THERE is a curative side to cleaning cupboards. Pottering around, filing old keep-sakes and recycling crumpled envelopes is good for the soul, much better than the stress of being online. Last week I tackled a cupboard that had all the shambling coherence of the Brexit negotiations. It’s the place where we keep scissors and sellotape, old household files and festering superglue.

A pin was still stuck in a plastic nozzle clogged with what looked worryingly like skin grafts, the remnants of my grid-locked fingertips from years ago.

Hidden to the back of the cupboard were three micro-books, those “little books of calm” you see at the checkout at Waterstones. One of the booklets was by the

Canadian theorist Douglas Rushkoff. Somehow it had squirrelled itself away among the discarded envelopes, old floppy discs and half-blunt pencils of yesteryear.

Written in 2009, Rushkoff’s book was an early attempt to list the ten commandments of online behaviour.

Surprisingly for a book written when Twitter and Facebook were in their infancy, it predicted many of the crushing limitations of the digital era – the bitter and fractured disputes, the re-alignment of what friendship means and the capacity of the naive to fall victims to all forms of web deviance.

It is a remarkably prescient book, but there is much that the author didn’t predict. If only he had spent a week following Scottish political Twitter he might have anticipated the sheer zoomerism of our lives.

Rushkoff’s ten commandments were: Do Not Always Be On; Live in Person; You May Always Choose None of the Above; You Are Never Completely Right; One Size Does Not Fit All; Be Yourself; Do Not Sell Your Friends; Tell the Truth; Share, Don’t Steal, and finally, the overarching commandment which gives the book its title, Program or Be Programmed.

Rushkoff proposed taking regular breaks. He even recommended cleaning a cupboard. “The human nervous system exists in the present tense”, he argued. “We live in a continuous ‘now’, and time is passing for us.”

For all its many benefits, digital media does not respect our time, our emotions or our personal levels of exhaustion.

It just keeps communicating: The inane next to the informed, in our pocket, on our desk, while we sleep and while we work.

Strangely the one word that Rushkoff did not use is a word that has become synonymous with social media – abuse.

Most people agree that Twitter at its nastiest is a sewer, but curiously we return to it in droves, to stay in touch with multiple streams of news and to indulge in street-corner voyeurism, as every manner of human behaviour passes brazenly by.

I regularly contribute to Twitter, but I also lurk in the background waiting for a car-crash, a feud or for a pantomime villain to be brought down to earth. It is not my finest trait but nothing quite beats a Twitter flare-up about the Scottish constitution, and the emotional reactions it provokes.

My favourite dalliance is theatrical departures: Those that flounce away from the cesspit vowing never to return.

I understand and respect those that remove themselves from the unpleasant heat and decide to walk away. The real world can be a refuge of sorts, even messy cupboards. But social media has provided a stage to new levels of narcissism. The persistent “me, me, me” of Twitter and Facebook invites unforeseen levels of attention-seeking, even when it comes to departure and protecting your mental health.

In her much-publicised autobiography Yes She Can, Ruth Davidson has pronounced she’s leaving social media, in part due to online abuse.

What she does not admit is that at least some of it was a reaction to her flipping around like a flounder in an ideological net.

Others were rightly astonished about her willingness to appear on television but not at her local constituency surgery. She is now on maternity leave and surely we can all agree that giving birth is a more important human experience than bickering in 140 characters.

Another online reaction is fighting back and isolating your abuser. I respect the women, and it’s mostly women, who front up to the vileness, calling it out, retweeting the worst offences, and dragging nastiness into the fresh air where it can be fumigated. That is a powerful response.

What I am less convinced by is the melodramatic departures, people who announce their imminent departure while at the same time inviting interest, speculation and gossip.

It goes something like this: “Last night a person who I won’t name passed a remark that hurt me to the core. I have to leave Twitter. I can no longer put up with this kind of abuse.”

This now familiar post is very close to becoming an online meme. If the remark hurt you why dwell on it? Why wrap your departure in tantalising mystery, thus inviting attention? Why stall your departure if it’s the source of grief?

If you have reached a point where you feel you need a break – and most of us do – then why not shut down your phone, remove the Twitter app, delete your account or clean a cupboard? Why return to the fray to invite attention or risk stoking more abuse?

It could be that some are reaching out for support from online friends, but it sometimes feels that the objective is not reassurance, it’s attention.

The psychology behind these types of pronouncements fascinates me. Social media may have provoked a new kind of human contradiction – avoiding attention by seeking it.

Abuse is unquestionably vile but I’m not sure we agree exactly what it is? It is a precious word that should not be abused. It is often confused with unpleasantness or spitefulness, which are separate if at times related things. Surely we do not mean robust and opinionated responses to politicians, especially those that seem to exist through a media simulacrum?

Politics has always been robust. In the past, election hustings, Speakers’ Corner or Jimmy Maxton’s soap box in George Square were revered for their unshrinking and opinionated exchange.

More recently, John Major and Better Together’s Jim Murphy used variations on the soap box to communicate with noisy audiences, supposedly to bypass the media and take politics to the people. What was exposed in the process was just another method of mediation, less honest than Twitter, if that is possible.

Surely by abuse we do not mean the lame online jokes that compare Nicola Sturgeon to Jimmy Krankie? Dire as these posts are, sarcasm is not abuse, nor is parody, nor is irony. Faking a dry boak at an image of Ruth Davidson kissing David Mundell is not abuse, it is a form of online heckling, and we know from comedians that they thrive on trying to outwit a heckler. Shouting crass one-liners is not abuse.

So what exactly is abuse? The writer Umair Haque recently described it as the “ceaseless flickering hum of low-level emotional violence” – it is a description that carries all the latent characteristics of what I understand as abuse – it is recurring and persistent, it is intentional and personalised, it attacks the emotions and it is frequently exaggerated by recourse to race, identity, gender or disability.

Yes, we should call out abuse where it really exists – but not compromise robust political opinion in the process.

The final book in Stuart Cosgrove’s Soul Trilogy, ‘Harlem 69: the Future of Soul’ is published by Polygon.