I have 112,000 followers but my love for Twitter is over

Freeing myself from social media poison is a step I had to take


Edvard Munch's The Scream

July 03, 2024 10:21

If you read my columns, then you probably know how big a part social media plays in my life. I was first introduced to Twitter by David Baddiel and the comedian Omid Djalili in 2009 when I was on a film set with them both. “You’ll enjoy this new site,” they said. “It will while away the hours when you’re on downtime during filming. It’s fun.”

And it was. I don’t think I have gone a day since then without logging on. I have made wonderful friends and incredibly potent connections. I have a great following and a large support group, which helped catapult my recent Shakespeare play into a Top 5 nomination at the audience-led WhatsOnStage awards. When an actress I’ve known for decades recently came for me on Twitter, asking aggressively for my “response to Israel’s actions” after the strike that killed a convoy of World Central Kitchen aid workers (“7 people dead! Trying to feed the starving?”), she felt the wrath of thousands of my Twitter allies who pointed out that demanding a Jewish actress who lives in the UK for an opinion might be considered antisemitic. She was forced to apologise.

I have seen Twitter (or rather X, as we now have to call it) through its many iterations. From being a witty safe space – a small village full of charming people led by Stephen Fry – it morphed into a female networking platform. Great women really ruled the Twittersphere from 2011 to 2014, when every female broadcaster, columnist, artist and writer who had an edge and something to say was there daily. There were some legendary get-togethers where we celebrated each other in an arena that the “boys” couldn’t dominate. In those days, there wasn’t one woman I admired in the Twittersphere whom I didn’t get to meet.

These days, on the other hand, you can’t be a woman on X without being viciously harassed and abused. Try being a high-profile Jewish woman these days who won’t publicly denounce Israel’s right to exist. Oy. Many women got off the site years ago.

Early on, George Galloway led the way on using Twitter to win support. It swiftly became the go-to app for all politicians wanting to reach “the people” and influence the news cycle. Under Elon Musk, however, it’s just become the online version of George Orwell’s “Two Minute Hate”, as imagined in 1984, with large groups of online tweeters spewing hatred and intimidation. Twitter is now just an ungoverned hate site.

The same can be said about Instagram, which started off with “my life is better than your life” pictures. Then it became “I can sell you crap because I am famous”. Now, it can be as vicious as Twitter. It’s a battleground for political hearts and minds with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel propaganda dominating my timeline. But maybe that’s just my algorithm. How’s yours?

There is nothing more depressing than watching people you once liked re-posting some truly terrible things about your kinfolk, quoting truly awful people in the most ill-informed way, while believing they are on the side of the angels.

How many people have you unfollowed? I recently opened TikTok and then shut it because I had never seen such antisemitic propaganda since researching Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Poor young people. They don’t know how easily they’re being manipulated. It will take generations to get over this mass misinformation and indoctrination that has been so damaging to the Jews.

In the last month I’ve had a chronic bad back and non-stop flu and, after assuming that I was immune, I finally caught Covid, which knocked me for six. So I did the unthinkable and came off all social media. I also took a break from the news and even my phone. This was so difficult, going against every instinct that I have that the unexamined life is not worth living, and that the uninformed person is a Fool on the Hill.

But I loved it. When you live in your own bubble, nothing else exists. My phone isn’t pinging every two minutes with horror stories about the indignities suffered by Jews and Israelis around the world. Elections? What elections? I lived a life that took me back into a golden age before social media. My world instead was focused on the dozen people I love. I was no longer constantly looking like Munch’s The Scream or party to everybody’s inner thoughts, political opinions or skewered, manipulated prejudices. I could pretend that politicians can be trusted, David Bowie never died and Corbyn never existed. My health improved enormously.

But it hasn’t lasted. I was tempted to take a peek at X the other day and it was like opening the door to an insane asylum. I haven’t be able to wean myself off it completely. But I’m going to give it a bloody good try.

July 03, 2024 10:21

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive