Blue Bird | Ariana Thompson
No other social media platform is quite as infamous as Twitter. Other platforms may have bad reputations but none so uniquely and diversely bad as the iconic blue bird. There are a lot of reasons people feel this way, but one of the ones more directly cultivated by Twitter users is cancel culture.
Though cancel culture has now become a Republican buzzword used to deflect legitimate criticism, it still accurately describes a major problem found on Twitter. Allegations on Twitter can often spread like wildfire, turning accusations to reality. Before the veracity of the accusations can even be checked, the story will have already spread to thousands or millions of people who will often uncritically just believe what others tell them. This distorted version of events is then used to justify abusive behaviors.
A good example of this is the James Charles’ 2019 cancelation, or dramageddon. Dramageddon started when fellow makeup youtuber, Tati Westbrook, released her video “bye Sister” where she among other things accused James Charles of being predatory towards straight men.Their followers on social media [primarily Twitter] took it as a fact that James Charles was a sexual predator. Not acting in a predatory way but a sexual predator. It wasn’t that he had been accused of a set of behaviors but that he was a label that defined him. And they used this label as an excuse to send abuse on a massive scale to Charles.
Eventually it came out that, for the time being, there was no evidence that James Charles was a predator, but by that time he had already lost 2 million subscribers.
Twitter is particularly susceptible to this sort of outrage: its algorithm actually incentivizes it. From quote tweeting to inserting popular tweets into your feed, Twitter’s primary goal in their updates is to keep users engaged. Because the amount of people creating Twitter accounts hasn’t increased in the past couple of years, Twitter attempts to get more engagement by getting those who do have Twitter accounts to use the platform more. In effect, this means that controversy and outrage are prioritized over discourse.
In Twitter’s attempt to wring more engagement out of its user base, they have created what many would describe as an unhealthy relationship between the user and the platform. News stories and a constant stream of negative information describing the racism, exploitation, and suffering in the world can leave users doom scrolling for hours on end.
This entrenchment of news and entertainment can be dangerous in a way. When even the places you go to for comfort also bring painful awareness, it can be hard to separate relaxation from stress. Sometimes people need respite from the constant influx of bad news in the world and it’s becoming increasingly clear that Twitter is not where to find it.
That’s not to say there’s no room for improvement – in fact currently Twitter is re-evaluating their algorithm. There’s a possibility that maybe Twitter could become a more supportive platform for creators and users alike. Hopefully, this means that the toxicity of cancel culture can soon come to an end.