I explained to some friends why I gave up on Twitter, and since there’s a lot more to say about it from a personal perspective, I realized I might as well share it in public too.
After a great deal of reflection, Twitter had three main problems for me:
- How much time I spent reading/refreshing because of a little red notification number.
- How much I wrote there instead of anywhere else.
- How problematic I find Twitter at managing their own aspects of community.
After the first couple years of Twitter being a “yeah, whatever, fuck it, post something there” place for friends it quickly became a thing I paid LOTS of my attention to. Any time I wasn’t doing something, I was reading my timeline. I was following over a thousand people, and I cared deeply about everything they wrote, and everything else they retweeted. At some point a few years in, I fell into the numbers trap of wanting more followers and likes and RTs for things I wrote. Even though I limited my notifications as much as I could, I was totally addicted to the little red bubble on my phone app that showed I had 5 unread things. I stopped doing whatever I was doing to check it every 15 minutes or so, basically every hour I was awake, for many years.
On the second point, it killed my desire to ever blog about things or write more than a few sentences about complex subjects. I would go six months between writing something 1,000 words long to put online when that was something I’d do every few days pre-Twitter. When Twitter moved to 280 characters, all hope was lost, since there really was no reason to have a blog for anyone anymore. I didn’t like that everything I wrote ended up being hard to find or reference, and even hard for me to pull up myself when I wanted, where a blog makes it pretty dang easy to see everything you wrote about in the past.
The third point is obvious, but in the past year, Twitter has gone to great lengths to engage the alt-right and give them blue check marks and allow them to organize rallies using the platform and appease conservatives and entertain their imaginary persecution notions of being “silenced by algorithm” and the last straw was them doing nothing about Infowars. When every social network decided to ban or block Alex Jones, Twitter chose to be the network where white nationalism could have a home. And that’s not where I want to put my words, so I deleted them all.
Twitter created something truly addictive and I found myself putting all my time and energy into it at the cost of everything else. Something famous authors often said about Twitter was they couldn’t believe people gave away their thoughts on it for free, and though I thought that was a silly notion when I heard it, I can’t say I ever got paid thanks to my twitter presence. It wasn’t entirely for naught, I did get really good at editing my own words. Forcing yourself to whittle concepts down to limited characters for a decade made me much better at editing my work, and helped my writing elsewhere. It was also a great network for underrepresented voices, and there’s a whole world of people I wouldn’t understand nearly as well until I got to read their daily thoughts. But this is also the company that killed Vine, an entire platform for underrepresented voices making their own media. On the whole, as much fun and information I got out of Twitter, being good at Twitter doesn’t translate into job offers or freelance gigs considering all the effort that goes in.
Up until a few weeks ago, the thought of deleting the twitter app or stopping posting sounded absolutely unimaginable to me. I have many friends that have taken twitter breaks and they often keep their break going way longer than they expected, and only return with lots of limitations and caveats on how they’ll proceed. I felt any of that was impossible, until I finally did it.
What I didn’t expect was to suddenly feel free. I used to walk around with a part of my brain wondering what I would tweet next. I would listen and observe and wonder if what I was looking at would make a good tweet. So when that feeling was finally lifted, it was being freed from something you were addicted to all this time but never could see in your own eyes.
After almost a week, I feel great about it. I am glad I started blogging more here, and it’s kinda fun to not really get much feedback. Twitter is a feedback firehose, both good and bad and whether or not you like it, it demands a lot of your time and can be overwhelming in a way a personal blog never will.
At work I started and completed three projects last week, where a project or two a week is my norm. It was nice to be able to crank on work for hours without interruptions.
I logged back into Mastodon but I don’t see myself posting there more than once or twice a day and using it mostly to stay in contact with friends. It very much feels like early days twitter over there, which is fun and lighthearted, but I never want it to become a thing that overtakes my life like Twitter did, so I’m going to keep myself from looking at it more than a couple times a day too (it helps that most of the mobile clients aren’t polished like Twitter’s).
I left Twitter and deleted all my posts because I no longer liked what the place had become a host for. But I also realized I let it overtake my life and the best way forward was to do something drastic to improve things, so I did. I encourage everyone to do the same sort of reflection of what it takes away from your life and think about what’s best for you.