While some Calgary city councillors use Twitter regularly, others sporadically, one member has decided not to use it at all.
In a twist of irony, Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, a historically prolific tweeter, filed his last post to the social media account Wednesday – to tell people he would be leaving the platform.
Twitter has come under fire in recent months with changes in algorithms, feeds, and the verification status of members. Many critics say the platform has become a haven for trolls and bots, a stark contract to its beginnings as a digital meeting point for citizens.
Later, Coun. Carra told LiveWire Calgary that it was a long time coming.
In 2010, he said he had dreamed of a “digital commons” where citizens would be able to interact will many elements of society – fellow citizens, politicians, academics and the like.
“In the years after that, the private sector stepped up and created these platforms that became sort of essential,” he said.
The essential nature of social media became more apparent to Carra in 2013, during the Calgary floods, he said.
“Twitter was an incredible tool,” Carra said.
“It was like this, walkie-talkie-meets-active-conversation-meets newsfeed and it was the digital commons that I’d sort of been dreaming of.”
He said that’s when we slipped from an age of “politics in full sentences” to one of politics of anger, fear and division. That begun the degradation of the platform, he said.
Now, he’s done with it.
“I certainly have for many years tried to maintain that ability to have thoughtful and engaging and provocative and difficult conversations on the platform,” he said.
“But it’s been overrun by armies of trolls and bots, who aren’t there to converse, who are there to yell loudest and shift public opinion.”
His role in the conversation
When asked about his contribution to the toxicity in Twitter conversation, the councillor gently pushed back.
“I will gently push back against you that I don’t believe I contributed to toxicity at all,” he said.
“I believe I contributed to a very Twitter a very raw and Twitter-like, real conversation always. And I was always committed to having it.”
Carra said the beauty of Twitter as a connecting point was that the conversation – for the most part, early on – was real authentic with passion and frustration, but also with understanding.
In the meantime, Carra said the platform has essentially jumped the shark.
It’s no longer the digital commons he thought it would be.
“I don’t know if it’s possible for a private sector firm driven by ad revenue imperatives to truly be able to deliver that,” he said.
“I’m certainly open to whatever the future may hold online. All I know is that Twitter’s been messed up really badly for a long time, and I’m out.”