It’s Time to Unfollow Donald Trump

After four harrowing years of inflicting perhaps-irreparable damage on America’s strained social fabric, the presidency of Donald Trump at last has a firm expiration date. And although he will technically remain president until noon on January 20, 2021, the healthiest choice you can make right now—for yourself, for the country, for a future that more closely resembles representative democracy than creeping autocracy—is to unfollow him on Twitter as soon as you finish reading this sentence.

(Muting or blocking him is acceptable, too. Whatever it takes to excise these semi-regular infusions of crypto fascist poison from your timeline for good.)

Since Trump took office, having at least a passing awareness of his Twitter comings and goings has been part of following politics: What the president says is news, however badly he misspells it. He has unleashed his trademark randomly-capitalized invective to pick fights with foreign adversaries, send markets tumbling or soaring, and fire high-level officials in his own White House. When he tested positive for COVID-19, it was the glowering visage of @realdonaldtrump that announced it.

Even before Trump entered politics, his Twitter presence felt authentic; it was just heavier on feuding with Cher and offering relationship advice to Robert Pattinson. Americans have long been fascinated by the idea of being privy to the anodyne thoughts of famous people, particularly those who present as “unfiltered,” and Trump was always, if nothing else, that. “Many are saying I’m the best 140 character writer in the world,” he tweeted in 2012. “It’s easy when it’s fun.”

Trump brought this same relentlessly self-promotional ethos to the task of governing. It was at the center of the symbiotic relationship that developed between Trump and the right-wing media sycophants who propped him up: He would tweet something, Fox & Friends would display a screenshot, he would tweet about seeing his tweet on Fox & Friends, and then share a mirthless laugh with Steve Doocy during the interview that followed. Per the Trump Twitter Archive, his use of the platform skyrocketed as his presidency unraveled, from a steady 150-tweets-a-month pace in early 2017 to an average of 40+ tweets per day over the past three months.

Schadenfreude-induced interest in Trump’s tweets spiked a bit in the election’s immediate aftermath, as rubbernecking Americans tuned in to see how badly he’d take news of his loss. But at this point, as he floods the zone with conspiracy theories about fraudulent ballots, obsessively tracking this firehose of anti-democratic misinformation is doing little more than injecting anxiety into your life. Soon, the contents of his timeline will be no more important than that of any of this country’s many replacement-level MAGA social media personalities with bald eagle avatars, and I hope you do not follow many of them, either.

The recent drama in Wayne County, Michigan, where officials briefly deadlocked on certifying election results before reversing themselves hours later, is the exact sort of chaos you can and should opt out of. Moments after board members affirmed Trump’s loss, he was triumphantly showering them with clumsy praise, mistakenly believing they’d resuscitated his defeated campaign. All of his efforts to overturn the election are still frightening and dangerous, especially since a not-insignificant number of his acolytes fervently believe he won, and will continue to believe him the rightful winner after he’s gone. But the implications of this problem extend far beyond his (or any one individual’s) posting habits, and its existence does not mean that you, personally, need to follow every single storyline that unfolds between now and Inauguration Day. Should Trump’s slow-motion coup attempt ultimately amount to anything more than Rudy Giuliani getting laughed out of a few more courtrooms, not finding out via Twitter will be the least of our problems.