By Bari Weiss and Eve Peyser
Ms. Weiss is a writer and editor for the Opinion section. Ms. Peyser writes about politics and culture for Vice.
Dec. 3, 2018, 32
“BARI WEISS: Everything sucks. That’s the overwhelming feeling I get when I spend too much time on Twitter. It makes me feel anxious and angry and amped up. And that’s on a day when I’m not even trending as a Very Bad Person.
This fall I read Jaron Lanier’s book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.” He helped me see that these feelings were the inevitable result of being manipulated by this behavioral modification machine.
I didn’t delete my account — yet! I know! I am full of shame! — but I did change the way I use it (no looking at my mentions; far less tweeting; aiming to highlight the work of people I like rather than criticize the work of those I don’t). It also made me think about how I saw other Twitter users, like Vice’s Eve Peyser. She was clever and often funny — and I disagreed with her about just about everything. Sometimes she jabbed at me. I watched her posts with a suspicious side-eye.
But I wondered: If we had met at a dinner party rather than on Twitter, would we have liked each other? Was social media, as Mr. Lanier’s book suggested, creating a sense of intense conflict where there might be intense conversation? Did we actually dislike each other, or was Twitter just making us think we did?
“. . . EVE: The odd thing about social media is that it’s made me emotionally immune to the worst abuse — an anti-Semitic misogynist threat doesn’t get to me in the same way someone who agrees with me 90 percent of the time insulting me does. I always go back to what Freud called “the narcissism of minor differences,” a theory that asserts that closely related groups of people engage “in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other” to satisfy aggressive impulses and strengthen the bonds within the opposing factions.”