I left social media and now I’ve abandoned newspaper comment threads. Here’s why.
I was quite active on Twitter about ten years ago, then eventually gave it up. This was partly because it bored me but also because the people in my own group – mostly Catholics of the more conservative kind – had morphed into something quite unpleasant. I didn’t miss it at all.
Then I became actively involved in the Remain campaign to keep the UK in the European Union. I rejoined Twitter just for that purpose, helping with the Bremain in Spain tweeting team and later as coordinator of the Veterans4Europe Twitter account. I also found it necessary to sign up for a Facebook account, which I hadn’t used for years. It is imperative to be on these platforms to be effective in online campaigning.
Earlier this year, due to my own choice not to follow the Vets4EU policy on being soft on Jeremy Corbyn, I resigned my Twitter coordinator role and handed over to someone who could follow the group policy. Fair enough – group policy is necessary – but Corbyn was never going to change his view, so why should I pretend we needed to keep waiting for him to help the Remain cause? I took that as the moment to delete my Twitter and Facebook accounts and to be free from those awful echo chambers! Hooray.
However, I continued making contributions to the online readers’ comments of two newspapers: in English in The Guardian and in Spanish in El País. These newspapers are politically quite similar and the readership is quite often neatly aligned in their mixture of views about their respective political scene. Most of my contributions were carefully worded and hopefully intelligent contributions to debate; sometimes written with humour, but always polite and focused on the topic. I have now closed down both accounts and will not spend any more time on such activity.
Last week I withdrew from this kind of forum and deleted my newspaper commenter profiles. These places are becoming little more than echo chambers resembling Twitter and Facebook. Above all, few readers are actually interested in others’ views, let alone the newspaper columnists themselves. They either don’t read the comments or do read them and ensure their critics are censored! (Here’s a test for you: try writing something mildly critical underneath a story by the earnest young Corbynista Guardian columnist Owen Jones. You can watch it go up in smoke fifteen seconds after you press the send button. Few writers can be bothered to jealously guard their readership from contrary opinion with such obsession as eagle-eyed Owen, who can delete a Corbyn unbeliever in seconds, no matter how polite the heresy.)
After some self-searching I did wonder: why do I actually bother sharing what I think in these comment columns? Why do I find it necessary? Like the political leaders they voted for now, everyone is only interested in their ability to grab the audience’s attention for its own sake. Am I doing that? How infantile. Time to stop it!
This blog is the only place I shall write now. Please don’t write in to tell me this blog is rubbish and that I don’t know what I’m f’ing talking about. There are so many places you can insult people, wind them up, troll them and swear at them, you should be spoiled for choice.
What is this place for? It’s a sort of diary really. If you like it, I’m pleased you read it. If you don’t, then go somewhere else. And you don’t need to take the trouble to write and tell me you are unsubscribing from this blog “because it used to be all about donkeys” and you don’t want to hear my views on other things… (etc. blah. blah.) Because that too is trolling. Just unsubscribe and off you go. Simples.
In any case, it is and always has been nearly all about donkeys!