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Pickle Me This

November 26, 2019

Slow News

It was the Amber Alerts that started it.

But no, lets back up. I’ve been on Twitter for almost a decade, and once upon a time it was a platform that served me well—I made friends, was referred to wonderful things to read, participated in in-jokes, pondered pop-culture trivia, was able to tell people I admired just how much I liked their work. Twitter was a bubble, but the best kind. When Rob Ford was elected Mayor of Toronto in 2010, the breaking news was a devastating collective experience. Not a peep in the Twitterverse (or mine, at least) had indicated that such a thing was possible. We were talking about echo chambers. I would consider how disappointing it was that Twitter wasn’t the world.

But then came Gamergate, which changed everything, although I didn’t know it at the time. And suddenly Twitter was the place I went to argue with Pro-lifers and have men with terrible beards call me a cunt. And then eventually even those people ceased to be actual people with names and faces (and beards) and became cartoon avatars with strings of numbers after their names and the Trudeau Must Go hashtag in their bio. And now the fact that Twitter is not the world seems like an actual blessing—which is not to say that Twitter has not changed the world somewhat in its despicable likeness. But still, that the world is not Twitter is an idea I now cling to for hope.

I am so glad that I’ve gone Back to the Blog this year, for more thoughtful and meaningful connection and engagement. Because I think that Twitter and I might be totally done. We’re long past the point where I am compulsively refreshing my screen and scrolling in a vain attempt to have the world come together in some kind of narrative sense, to find the answer. (Olivia Laing’s piece on her Twitter addiction really resonated with my own experience.) I took Twitter off my phone years ago, because it really didn’t need to be my constant companion.

There is no suggestion of an answer at all anymore, no complexity. Instead, there are people who are angry about being woken up in the night by Amber Alerts, and people who are angry about people who are angry about being woken up in the night by Amber Alerts. And here I am with my phone alerts on mute, and I just have no fucks to give about any of it.

Once upon a time, I liked Twitter, because even amidst the men who called me a cunt or the Christians who called me a baby murderer, I appreciated learning about other people’s points of view (not those people, obviously) and it was really how I got my news. But I’ve since found another way.

‘But not reading the paper only kept me from not knowing things; it didn’t keep them from happening.’

‘Maybe instant information isn’t good for us. We can’t absorb it.’

—Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light

I still get a newspaper on the weekends, as I have for years, but in the last year, I started buying and then ordered a subscription for The Guardian Weekly. And because it’s a magazine instead of a newspaper (which always feels stale after a day), it hangs around all week, and everybody in our house reads it. There are book reviews, and culture pieces, and news from all over the world, and long-form pieces, and summaries of breaking events. It’s great, but even better? It always arrives in the mail about a week after the fact. Sometimes even longer. So that much of the “breaking news” by then has been put back together and healed over again.

And I love it.

There is context. There are facts. Instead of compulsively refreshing for it all to make sense, I have waited—and then sometimes it even does make sense by then. The news is also finite, which is splendid, and there aren’t Nazis (except in stories on the rise of white nationalism).

What would happen if you had an unpopular opinion and kept it to yourself? What would happen if your consciousness wasn’t displayed upon a ticker-tape for everyone to see? What would happen if people stopped beginning sentences with, “Am I the only one who…” or sharing unpopular opinions about food, or even having opinions at all about food.

What if you just ate your lunch?*

*After photographing it and posting it on Instagram, of course, because not all social media platforms are dead to me yet.

5 thoughts on “Slow News”

  1. theresa says:

    Thank you for this, and for the link to Olivia Laing’s piece. I find Twitter more alienating these days than it is anything else. I enjoyed the jokes, the links, the news about books and so on. But then I found it got kind of scoldy. Kind of shrill. I found myself jittery and wondered why. Then I read the Laing you linked to: “One of the reasons I’d told myself I needed to be online, especially as the world lurched to the far right, was that it was our duty as citizens to be educated, alert, awake. But recording the process over months showed me that the actual consequence was that I was hypnotised by horror. The more internet-reality I consumed, the more I sat there, numb, paranoid, drained of hope.” I want to be a good citizen but do I want to constantly find myself down rabbit holes where one horror after another displays itself? With Twitter, it’s all or nothing, it seems. You can’t just read the funny or uplifting things or the things that you can get behind quickly and efficiently. It’s one big rabbit hole. And not a very nice place to hang out.

    1. Kerry says:

      This is why reading two-week old news magazines is SO my jam. And your blog too! xo

  2. Rohan says:

    I understand but also I think it depends so much on who you follow and who (and what) you mute – isn’t any person’s Twitter thread to a large extent the result of those decisions? Also, I have made “you don’t have to weigh in!” a mantra for myself and though I don’t stick to it 100% it is a good way to let surges of irksome stuff come and go. If you do go altogether you will be missed! But we know we can find you here and that’s good too.

  3. kate says:

    i liked twitter for all of the humor i found there, the clever wit. And then I realized I couldn’t quite move at the speed I needed to, and have dropped away. But I do love the idea of the delay, a little of the ‘way it used to be feeling’ of less panic, less devastation, more learning, more piecing together. so glad to be reminded to just keep myself to myself and create my own delays. 🙂 sadly, it happens quite naturally!

    1. Kerry says:

      Re “it happens quite naturally”—ha ha! Me too…

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