I left Twitter and you should too

I intend to keep this blog non-political and on topic. Although this piece deals with a current political topic, my experience pre-dates it and my writing about it deals with a larger issue than silencing the speech of a politician.

Twitter is an absolute cesspool that should be filled with sand and covered with earth. And I felt that way before the current controversy involving the suspension of President Trump’s account.

I opened a Twitter account sometime in early 2014 to the best of my memory. It was eye-opening at first and introduced me to a new view of cybersecurity and the many personalities within the industry. It was informational, thought-provoking, and entertaining. Or at least for a while.

But after some time, you begin to see this darker side. The snide remarks, the put-downs, back-handed comments, the racism, the misogyny, intolerance, lies, and intentional misinformation.

I generally used it to follow topics relating to cybersecurity, and in particular digital forensics and incident response (DFIR). I have found the field, and the people in it, to be nothing but helpful and encouraging. The information sharing and willingness to help others is second to none. Hundreds, if not thousands of websites, blogs, and forums published to share information. Conferences and training sessions are designed to bring newcomers up to speed and into the family. And always with a dedication to grow the field and make everyone more effective as a group.

But on Twitter? NOPE. It’s a whole different game when people can hide behind an anonymous “handle” and pretty much say anything they want within a sentence or two. People’s worst side becomes their front side.

The intolerance towards females in the field was the most offensive. And shocking. If you tried to stand up for them you were equally attacked, both in the replies and direct messages. I am a cop. I’ve spent the past twenty-two years being despised simply for my career. I’ve been punched, kicked, spat upon, and had my family threatened. I can take pretty much anything that comes my way. But most people cannot. And why should they? Having your professional competence, work ethic, or in some cases sexuality, questioned is unsettling. Particularly when it’s done on the open Internet in front of peers. Even if it is done by someone hiding behind an anonymous screen name. So most just don’t get involved, the abusers win, and females who try to provide value to the profession are silenced.

Even the most innocuous, non-controversial comment can draw ire and intense criticism. Think you wrote something interesting and want to share it with others? You're facts are wrong and you're stupid. Developed a new technique to recover data from a device? Already been done and your stupid for not knowing it sooner. Have an idea to streamline a time consuming process? Won't work, you're stupid, get back in the kitchen. It becomes exhausting and you just stop participating. So what’s the point of even showing up?

The comment sections of digital outlets are notoriously harsh. The comment section of Youtube is infamous for its open warfare on decency. But Twitter is different. The comments are a personal and directed attack that lands with a sting. I would rarely feel better about myself after a review of the cybersec or DFIR twitter-verse.

There is seriously no good reason to have a Twitter account. You might not get as many visits to your new blog post. You may have to look harder for information of interest. We met new people and professionally networked before 2012 and it can still be done today, even without the ability to connect through 280 characters.

I left Twitter over a year ago and you should also. You can always go back, but I don’t think you will.