Home News Maggie Haberman: The Reasons I Had to Resign From Twitter

Maggie Haberman: The Reasons I Had to Resign From Twitter


At an all-time high, there is unprecedented levels of violence, toxic partisan anger and intellectual dishonesty among political figures and officials.

Last Sunday morning I awoke feeling anxious. Checking my Twitter app on my phone, I began scrolling down in an attempt to refresh. There was one comment in particular I felt drawn to respond to, so I opened a new post, typed some words out before quickly withdrawing them before finally deleting my tweet – an act repeated several times over two hours.

maggie haberman twitter
maggie haberman twitter

Yesterday evening, I’d told a close friend how much I hated Twitter – its distorting discourse and noise couldn’t be turned off easily were among my many complaints. She asked what might happen if I disengaged.

After struggling to come up with anything on my own, at 6 pm last Sunday I just did it.

Over nearly nine years and 187,000 tweets, I have used Twitter enough to realize it no longer works well for me. Although, I may reengage eventually – just perhaps in another form?

With the exception of breaking news or my own stories, I am temporarily taking a hiatus from this platform for no other reason than it doesn’t really contribute anything of substance to our dialogue.

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times (@maggieNYT). July 15, 2018.

Twitter used to be an outlet where I could learn new information without error about breaking news stories, engage in meaningful debate, and trust that others’ criticism was done in good faith. These days however, it seems more like just another tool of distraction than something worthwhile for learning or discovery.

Viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism have reached new heights without end. People understandably upset about any number of things can turn to this forum to vent their rage – where free speech has reached its most poisonous conclusion.

Twitter has become an outlet for many to vent their anger, offering them the ability to say things they wouldn’t normally. Personally, Twitter had become an enormous and pointless drain on my time and mental energy.

Twitter wasn’t always my cup of tea; in the 2012 campaign season – the inaugural use of Twitter by journalists and campaign aides widely used it by journalists – I became something of an instructor to younger reporters who misused it.

Pictures from their events, inside jokes, and conversation fragments were posted publicly for all to see. I suggested they should treat their feeds more like news platforms – repeating a line from “Broadcast News,” wherein an iconic TV reporter says sarcastically: “Let’s never forget; we are the story.”

Twitter offers frequent inputs that have become indispensable during Trump’s reign – with news cycles lasting roughly three hours a day.

So I gave Twitter a try – and kept trying it. At first, it helped promote my own stories while providing context. Over time, however, I began adding more of my voice – testing the waters gradually so as not to shock the fish too quickly – while at other times using Twitter just as an instant feedback system; meeting people I wouldn’t otherwise meet through direct message from readers; having my errors pointed out courteously by readers (most of whom pointed them out kindly); as well as discovering there was an art to this medium which I thought had me beat.

But the medium has changed; everyone I follow on Twitter seems to be tweeting more frequently, prompting me to check in more often throughout my day and night – only to become overwhelmed with content.

More recently, instead of engaging in thoughtful debates, I found myself spending increasingly more time trying to explain an errant word or poorly phrased tweet and often coming off defensive. At other times, an offhand comment became the foundation of a contentious national dialogue.

Twitter makes it hard to discern what constitutes an issue and what doesn’t, making it hard to discern between major events — like Donald Trump’s impressive cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin — and routine events. All outrages can appear equal, which makes it harder for significant events like his performance at Helsinki with Putin to rise above.

More significant is how Mr. Trump has attempted to incorporate everyone around him, including journalists who cover him, into his storyline. People on Twitter began reacting in similar fashion when I started covering Trump; I found myself the target of vicious Twitter attacks just like so many other journalists have been. Trump creates the impression that media are powerful enough to rival himself by repeatedly targeting specific reporters with attacks via Twitter.

But here’s the rub: most of us do not wish to become part of the story.

Twitter is undeniably useful and essential. I still regularly check my feed to keep abreast of breaking news developments, and will continue doing so. Furthermore, Twitter offers democratic participation – everyone gets their voice heard whether they work at a small television station, one of the largest newspapers, or none at all – though its drawback lies in treating all experts equally on various subjects.

On Twitter, there’s a heated discussion over the role that journalists should be playing in our current political climate. Partisans tend to accuse journalists of malpractice or view us as the “opposition party,” as Donald Trump put it. There must be an important dialogue around journalism itself and our performance during 2016 campaigns – but Twitter does not allow for nuanced or thoughtful discussion of this topic.

Since Donald Trump was elected, I have amassed close to 700,000. This success makes me grateful, as it allowed me to interact with readers – something which I hope to continue someday.

Simply wait. Sooner or later it will come.

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