Let me talk to you about Twitter.
If I had to say which single thing is the most corrosive to my mental health, it would have to be Twitter. It dictates my mood, it influences my thoughts, it gives oxygen to the flames of my frustration, scorching and scarring my brain as it goes. It opens wide the gates of hell, and we can peer in at the liars, the truthtwisters, the opportunists, the click-baiters, the conspiracy theorist, and the bots. In between that is the friends you make, the ability for someone of limited social scope to get his/her message out there. Without Twitter there would not have been How Did We Lose In Adelaide, and not Being Outside Cricket either.
The last week has been brutal. I am an avid watcher of elections, and certainly of the US elections. I absolutely despise Donald Trump. I didn’t despise George W, nor many of his Republican predecessors. I remember having a passionate argument with a good friend of mine about Mitt Romney in 2012, saying he was a moderate compared to what could come after him (and he can tell me I was right next time I see him). I understand that there are differences in political opinion. That’s what makes democracy. I despise Trump for matters beyond politics. I was brought up by parents who could forgive anything but lying. If I lied to my parents, and got caught, I would, as they would say be in ten times more trouble than if I confessed the truth. It’s a mantra many would recognise. I was also taught to be polite to people, whether you liked them or not, and yes if you felt passionately about something speak about it.
Twitter is a deranged pit of vipers when it comes to Trump. He stirs the pot and the evil comes out to play. Watching a man destroy norms as he has done this past week is shattering to my pysche. I can’t compute how this behaviour can be rewarded. How a man so craven, so steeped in the depth of his own lies, can be tolerated. When you are gaslit as part of some fun game to own the libs. I wouldn’t dance on the supporters of Trump’s tears if he lost, because I know how “my side” losing feels. I can still be friends with people I disagree with. But I see behavioural codes that should NEVER be entertained almost celebrated because people like me get upset, and yes, depressed that despite the talent and aptitude I bring to the job I do, I’ll never get this sort of fire-proofing.
Twitter is where it happens, and yet I can’t leave. Like a moth to a flame. Like a drug addict needing his fix. I leave and come back. What are people saying? Why are they saying it? Why isn’t the cultural norm of a President being President Elect soon after being observed. This isn’t Florida with 500 votes difference – it’s tens of thousands in multiple states. Why? WHY!
People on his side will laugh at me – that’s ok, I’m a fat 50+ year old who gets laughed at in the street, called a “very fat man” by a neighbour’s kid, and a “fat C***” by someone in a car when I was doing one of my waddle-jogs. It’s why when I heard Dave Chappelle mock Chris Christie for his size and health when catching the coronavirus, I felt sad. I have no time for Christie, but destroy his politics, not his personal appearance. But back to the original point, the laughing at political opponents is something that I just don’t see. I didn’t laugh at the Conservatives when they lost in 1997, 2001 and 2005. I just didn’t. It’s painful to be rejected.
I’ll give an example – the Dominic Cummings Durham thing. I was livid about this for a number of reasons. Brexit had absolutely fuck all to do with it. Some of us knew of Cummings from a while back. Well before Brexit. We knew of his character. This was completely in persona. Then, when he just basically said to us “what the hell are you going to do about it” in that press conference, many lost their shit. I was incandescent. Locked up in lockdown, and this man just brazened it out, with his political chums citing “family comes first” as if us fuckwits abiding by the rules were somehow putting them second. Then, on Facebook, someone put a meme about how Cummings had owned the Remoaners, the lefties etc. I couldn’t hold back. The following is a precis of the exchange.
“Why are you laughing at me?” I asked
“Well I voted Remain, and I am left of centre, so you are. You are saying I’m upset at him because he’s a Brexit hero”
“We all have our political views, and these are mine”
“I accept we voted to Leave. Don’t agree with it, but accept it. He was wrong, and now it’s a weapon to make us feel worse”
“You can’t tell me what to think”
I point to that exchange (it’s not verbatim, I’m not digging it up, and it might capture feelings rather than words actually spoken) as a key marker in my descent to a serious mental wobble. It shouldn’t have, and it was Facebook rather than Twitter, but you get the drift. I don’t get exposed to the politics, except when one or another of people who are my friends retweet/share the latest piece of batshit conspiracy shit.
It works. Just as I know, some leftist media works on me. It’s insidious. It is corrosive, and I can’t handle it. The urge is to call these people idiots, but it serves no purpose. I once argued a constitutional point with some bot or other on Twitter, who always asked me to justify MY position, while never justifying theirs other than “you aren’t an expert” – which I was never holding myself up to be. It was, at the time, an amusing 45 minutes or so. I thought while I was occupying this bot/troublemaker, they couldn’t bother someone else. Then, as I do, I analysed it. I stewed on it. I felt lacking. I felt emptiness. I felt sadness. This isn’t debate, it’s destruction. There is one honest broker, and a liar. A person keen to discuss a point, another there to “win”. Victory is causing the opponent to despair, not to agree.
Twitter is that. It is that. Despair not agree. It is toxic. And yet I can’t take my eyes off it. Watch the film on Netflix, The Social Dilemma. Go into it with an open mind. I was sceptical when I went in – when I came out, I thought differently.
Today, due to an extraneous event, I had another wobble. I described it today to my wife as if someone had extracted my brain from the cranium, punched it hard, and put it back in. I felt emotionally bruised. The event itself happened before, 10 days ago, and I thought I handled it well – calmly. Today I felt like someone had tied a noose around my neck and was tightening it slowly. Breathing became tougher. I couldn’t fight. Work is really busy, and yes, I feel a little exposed and working long hours. That’s a baseline issue that is, I’m afraid, the reality of my job at the moment. There is a reward at the end of the tunnel, and that drives me. But inexorably, there all the time is the “disputed” election, akin to me disputing my weight when the scales say I am whatever, and I’m knocking 30lbs off it. I could probably find a set of scales to support my argument, but they’d be faulty, everyone would suspect I was cheating, and in any case, I’m still that weight. That it is so egregiously wrong just makes my blood boil. Yet I know people are convinced that it is.
What to do? I have no idea. Keep off Twitter is a noble concept. I know I can’t do it. In a time of social lockdown, I need to seek out my friends on there. I can follow the Dolphins and Millwall fans on there. I get some good music information from it. But there, in between the cracks, are the lies. The insidious lies. And I can’t always take them.
Lord knows why I wrote this. Maybe it’ll cause more angst. But I wish we could all just get along, and I know that’s some stupid nonsense, but I wish we could. Like most of you, I want a quiet life, easy to get through, taking the knocks with friends and family by your side. But these days, that’s not enough. You need to cause someone else pain to get your kicks. It is a sadistic society, turning person against person. Sometimes, you need to take the brain punch, recover, and move on. If you can.
Update – So what do I do? I go on a Twitter spree. For heaven’s sake.
I can’t help myself. I just can’t. It’s despairing in many ways.
An example of what ails me: