I Quit Twitter Today
The week before the US election I decided I was going to take a break from Twitter for at least two weeks. In order to make that decision actually stick I even went as far as uninstalling the app from my phone. For the following several days I found myself randomly picking up the phone and mindlessly unlocking and tapping where the app icon had been. It was kind of enlightening about how I had been using it and how it had been fitting in to my day to day.
This morning I was having trouble sleeping and figured I’d re-install and have a look after being away for nearly three weeks. 15 minutes later I posted a short thread that explained it would be the last thing I posted to Twitter for awhile except perhaps for links to content generated elsewhere, such as links to blog posts like this one.
I have really mixed feelings about this decision, but I’m pretty sure it’s the right one. On the one hand Twitter was one of those places that I was keeping up with a lot of people that I don’t interact with regularly any other way and keeping up in a certain sense with what was going on with them. The term “social proprioception” arrived a few years ago to describe it fairly precisely and that is effectively what I’ve been using it for along with interaction with some companies that I’m interested in keeping up with. In a lot of ways that part of Twitter I am going to miss the most especially with the say that physical social networks have been disrupted this year. After all that benefit there was a real cost though, and that’s what finally tipped the balance.
I was a really angry teenager. I understand that’s a pretty common thing but don’t have any real way of relating if I was particularly more or less angry than any other person at that period of their life, but I do know that it was causing me a lot of problems at the time so I did a lot of work to try and fix it. I mostly looked into a lot of the techniques and ideas around what we now call “mindfulness”. I took up meditation and breathing exercises and just trying to be in the moment, but to a larger extent trying to stay away from people and situations that only made me angry. I don’t go to demonstrations because I am not the kind of person who can be relied on to keep their head if things get tense. I still credit that work with making things a lot better but I have always thought of myself as someone with a bit of an anger problem, though at least someone with a pretty good handle on it. I am one of those people who feel a lot of familiarity with The Incredible Hulk. His famous tagline though should always have been, “I don’t like myself when I am angry!”
The cost I was finding with Twitter is that it is constantly making me angry. After doing all of that work 30-ish years ago I am not about to go back to being that constantly angry person again.
There is a place in this world for being angry about things: treatment of BIPOC, US migrant policy, indifference to pandemic spread, and nearly innumerable other things. Getting off of Twitter doesn’t mean that I can or have to ignore any of those things, but it does leave me more space to actually be able to do something about those things in my own little ways instead of wasting all of that energy being constantly angry and coping with that anger.