Whoopi Goldberg has taken flight from Twitter. But how much does her departure matter?

"The View" co-host abandoned earlier this week. The thing is, she'll still be present even if her account isn't

By Melanie McFarland

Senior Critic

Published November 10, 2022 11:15AM (EST)

Whoopi Goldberg (Photo illustration by Salon/Twitter/ABC/Jenny Anderson)
Whoopi Goldberg (Photo illustration by Salon/Twitter/ABC/Jenny Anderson)

On Monday's episode of "The View," Whoopi Goldberg alerted the world that she was leaving Twitter.

"I'm getting off today because I just feel like it's so messy, and I'm tired of now having certain kinds of attitudes blocked now getting back on," Goldberg said during a segment. "So I'm gonna get out, and if it settles down enough and I feel more comfortable, maybe I'll come back. But as of tonight, I'm done with Twitter."

No time was wasted in deactivating her account, although whether that was done by Goldberg's hand or a Twitter minion is unclear. Either way, the comedian and daytime talk show host no longer has a personal perch on Elon Musk's flailing bird app, abandoning her estimated 1.6 million followers (according to an archival figure).

As for the extent of the loss to matters of public discourse that her departure represents, that's up for debate. This is not an agreement with the radioactive pile-on from right-wing toads and goblins celebrating Goldberg's flight from Twitter, by the way. It simply acknowledges that she didn't actively engage with followers or other users that frequently to begin with.

A cursory search for instances where Goldberg's tweets made headlines primarily yields reminders of her misguided comments about Jewish people and the Holocaust on "The View" and on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." Although she apologized – via tweet, as is the celebrity way – she was also suspended from appearing on "The View" for two weeks.

Aside from that, and a spirited request to Disney's theme park division to create a Wakanda-themed experience, Goldberg seems to have used the app in the same way most folks do. She promoted whatever project she was working on, shared a few photos and probably doomscrolled.

Even so, Goldberg's exit from Twitter differs from the announced goodbyes of celebrities such as Ken Olin, Shonda Rhimes, Sara Bareilles, Toni Braxton, Gigi Hadid and, understandably, Amber Heard. She may not be blue check official or active, but as a host on "The View," she'll continue showing up in the app's stream regularly. The ABC talk show's reach and relevance are fueled by its clips' virality and whatever frenzy results from the day's discussions.

Those will remain the bread and circuses of news sites that cover "The View" along with apoplectic right-wing hecklers, regardless of whether Goldberg has an account. As long as "The View" has wings, Goldberg's influence is secure in the old media kingdom of daytime broadcast; what need does she have for Musk's increasingly disordered coop?

Indeed, Goldberg's decampment from Twitter may someday be regarded as a part of an already-in-progress realignment of the influencer firmament in stronger favor of other social media platforms.

As my colleague Amanda Marcotte cited in her story about the app's implosion, Twitter is the 15th most popular social network. To those working in creative fields that aren't celebrity-focused – including authors, screenwriters and visual arts – Twitter is still the best option for interacting with fans or sharing information about live appearances and other matters vital to their careers. Even so, the Pew Research Center revealed that journalists use Twitter more frequently than most of the general public, mainly to do their jobs.

Among people who don't work in news, it's the third most popular social media site for seeking information, ranking behind Facebook and YouTube. That means Goldberg, whose public Facebook page has two million followers, already possesses a means of interacting with her audience in social spaces that are a better fit, albeit in venues that aren't exactly under more benevolent management, only ones that aren't as overtly messy.

Instagram and TikTok are increasingly the stars' personal megaphones of choice, save for the rare and special birds blessed with devastating wit and the ability to slay trolls in fewer than 280 characters. And believe it or not, many celebrities thrive without having fallen into Twitter's clutches, including Daniel Radcliffea fact Weird Al Yankovic used to prank users over the Chief Twit's ridiculous new rules about parody accounts.

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Whether the platform's management remains under Musk or some lesser stinker yet to be thought of, many Twitter users, famous ones included, still view the platform as their primary means of promoting and strengthening their brands.

That could rapidly change if Musk's choice to gut the existing content moderation teams that kept the vilest, most abusive and offensive content off the platform isn't replaced with an equally robust system. Few expect it to be, which is why Goldberg turning her back on those "attitudes" trying her patience is sensible.  

Even the most stalwart – your George Takeis, your Kathy Griffins, Yvette Nicole Browns, Jeffrey Wrights and other brave souls – are bound to be tested by Musk's "free speech absolutism," that crackpot term which amounts to flinging open Pandora's Box, mainly for the lolz. If Twitter's value is only as strong as its legitimacy as an influential forum, its health depends on keeping the users that make it interesting.  

The stars who choose to leave or let their accounts go dormant will be fine without it, but if enough abandon ship along with advertisers and the constituencies that make it interesting, it won't be fine for long. So: Good for Whoopi for bailing out for her sanity's sake, along with everyone else making that choice. Anyway, the real canary in this coal mine is Dionne Warwick. If everybody's favorite aunt announces she's done, so goes our nation.

By Melanie McFarland

Melanie McFarland is Salon's award-winning senior culture critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

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