Maggie Haberman, a White House correspondent for ther New York Times, shared in an op-ed last week that she’s quitting Twitter — because she needs to.

Not that the New York Times wants her to quit using Twitter. Most of their reporters not only use Twitter, but the Times’ encourages them to do so – along with other social networks, including Facebook.

For Haberman, Twitter has become a flawed medium.

Twitter has stopped being a place where I could learn things I didn’t know, glean information that was free from errors about a breaking news story or engage in a discussion and be reasonably confident that people’s criticisms were in good faith.

The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight. It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious.

Twitter is now an anger video game for many users. It is the only platform on which people feel free to say things they’d never say to someone’s face. For me, it had become an enormous and pointless drain on my time and mental energy.

No doubt Haberman had seen value in Twitter.

I got to promote my own stories. I got to provide context. Eventually I started adding more of my voice, dipping my toes in the water to see if I could stand the temperature. I got to defend my reporting and defend my colleagues. I received instant feedback. I met people through Twitter whom I wouldn’t have otherwise. Readers sent me story tips over direct message. Many pointed out errors, but most did it respectfully, and I was appreciative. There was an art to this medium, and I thought I’d figured it out.

And she still does.

To be clear, Twitter is a useful and important platform. It’s a good aggregator for breaking news. I still check my feed to see breaking news developments, and I will continue to. And it is democratic — everyone gets to have a voice, whether they work for a local paper, a small TV station or one of the biggest newspapers in the world, or are not in the media business at all. The downside is that everyone is treated as equally expert on various topics.

So much so that Haberman continues to use Twitter. For sharing her stories, sharing other’s stories and replying to others on Twitter.

If Haberman was halving trouble with Twitter, it may have been the result of how she used Twitter, not because Twitter has become flawed.

Scott Greenfield, questioning Haberman’s argument that Twitter has become a flawed offensive medium, said it well.

Twitter, like any medium, is merely a forum, a platform where there will be smart and dumb, honest and dishonest, good faith and bad. There are remarkably good things, funny jokes, interesting asides and fascinating discussions. And there’s tons of garbage. This was always the case. Even when it was less offensive, it was still largely dumb. After all, the twits come from people, and people aren’t nearly as fabulous as we should be. Not you, of course. You are totally fab. Other people.

Twitter is like the real world. Who you engage and who engages you depends on where you go and who you hang out with. The news and information you receive depends on the trustworthiness and authority of your sources.

If, like Haberman, I follow almost 4,000 people on Twitter and randomly engage many of the over 800,000 people who follow me, things are going to get to be a bit of a nut house. Especially if I start to reason with the unreasonable, something that’s just not impossible.

Using Twitter effectively, as Haberman now appears to be doing, you’ll find that Twitter is great source for information and breaking news, enables you to have a voice where you have not had one before and allows you to meet people you’d not have otherwise met.

The viciousness, toxic partisan anger and intellectual dishonesty which Haberman argues is Twitter today is really a world on Twitter that you bring upon yourself.

  • Scott Frey

    This post strikes me as (1) mansplaining and (2) “blaming the victim.” By (1), I mean that I doubt you’re saying anything that (Pulitzer Prize winning reporter) Maggie Haberman doesn’t already know about Twitter. Also, I doubt that you’re a better judge of whether Haberman is or isn’t using Twitter well than she is. And by (2), I refer specifically to the concluding remark that she’s brought the bad parts of Twitter upon herself. Really? So the trolls and others who tweet without care aren’t to blame for “the viciousness, toxic partisan anger and intellectual dishonesty” on Twitter? And the problems she cites are just an inherent part of Twitter that she should just unemotionally ignore? Perhaps you’re just referring to your assertion that she was “randomly engaging” her followers and “reasoning with the unreasonable.” If you re-read Haberman’s piece, that’s not why she said she’s pulling back from Twitter. She makes an oblique reference in passing to “fighting trolls,” but focuses on several other issues, such the overwhelming amount of content and becoming part of the story due to Donald Trump’s tweets. In short, I’m not sure what the point of your post is, except to give your opinions about Twitter and criticize Haberman’s opinions about Twitter without fully engaging with them.

    • Thanks for the comment, Scott. Well aware that Maggie Haberman is a Pulitzer Prize winner, which makes her decision to Twitter bash in a op-ed in the NYT disconcerting to me.

      My readers tend to be lawyers, other legal professionals, law professors, law school administrators and the like. Among them are many who question the value of Twitter – why would anyone use it? It’s filled with crazies bashing each other. It takes up a lot of time etc. These folks are looking for all the support they can get to support their naive positions as to Twitter. This is it – maybe Twitter is worthwhile to some people for some things but not not someone holding as serious a position as I or a NYT reporter like Haberman.

      I just got back from the American Association of Law Librarians where many talented professionals leading tech education for law students are working to restrain students from blogging and using social media out of their own fears.

      When you get NYT reporters of the caliber of Haberman broadcasting that she is pulling back on Twitter because of her experience, it carries a lot of weight. Twitter remains the place Haberman describes it to have been for people who use Twitter in way where they are not engaging those they want to engage.

      • Scott Frey

        Thanks for your reply. I stand by my original comment. I still think that you are reading into Haberman’s piece things that you wish to express your opinion on but that aren’t in the piece. And I still believe that you are putting Haberman down (as I said, “mansplaining” or, more charitably, correcting allegedly misguided views) without engaging with what she did say. You indicate that Twitter is a bad place for people “who use Twitter in way where they are not engaging those they want to engage.” But again, she did not say she was doing that. She’s making a more complex statement of her experience. And she’s entitled to be unhappy about what she’s seen. She’s not saying that Twitter is all bad — far from it. But she points out several real problems. I’ve noted that Haberman has won a Pulitzer Prize not to make her seem more important, but to indicate that she might well be making valid points that can inform her readers. People should know about drawbacks of Twitter, as well as benefits. And then they can better decide whether or how to use Twitter. Fear and misinformation are certainly not good reasons to doubt the value of Twitter, blogging, or any other means of communication and interaction. (I’ll have to have a chat with my fellow law librarians about whether some are restraining students from social media out of fear.) But Haberman is instead providing reasons and emotions — both for and against Twitter — based on experience.

        • Let’s leave the mansplaining thing out of it. I am a man, she is a woman and we each wrote something expressing our views.

          Haberman has more going on with Twitter than I if she is engaging the president and White House Press officials, I get that. It’s also her perogative to express how she feels about Twitter.

          I am disagreeing with her that Twitter is no longer the worthwhile place it was and because of all the “bad stuff” on Twitter, I need to cut back on using Twitter. Isn’t that like saying bars used to be good places to have a conversation, relax, and hang out with some everyday people but no longer now that gangs started hanging out and occasionally shooting people at the bar I frequented so “bars have changed and I’ll not be frequented them much anymore.”

          Why not just go to a different bar with the people and the discussion more to your liking? That’s all Twitter and the people you choose to engage on Twitter is – hanging and engaging with those you choose to.

          • Scott Frey

            I’d accept your analogy if there were a viable alternative to Twitter, in the way that there might be a good bar down the street from the bar you no longer like. While there are other social networks with high usage in the US — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn (If you consider it to be a social network), YouTube (same) — they’re not equivalent to Twitter. Facebook can be used like Twitter, I suppose, and vice versa. But I think most people perceive and use them differently. For example, as Haberman notes, Twitter is a good aggregator for breaking news — which I don’t believe is a common view of Facebook. Also, I’d say many people feel more free on Twitter than on Facebook to express their views, for better or worse. Ironically, this may cause other people on Twitter to feel less free, because of the reasonable concern about getting attacked. And that’s one of the problems with Twitter. (I presume that neither the typical reporter nor the typical lawyer wants to make his or her Twitter account private and allow only a limited set of people to follow and tweet at them.)

          • Dave Love

            Now you’re just dumbsplaining.