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Anne T. Donahue is the author of Nobody Cares.

Twitter is Shutter Island. You log on, you scroll, you post, you reply, and after reading every possible tweet for a few minutes or hours or days or weeks, you realize you’ve lost all semblance of reality and slowly begin to accept that you will never, ever, escape. Not even a meme can save you.

My own relationship with Twitter often feels this dramatic. In moments of boredom, anxiety, fatigue or joy, I scroll, read and post. Try as I might, I can’t not look at what’s unfolding online or who thought my joke about Big Little Lies was funny.

As a freelance writer who works from home, Twitter is a lifeline to human interaction on days when you can’t leave your computer lest you miss a deadline or e-mail. But it can also be toxic, addictive and a reminder of what people are capable of saying when they feel threatened or cornered. And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it changes all over again. One minute you’re posting a gif of the dancing Ally McBeal baby, the next … well, we’ve all been watching the news.

But shockingly, there still manages to be moments in which Twitter’s garbage fire doesn’t burn so brightly. Over the past few years, users such as comedian Josh Gondelman, writer Jonny Sun and actor-playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda have used their platforms for pep talks – for earnest and authentic positivity that urges their readers to keep going because, desperate as these times may be, they’re not alone. In Mr. Gondelman’s case, he’ll often reserve five or 10 minutes for tailored pep talks, replying to users who’ve asked for kind words with sentiments tailored to each person and what they do. It’s also remarkably effective: More than once I’ve asked Mr. Gondelman for 280 characters of moral support and every time, I feel better – which is out of character for me, a natural cynic who tends to scoff at “live, love, laugh” brands of earnestness.

I prefer my uplifting moments to be anchored to something challenging and difficult that I can find the humour in later, thus giving me the false sense of control I crave and need (because I assume nothing bad can happen if I can control everything). I love praise and I love compliments, but I also prefer to be the person who gives pep talks over the type of one who admits she needs them. In fact, vulnerability scares me. And I’ve spent years of my life believing that if I didn’t act like a person who needs other people, nobody would realize I was human at all.

But the older I get, the less I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t need to make room for support or kindness, even if it’s executed on a digital space. I’m too tired to maintain the facade of nonchalance or perfection, and it’s too hard to condemn things such as earnestness and pep talks when they help to create a moment in which we’re reminded that as dark and hopeless as the world can feel, there’s more to believe in than just our impending demise – especially when there are so many other things to condemn. (Such as, say, 89 per cent of everything happening in the world.)

Which isn’t to say pep talks are for everyone – especially on a platform more renowned for its white supremacists than for its capacity to be anything good. (Maybe abandoning Twitter altogether is more your jam.) And I’m also not about to make the case for following Mr. Miranda, especially if poetry isn’t necessarily for you. Nor should you or anyone feel compelled to lean into your softer self in a space that’s notorious for demolishing the spirits of even those clad in the heavy protection of emotional armour. Celebrating pep talks doesn’t mean you should change your coping mechanism. (I, for instance, will never abandon cynicism altogether.)

But there is a place for a sliver of positivity amidst a severe drought. Sometimes, it’s not enough to sit down, clench your jaw and brace yourself against reading about more terrible world events – and those dancing baby gifs will only take you so far. Sometimes, you need proof that people are good and kind and generous. Sometimes, you need to hear that somebody believes in you, regardless of how well they know you or how many precious words are shared. Sometimes, you need to momentarily help douse the garbage fire. Even if it’s just to prove that nothing so toxic can burn forever.

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