KATIE KADUE – Twitter as Suspended Hell

All social media both feeds and feeds on narcissism, but Twitter’s capacity to mirror the world and its users’ neuroses in discrete verbal and visual units, at least in certain corners of the site, elevates self-regard to a formal principle. What makes Twitter so axiomatically hellish? 

It’s a place where even the most well-intentioned attempts at intellectually honest conversation inevitably devolve into misunderstanding and mutual contempt, like the fruit that crumbles into ash in the devils’ mouths in book 10 of Paradise Lost. It amplifies our simultaneous interdependency and alienation, the overtaking of meaningful political life by the triviality of the social. It is other people. 

But mostly Twitter is Hell because we – a “we” that, in Twitter’s universalizing idiom, outstretches optimistically or threateningly as if to envelop even those blessed souls who have never once logged on – make it so. It’s our own personal Hell, algorithmically articulated and given back to us, customized enough that I can complain to another very online friend about something that’s “all over Twitter” and he can reply, in confusion, “hmm, not my Twitter,” but shared enough that another friend can affirm, “on my Twitter too.” 

Pathetic fallacy subtends the most viral memes, either on the individual level (“it me”) or from the perspective of the willed collective of Twitter itself. Twitter fashions itself as a metaphor for everything in our lives, and everything is a metaphor for Twitter, the machine that turns everything into discourse and where discourse tends to turn in on itself. The ocean is on fire? Looks like Twitter. Climate change? A giant dumpster fire in Earth’s mentions. Golfers going on with their game, seemingly oblivious to the raging wildfire in the background? Ha, that’s just like us on Twitter….


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