Why I deactivated my Twitter account [updated]

And some notes on accessibility

Published: 27 April 2021

I finally pulled the plug: I deactivated my Twitter account. It has been consuming my life for a long time now. After a heated discussion about accessibility regarding my website StopKuddeimmuniteit.nl, I let myself get carried away a bit, and found myself spending an evening being argumentative instead of constructive.

Some context: for the past year, I have been advocating for a better coronavirus pandemic strategy, as one of the founders of Containment Nu, a grassroots human rights organization. Our main challenge was to prove that the Dutch cabinet was intentionally pursuing a strategy based on the build-up of immunity-through-infections (a strategy for which Sweden gets all the credit), which is directly at odds with any attempt to keep infections levels low.

It took the newly-elected Member of Parliament Sylvana Simons of the burgeoning leftist party BIJ1 – whom I've provided with a digital infrastructure for websites and fundraising – to finally say it out loud in Parliament:

Sylvana Simons in Parliament

I built a quite successful 'letter campaign' website at StopKuddeimmuniteit.nl which allows anyone to write an email (or Tweet) at an MP to urge them to vote in favor of a resolution proposed by parties BIJ1 and VOLT to stop pursuing immunity through infections.

It may not gain a majority, but at least it would force other opposition parties to show their true colors. Most opposition parties have until now merely expressed their confusion about the Dutch strategy, or indicated that they would prefer a strategy based on suppression. What has been lacking is an explicit acknowledgement that the current strategy aims to build up immunity through infections.

However, the copy of my example letters got criticized for being overly long-winded and complex. That was fair, but I got dragged into a heated discussion, and I eventually decided that it was time to stop actively using Twitter

A couple of points I want to make:

  • I did not deactivate my account primarily because of this discussion. It was the straw that broke the camel's back, though.
  • On StopKuddeimmuniteit, I wrote copy that was intended for MP's, allowing anyone to send this copy. Anyone is free to either edit an example letter, or send it as-is. It does not mean it would not be a good idea to have different example letters, just that it is arguably less important here, because the entire point of the website is that it allows you to send complicated explanations to MP's without you having to write (or even really read) them yourself.
  • I mean, even though the copy was not very accessible, the website did make it easier to send an email to MPs for anyone. As this was a voluntary effort by one person, I do think it may not be the best example to use when making a point.
  • To reiterate: it does not mean it would not be a good idea to have alternative email copy that is more accessible. But it is why I responded in defensive manner, and I think that was not wholly unjustified. I thought Parliament would vote on this today (it will probably be on Thursday), and I started working on this on Saturday morning. Still, I did not really think about accessibility when creating this website, and on reflection, I was also justifying-after-the-fact instead of reflecting on what I could do better. I even think I may have went over the top in some of the letters with my writing style, giving off a slight "look at me being a smart douchebro" kind of vibe. Yikes.
  • So, of course the people who simply ask for radical inclusivity and accessibility are always right. Still, I think accusations of being someone who is intentionally exclusive are unjustified and hurtful. Then again, I should be able to just suck that up. But I'd rather use my limited time and resources to create websites and long-form content, instead of arguing on Twitter.com.
  • I would like to stress that everyone who demands accessibility deserves our support, and GeenDorHout does so especially. Even some comments that may have been a bit overly 'angry' are justified in the grand scheme of things, if you take into consideration that people who require accessibility are so often ignored, dismissed or ridiculed. They have every right to be angry. (And more often than not, people (especially women) who are accused of being angry are simply calm and not taking your shit.) They have my sympathy and solidarity. Anyone who tries to paint a picture in which they are the bad guys does not.

Update, April 27th, 23:16

One issue that came up, and that I might as well clarify, was about a domain name I had registered when I wanted to create a website for the 'Geen Dor Hout' initiative. It is something I do somewhat regularly because I can create campaigning websites very quickly with Wings, but I understand how that comes across as patronizing.

They weren't interested, which is fine, and I agreed to transfer the domain to them, so I gave them a transfer code. Now, I do remember being asked to do something technical that allowed them to... do something. I thought it had something to do with getting an SSL certificate that would allow them to use the domain more quickly. I did not immediately understand what the issue was, and this happened in a time when I was overwhelmed with stuff to the point of having a burn out. I forgot about it, and was under the impression I had at least done what was necessary to transfer the domain.

It were untruthful statements like these, that were in my view posted in bad faith, that I quote-tweeted, in order to defend myself against accusations that I found hurtful. I have spent so much time fighting for a better covid strategy that I am overly sensitive to accusations that question my intentions and integrity. I even noticed someone saying that I am trash and that Twitter is better off without me, and even though I should be able to suck that up, I decided that I did not want to. Maybe I am taking up too much space, so I figured I might as well remove myself from it.

Anyway, I still should have replied to those tweets instead of quote-tweeting them, if only because of my follower count, because quote-tweeting can make people feel unsafe. I did not realize that but I should have, and I am sorry about that.

Two more things:

  • It may be odd that I am writing in English, but I had decided to write in English from now on. It is less accessible for Dutch people, but it does allow me to reach a larger audience.
  • The slug of this post is called twitter-break but I do not intend to come back.

Another update:

  • I still don't intend to come back as an actively Tweeting person, but I did create a new account at @JaapStronks, where I will post updates about my work.

I do need a way to still connect to the outside world, because I will still be doing projects. I you want to stay up to date, you may subscribe to my Wings newsletter.