When I first wrote about the value of Twitter in 2009, most people thought of it simply as a platform for narcissists to tweet their every meal. After the 2016 campaign, many now view it as a cesspool of hatemongering and disinformation.
Well, both views are true to a certain extent. There are still some who tweet about everything (although most have migrated to Instagram), and there are plenty of folks on their worst behavior as they tweet.
But like any other social media platform -- or indeed, any real world social interaction -- it's really what you make of it. Imagine a reception in a large ballroom. You don't have to stand next to the ugly drunk and put up with their abuse. You can move to the opposite corner and discuss more pleasant topics. Perhaps you can connect with others who support your favorite sports team, or are from your old hometown, or share your hobbies.
One of the ways I use Twitter is to converse with fellow classical music enthusiasts. And, as a result, I've learned a thing or two. For example -- in December 2016 a few of us started using #BeethovenaDay hashtag. The rules were simple: for the month of December, post a link to a performance of a Beethoven piece.
In the process, I've been exposed to a number of great performances I wouldn't have otherwise discovered -- and so have others. To my post sharing a vintage recording of Beethoven's Serenade Op. 8, a colleague replied "Hindemith on viola? Oh my! Must hear" (the 1934 recording featured composer Paul Hindemith when he was still primarily a performer). He got to hear something new for him (and his tweets often expose me to exciting performances I hadn't heard before).
Here's another example.
The #BeethovenaDay discussion included this conversation:
Q: For #BeethovenADay, how about nominations for the greatest Beethoven-inspired Symphony?
Reply 1: Off the top of my head Brahms 1, Sibelius 1, Dvorak 9, Bruckner 9, Mahler 2, Harris 1. Will think of others.
Reply 2: Villa-Lobos's inspiration for Choros no.10 was Beethoven's 9th.
Reply 3: The slow movement of Ives' Concord Sonata uses motifs from Beethoven's 5th.
I had no idea that so many works were directly inspired by Beethoven. And secondly, I now have another list of works to explore, listening for those connections.
Of course, while we were having these #BeethovenaDay conversations, there were plenty of horrible, nasty, racist, misogynistic tweeting going on. But I saw very little of it. My Twitter feed follows a different crowd -- and yours can, too.
Choose what you want to share, choose your tone of voice, choose who to interact with. And don't be shy about blocking. Tweets can be used to transmit humanity's basest emotions or share our highest aspirations. I strive to contribute to the latter.