Social media: Why X now marks the spot with bile, spambots and conspiracy theories

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Does anyone call Twitter by its new name? Who actually says “I saw on ‘X’ last night” - while asking someone “did you just x about?”sounds absurd and slightly weird.

The media routinely scrape Twitter - sorry, X - for content, and most of it is about as newsworthy as my shopping list for a trip to Aldi. That’s on us to do better, and stop turning individual tweets into (non) news headlines.

Twitter tells me I’ve been tweeting for 12 years. That’s 54,300 individual tweets and reposts, and the very best tweet I wrote I never actually sent, and that tells you everything about social media, its rush to instant judgement, its vile toxicity and its inability to understand humour and nuance.

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It was the day Alex Salmond published his White Paper on independence. I tweeted at an event at Kirkcaldy Galleries – a beer, book and burger night with author Stuart McBride - when a friend, a staunch indyref campaigner, asked “is the White Paper there”“Dunno,” I replied, “haven’t checked the fiction section” with a row of smiley face emojis. I think I even added a Basil brush-esque “Boom! Boom!” Short of adding “here all week, folks” I couldn’t have made it clearer it was a joke - must admit I was kinda pleased with it too, but, written down and read a different way, it also toppled deep into the ‘’yoon media’ narrative of the day. As I went to hit ‘send’ my gut instinct staged a last-second intervention and I paused. Six words which might well have sparked a pile-on never saw the light of day. Until now!

From Twitter to X (Pic: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)From Twitter to X (Pic: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)
From Twitter to X (Pic: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

I’m all for robust debate, and the cut and thrust of an argument, but sometimes social media just isn’t worth it. If I didn’t work in the media, I’d have junked Twitter the moment Elon Musk basically musked it up to the point it is now filled with spambots and an endless procession of bikini clad young women from Belarus who seem incredibly interested in the politics of Fife Council and keep following me. My mute and block lists are now so long that, if placed end to end, they’d run the length of the Esplanade.

Other than live tweeting at an event - that can be an ice hockey game or election night - engagement on the platform is completely lost. It used to be fun following Twitter while watching a TV show - anything from Question Time to Come Dine With Me - and enjoying the rapier sharp wit of many contributors. Not any more.

The recent frenzy over the whereabouts of the Princess of Wales sparked a ‘katespiracy ’which, on news of her serious cancer diagnosis, now feels as tasteless as it was baseless.

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But we live in an era where opinions are treated as facts. If thousands of people all say the king is dead then he must be. If social media determines the video of William and Kate used body doubles, it is on them to prove otherwise - not us to stop and actually engage our brains.

We’ve let social media distort reality to the point it has become a dangerous weapon in times of war and with crucial elections looming. . The print media can be toxic and appalling at times, but, at least, it can be challenged in courts, and you can actively choose not to purchase it.

You can only shake your head in despair at the incredible good Musk could have done around the globe with the £44billion he wasted on Twitter. If only he had a single philanthropic bone in is body …