Why I left twitter for mastodon – an anti oppressive step

Featured image shows a crowd, and in the center of the picture is a femme appearing person wearing a face mask and holding a placard saying “stand up speak up”

Firstly – lets address the irony of this being shared to twitter – since my account is locked, not deactivated. Locked accounts not only annoy advertisers, but also prevent impersonation. Dormant locked accounts however can be deactivated, which would again raise the issue around impersonation – so, you may have seen this on twitter, but only in the form of taking up space, rather than providing content, and respectability. That matters, as I hope this will explain.

I joined twitter sometime around 2011, when it was a very different place, probably summed up by the fact we used to have twitter New Years Eve parties. It was closer to a chat room than the other forms of social media at the time, people would pop in and say good morning, friendships, romances, even marriages were made. I don’t want to sound overly nostalgic, there were huge issues, even back then, but it was a far safer, and friendly space, particuarly for LGBTQI+ people.

As people write the obituries of the bird app quite a few have referred to it as a “town square” or “public square” suggesting it was some kind of fully accessible public space, which all could utilise equally. It should come as no surprise that the majority of those suggesting this have been white, cis, het and otherwise privilged. They have also been dead wrong. Twitter was always a private space, most reminiscent of the mall, or corporate owned byway which at first glance might appear public, but which was a privately controlled space. Sex workers, and others, know how controlled that space became, even whilst the media insisted it was some great democratic experiment in free expression of ideas. So, never the town square, more the town assembly rooms, where the great and good in the upper gallery could pretend they were mixing with the masses.

So far, so normal for social media. Then, earlier this year, Twitter was bought by someone who supports and amplifies far right voices and ideas. How the son of apartheid era emerald mine owners chooses to spend his money is of course up to him. However where I choose to show implicit or explicit endorsement of the man who bought Tesla is up to me. Which is why in early November I locked my Twitter account and reopened my Mastodon one. This is not to say that Mastodon is without its issues, it is a very white platform, and many instances (individual areas which Mastodon is made up of, linked in the way mobile phone providers are separate but can communicate with one another) need to do more to make themselves safer spaces for people of colour. However it is a site where LGBTQI people and are not cannon fodder in the current culture wars.

Does it matter which platform I use? Without sounding too much like a therapist tilting their head and asking someone how they feel about Grimes’ former partner, the answer to that is yes, and no. In the great scheme of things no social media platform matters – but the hate it enables does. In the wider context where an individal therapist posts, toots or tweets is so much gravy, however in an anti oppressive context it is I think a discussion needs to be had.

Anti oppressive practice is at heart about actions not theory – to quote PACJA

Anti-oppressive practice is not limited to a single issue or population, but more broadly to challenging oppressive power structures that reflect, produce, and sustain racism, sexism, heterosexism, cisgenderism, intersex erasure, monogamism, classism, ethnocentrism, colonialism, ableism, ageism, xenophobia, and other intersecting forms of structural oppression.”

Praxis is a term often used to make people sound like they know things others dont, but it is a useful word. Another way to talk about praxis is show, dont tell. Friere argued that it was not enough to study the world but that one must then reflect, and take action to make a more just world. White described praxis as knowing, doing and being. Praxis is at the heart of anti oppressive practice as a therapist. It has to be, since being anti oppressive is a practice, not a theory, an approach that has at its heart not only understanding oppression but actively working to change it. All too often therapy has built walls between it and the real world, persisting in the idea of the neutral therapist who ignores intersecting axis of oppression, and the impact of identity including their own. Frankly speaking once a week into a tape recorder and listening back would be as useful, and probably less harmful in the long run. The world is not separate to therapy, it is at the heart of it, including the therapists own world.

When we choose to be in spaces which encourage hate speech, celebrate oppression, and are celebrated by those who would remove the rights of the oppressed, we also bring that into our therapy rooms. We say to our trans clients, our clients of colour, our disabled clients, all those who are always excluded from the “town square” that we are happy to use spaces they can never access safely.

So does it matter which social media platforms a therapist chooses to use? Yes, it does, because our choices are part of the world our clients have no choice about inhabiting.

You can find me on Mastodon here

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