Design Twitter, Negativity, and Hurting the Cause

Silouhettes of birds on a wire

If you want to have fun, just log on to Twitter and ask, "Ok, what are we fighting over today, Design Twitter?" It could be anything from whether designers need to learn to code, to whether UX/UI is a single job, to the ethics of design, to does UX have/need a seat at the table, to does UX even exist??? And so on. We love to analyze, we are particular about words and we constantly fight among ourselves as well as "outsiders" about all of these topics.

Defending a practice that is growing and changing is difficult. And there's a fine line between supporting healthy debate and spiraling into arguments that alienate non-UXers and serve to work against our cause.

Someone told me that as much as they love me, they unfollowed me on Twitter over the winter because my tone was so frustrated and negative. And it was. I love a good rant. I am snarky and optimistic all at the same time. But I was spiraling into sustained negativity.

Her comment made me think long and hard about my perspective on things and how I contribute to the UX community. UX is still pretty nascent in my organization, so evangelizing and finding allies is key to moving my work forward. If my attitude is going to alienate people, then all of my efforts will be lost. None of this can be done alone.

To put this in Design Twitter-friendly terms, I think I sometimes spiral into criticism where critique would be more constructive. And yes, this does tie into my anxiety. Getting frustrated or even just being critical about something can affect my overall mood and perspective. Sometimes anxiety just likes to pop up without a cause and if my headspace is already dark, it can take longer to recover.

My favourite Design Twitter discussions are the ones that end up constructive, where there's something to learn for designers and non-designers alike.* I'm taking the time to check myself a little more to see if I need to engage on a topic, what can I bring to the discussion, can I be objective with my feedback, what can I learn from the dialog.

I still log on and check out what Design Twitter is fighting about on any given day. It's a great way to stay up to date on the discussion in my industry. But I'm watching a little more from the sidelines and thinking about the kind of contribution I want to make in the UX space.

I'm not mellowing completely though; I promise I'll still throw out a good rant thread every so often. It's the best vehicle for us snarky and optimistic types.

*Note: This should be done without design-splaining. 

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