t in KC…. I met with the blogkc group last night and we talked about the criticism that comes through social media as well as things you can do proactively and reactively.

    For me, if I see something offensive, unfollowing is easy but I reply when I feel I have a relationship with or someone who I think may have been misled honestly. It can be hard to keep things in perspective but I have to remind myself there are a few people out there who love pig wrestling and if I join in I get nasty dirty, worn out and disappointed that’s the way part of the world works while the other has a big smile on their face.

    Be conscientious in who you follow. Don’t worry about unfollowing folks, just do it. And stay true to yourself. I have found that very successful for me.

    • Oh, I wish I was in KC, too! Your talk sounds like just what I needed to hear!

      I’m usually pretty good at handling what little negativity comes my way, but this writer pushed several buttons with her tweet and her timing was brazen. I looked back to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and confirmed her tweet came less than two hours after the attacks. And really, my response to her gave her the benefit of the doubt. I wrote, “You may not have meant it this way, but…” No matter. She pleaded ignorance and then one of her trolls chimed in. I tried to take the conversation into DM. Then I thought it better to just unfollow, shut down, and start over fresh.

      Janice, I’ve told you this before, but I don’t know how on earth you do it. Talk about pig wrestling and propaganda. I tip my hat to you, lady! Enjoy KC and connect with Jeff if you can.

  9. I still feel like I’m a newbie when it comes to Twitter. I held out for a long time! The thing that drew me in, was the interaction between farmers. Most of the time we can discuss our passions in a manner that is similar to what happens when DH and I are together with our friends. When I joined the Twittersphere, I had a very narrow focus. I only followed people who were tweeting about agriculture, food, or faith. It has expanded just a touch, but I still try to keep the focus to the three main groups. That has helped to keep the negative nellies at bay. I wish people would be as real on SM as they are when you see them in church or at the store!

    I hope your second go-round is more positive!

    • Thank you, Carolyn. Me too. Your strategy to focus on connecting with a few main groups is something I will try. It can quickly get out of hand otherwise. Your comment reminds me of this old New Yorker cartoon showing a dog enthusiastically typing on the computer. He’s telling another dog who’s looking on, “No one knows you’re a dog on the Internet.” Lord, give us discernment!

  10. Proud of you Momma Bear!

  11. Twitter flitter. That’s what I have. I’ve tried to like posting on it. EVERYONE ways its a great way to promote a blog. I just don’t get all the hashtags and so on. Mainly, I read selected posts – usually to keep current on what my kids are doing! HAHA!

    • Lori, I’m going to find you and follow you. I need friends there.

      The hashtags can be useful. I’m still learning about them. A few times I’ve had stories picked up by independent online papers because of a hashtag. Some papers were small and very topic-specific, while others had larger audiences. I think some people scan certain hashtags to decide what to read.

      PS: I dread the day my child begins tweeting :)

  12. Tiffany

    I’m proud of you Aimee. When I saw you’d changed some things, I figured something was up. I like your perspectives here. FB is more my speed too. I don’t like Twitter and have zero desire to ever be on there. But then again, I’m just a Momma raisin her babies! I already know whose opinions I’m interested in. Why would I want to listen to anybody else? As sweet brown says, Ain’t nobody got time for that…

    PS There’s something to be said about a place in cyber space where people can ramble with a sense of irresponsibility and a lack of accountability. I’ve not been motivated to roam in them there hills….

  13. I use my “unfollow” button liberally on both twitter and facebook. I really enjoy and appreciate people who think differently than I do, but when they do it offensively or obnoxiously? I just get worked up, and I don’t have time for that.

    Also, (and you might just unfollow ME after this craziness) I’ve already secured twitter handles and email addresses in each of my kids’ names. I realize that communication will likely have moved on to something completely different by then, but I didn’t want to risk them having to tweet as “2gr84you” or “jackluke2405839@domain.com”

    • Sara, what you’ve done for your kids is GENIUS! I’m going right away to join you in the craziness. I’m also learning to use the unfollow button. And use it often.

  14. Heather

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I still have my Twitter handle but very rarely tweet or even check activity. Like you said, it’s too impersonal for me, and the “fights” I see on Twitter is just distasteful and immature. I like Facebook, where I have context with the people I follow and who follow me.

    • Context is a big thing for me, more than I realized before social media. I’m Gen X and I lean conservative in my viewpoints. Many of my friends IRL are on Facebook, but hardly any are on Twitter. If more of my cohorts were on Twitter, I wonder if that would make it a better experience. I can’t force them to adopt the technology en masse. I’ll have to connect with people I have something in common with who are already there. More work for me, but a more pleasant experience, I hope.