Earlier this month, Wil Wheaton decided to take part in a little protest called #DeactiDay. The plan was for a bunch of people to delete their Twitter accounts because, among other reasons, the social media platform had refused to oust hate-spewing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Despite having been on Twitter since the early days, Wheaton happily walked away, finally free of the website’s anxiety-inducing infinite scroll. Now, in a new post on his website, he details his decision to take things a step further and leave the whole of social media in his wake.
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Upon leaving Twitter, Wheaton began his search for an alternative social media space that would provide him with the things he still enjoyed about engaging online, i.e. jokes, cat pictures, and the occasional dopamine spike. Unfortunately, what he found when he turned to the hot new microblogging site, Mastodon, was simply more of the same.
I found a harsh reality that I’m still trying to process: thousands of people who don’t know me, who have never interacted with me, who internalized a series of lies about me, who were never willing to give me a chance. I was harassed from the minute I made my account, and though I expected the “shut up wesley”s and “go fuck yourself”s to taper off after a day or so, it never did. And even though I never broke any rules on the server I joined (Mastodon is individual “instances” which is like a server, which connects to the “federated timeline”, which is what all the other servers are), one of its admins told me they were suspending my account, because they got 60 (!) reports overnight about my account, and they didn’t want to deal with the drama.
The “series of lies” Wheaton mentions refers to an incident from a few years ago, when Wheaton began recommending people use a blocklist created by a woman named Randi Harper—which, unbeknownst to him, contained a lot of users who were trans or supportive of trans voices. “When I found out, I did everything I could to remove those women from the list I shared. When there were still innocents on the list, I stopped sharing the list entirely,” Wheaton says.
Throughout Wheaton’s essay decrying the online mobs of bad faith actors, there seems to be one glaring omission: Any mention of his friend Chris Hardwick. Following Chloe Dykstra’s public account of the abuse she endured in a relationship with an unnamed “nerd mogul” who was pretty clearly Hardwick, a lot of people expected an outspoken feminist like Wheaton to publicly condemn the actions of his friend. At the time, Wheaton said that he needed “some time to process what’s going on and put words to my thoughts.” Those words never materialized, and a couple months later he was off Twitter for good.
Regardless of his reasons, Wheaton says he realizes how fortunate he is to have a happy, fulfilling life outside of social media, and he feels he’s making the healthy decision by just walking away. “I don’t deserve to be treated so terribly by so many random people, so I’m not going to put myself in a place where I am subjected to it all day long,” he says. “Please do your best to be kind, and make an effort to make the world less terrible.”
You can read Wheaton’s entire essay here.
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