Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is well known for her savvy use of social media over the years. But the mayor said this week that she is curbing her activity on Twitter, citing the declining quality of conversation on the site which was bought by Elon Musk last year.
“I’ve experienced this platform becoming more and more toxic over the last year, and it’s a direction that makes it a less productive use of my personal time to reach constituents about local issues,” Wu said in an interview with CommonWealth magazine on Wednesday.
Wu said she has largely cut back on using her personal account, @wutrain, though her staff will continue to post messages about official city business on her mayoral account, @MayorWu. Wu’s personal account has about 152,000 followers on Twitter, while the mayoral account has 65,000.
Wu spokesman Ricardo Patrón confirmed that the mayor’s official account,@MayorWu, which is managed by her staff, remains active.
“We’re continuing tweeting from it,” he said on Friday. He declined to comment about the mayor’s personal Twitter account.
As mayor and a city councilor, Wu has been an active Twitter user for years; social media was crucial to helping build her political base, amplifying her voice, and aiding her campaigns. She has tweeted about city issues, shared family stories, and even complained about getting stuck on the Orange Line during a power outage.
But she has also been the target of harsh and abusive posts, particularly after she tried to impose COVID vaccine and mask mandates at the start of her term.
Wu has not deleted her Twitter account and said she could change her mind about the service. On Thursday, she responded to a tweet predicting her return with a tweet: “Time will tell.”
Time will tell— Michelle Wu 吳弭 (@wutrain) January 13, 2023
In the interview with CommonWealth, Wu said she had been growing uncomfortable with Twitter even before Musk took over. “There’s been a crowding out of many voices and forms of debate, with conspiracy theories or many accounts, most often anonymous, posting in bad faith about conspiracy theories or spreading misinformation,” she told the magazine.
Since leaving, Wu created an account on Twitter rival Mastodon, but has not posted much there yet.
Since Musk took over Twitter at the end of October, he has reduced the staff that moderates content, reinstated accounts that had been banned for spreading hate and misinformation, and personally tweeted and retweeted about conspiracy theories. His chaotic reign has also included firing most of Twitter’s staff, failing to pay rent for the company’s offices, and scaring away major advertisers.
Michelle Amazeen, a Boston University professor who directs the school’s Communication Research Center, said she was not surprised by Wu’s decision to cut back.
“The experience of many users of Twitter is getting worse,” she said. “Even before [Musk’s] changes, women and people of color were significantly more likely to be targets of abuse and harassment on Twitter, which has only gotten worse under Musk’s ownership.”
The turmoil has prompted a growing wave of departures. Celebrities that have left the platform include Elton John and Shonda Rhimes.
Emma Platoff of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Aaron Pressman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.