Private Twitter accounts are deeply confusing. The non-public, secure accounts make sense, as schools and communities across the country put an emphasis on “stranger danger”-style internet security. But “private Twitters” in the colloquial sense of the phrase are strange and seem mostly pointless.
This phenomenon is hardly new. Individuals make private Twitter accounts to run alongside their main accounts largely as a place to vent, similar to a journal or diary. However, most choose to allow a select number of friends to follow these accounts, making those people exclusively privy to whatever personal thoughts or ideas they share.
This seems flawed. To what extent is a private account really private, and how can one authentically post their unedited thoughts when they have an audience in mind?
This generation’s connection to the internet and social media is incredible and positive in that it gives us an immediately accessible outlet of a mind-bogglingly large amount of content and information. However, things like anonymity, privacy settings and the sheer scale of the internet make it easier to post deeply personal things online.
Wanting to shout into that abyss about both the positive and negative aspects of life is, by that logic, pretty understandable. But shouting into that void with the knowledge that a few of your friends or acquaintances just happen to be nearby listening to your everyday thoughts and complaints is a perplexing practice.
Having a private Twitter also gives you a running archive of all these shared statements that is, to a point, pretty accessible. We haven’t scientifically reached a point where you can switch your friends and followers to a “private, don’t share” setting. Posting personal things with an audience requires running several contingency plans. What do you do after falling out with someone who’s been reading your stream of consciousness for a few months? This seems to present a good deal of potential social risks for very little payoff.
The purpose of social media is clearly stated in the name. While venting can be healthy, involving a close-knit group of people in a complex, sometimes toxic web of private rants seems too complicated to be beneficial to anyone involved.
The Rank & File editorial board isn’t looking to condemn those who run private Twitter accounts. We’d appreciate any opposing opinions or explanations, and you can get in touch with us @gcmranknfile—although, of course, you probably shouldn’t do so through a private account.