I quit Twitter and haven’t looked back – my fellow MPs should do the same | Glyn Davies

Social media platforms amplify poisonous political discourse, creating a cesspit of vile speech. You won’t regret leaving

• Glyn Davies is the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire

For over three years, parliament has been going around in circles, progressing to nowhere, consumed by debate about how to respond to the 2016 referendum decision to leave the European Union. Despite a majority of current MPs voting in support of invoking article 50 and standing for election in 2017 on manifesto commitments to leave, a majority of them have been unwilling to allow Brexit to be delivered.

This impasse has led to deep frustration in parliament and in wider society, creating divisions within communities and families as well as among politicians. Brexit has poisoned civil debate. It’s a boil that needs to be lanced, which is why I’ve supported the prime minister’s decision to hold a general election, even though I’d like to have seen Brexit delivered first.

However, I do think that the degree of poison and unpleasantness, and the threat to our political stability, is at risk of being exaggerated. The danger to individuals and to civil society was much greater during the miners’ strike and the three-day week in 1974.

There is no real threat to civil order in the current Brexit debate. Yes, the local police have called in to my office after concerns were raised about my safety. And along with many other MPs, I’ve had security measures installed in my constituency offices and at my home. But the reality is that it’s tiddlywinks compared with the abuse I received in 1997 when I stood as a Conservative candidate. I vividly remember being chased up a garden path by a political opponent with a pitchfork – and being attacked by a dog that destroyed a pair of my best campaign trousers. And I had to take evasive action to avoid being run down by an angry adversary in his Land Rover. Politics has always been a highly charged and occasionally brutal business. Today’s abuse is nothing new.

The main reason that poison is increasingly seeping into our political discourse is the exponential growth of social media. In some ways it can be beneficial for public engagement – but the damage it causes outweighs the good. Anonymous comment posted by keyboard warriors, often with a total disregard for the truth, creates a cesspit of vileness – which is why I gave up on Twitter years ago. I haven’t missed it a bit.

Twitter is also the deathbed of humour, because posts are often met with synthetic outrage when the intent of the writer was actually entirely benign. That’s why so much of what appears on Twitter is mind-numbingly boring. I used it for a while but stopped about two years ago in favour of Facebook, where debate is (mostly) constructive. Of course, people should be free to share their thoughts wherever they wish – but if you don’t enjoy it, just stop doing it.

The plethora of protest movements that have grown over recent years have been organised largely on social media – and give the impression that the level of civil disorder has increased. There has indeed been more “noise”, but the level of threat and unpleasantness in our country is nothing like as bad as is being portrayed in the insatiable hunger to fill news space. Yet my advice to anyone who has had enough of the cacophony is to get off Twitter. You won’t regret it.

• Glyn Davies is the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire


Glyn Davies

The GuardianTramp

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