My first Twitter account was made in Fall 2010. Back then, you couldn’t upload pictures. Tweets were 140 characters, and no one I knew used it because it was boring as all get out. I let my accounts fester until 2013, when many of my Tumblr friends moved there, and I had…fun? It was different than it is now: we had square avatars, custom backgrounds, and had to keep our handles short since every character counted. I talked with friends. I vented about life. I remember the grief the layout changes caused me until my muscle memory adapted, the agony of the circle avatars ruining my curated icons.
I remember when it didn’t make me feel bad all the time.
So, yes, like many before me, I am going to try and step away from Twitter. I can see its impact on me and my thoughts, feel the needless rage that’s embedded itself within my soul. It’s bad here: the culture, the layout, the uncompromising battering of thoughts and opinions I have no desire to see. To explain this move, I am obviously writing a blog post, because even before joining Twitter I have never done anything without extensively talking about it. It’s part of my charm.
Wait—are you quitting Twitter?
Okay, in all seriousness, no, I am not quitting. I like my friends in the Writing Community, LGBTWIP, WriteLGBTQ, and everyone I’ve met through Chance to Connect and other hashtag games. I delight in many diverse creators are there, and want to (and will!) continue to boost their works and engage with them. In turn, I hope they will continue to do the same with me.
So…what exactly are you doing, then?
Stepping back. Checking my feeds less. Engaging in “drama” less. Turning notifications off on my phone, installing website blockers on my laptop. Unfollowing accounts. Maybe one day deleting it off my phone. Some people can run blocklists and mute words to improve their Twitter experience, but that’s not enough for me. It’s a habit, a bad one, and I want to break it. I want to force Twitter into a different space in my brain: a website I can check, not my home online.
What if you unfollow me?
It’s not personal (probably). Not personal because I need the feed to be curated to personal, private standards. Maybe our interest diverged. Maybe we haven’t interacted in a while. You can unfollow me too; I don’t hold grudges. Be free if you no longer want to see my content. I release you.
1) I follow so many Americans, and I really need space away from American politics, so this may be the deciding factor. Please don’t change your habits.
2) If you ignore me or subtweet me, I feel less than no obligation to have a performative social contract with you. Respect and sharing content are a two-way street. Bye!)
Can I still contact you/can we still chat?
Of course. You can still DM and @ me (though don’t expect any immediate replies). My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, which is more for work purposes, but hey, if you wanna send me a giant email, you can. Mutuals & former mutuals can also reach out for things like my Discord handle and other chat clients I use. If you’re active in any servers or groups that you think I’d like, feel free to invite me. I’m hoping to be more active on my blog and Patreon, too.
I think you’re wrong/That isn’t my experience/I’m Booboo the Fool
My condolences on your infection with Twitter Brain. It’s hard to know if you have it. It’s hard to confront being an asshole, being dependent, or even just admitting you followed the crowd too far. I won’t judge. I’m writing a blog post admitting I have it too! Let he who is without Twitter cast the first stone, or whatever it was Jesus said.
You see, this isn’t my first rodeo of toxicity, and it’s taken me far, far too long to realize I’ve been poisoned.
So, what is Twitter Brain? Well you know how everyone blames Tumblr for the overreaching weirdisms, critiques, and “policing” on the Internet? Yeah, every social media platform does that to you. It was never Tumblr alone. Tumblr is a flavour of it, just like Twitter is. And the Twitter version is called Twitter Brain.
Think of the site itself. Think of the constant arguing with strangers, solely because they said something on a website that you, personally, disagree with. How this spirals into people claiming they’ve “won” an argument because they were blocked. How so many people misinterpret opinions as facts, or consider facts opinions up for debate. How terms like “purity police” and “anti” leap out of people’s mouths the moment someone disagrees with them—regardless of the fact these “antis” hold widely accepted morals like “pedophilia is bad”. Adults who act like children, trolling, playing Devil’s Advocate, making snide remarks in the comments for every experience, ever. People who see engagement as a reflection of who they are, who turn to guilt and passive-aggression if their followers are not on Twitter 24/7 to feed their self-confidence.
Read that paragraph. Read it again. If this is the environment you spend all your time in, can you really escape unaffected? How far can sheer resilience take you? How long can you hold out against this without having to wade your own feet into pointless arguments? How long until these people are in your mentions, your follows? Your friend groups?
I beg you to step back and think critically on how Twitter rewards outrage and aggression. You can watch firsthand how snide snippets and soundbites and joking insults always spread further than reason or compassion, how these things are so prevalent they spread to other sites, to the news, to your Aunt on Facebook 3 months from now.
If, when reading, you realize this is you, then again I must beg: please take that step back. The cure for being poisoned isn’t hungrily ingesting more poison and refusing to call it what it is. It’s acknowledging your mistakes, your hunger, the warping of your needs. It’s finding an antidote. There is help and healing out here. I promise you.
What made you finally take the plunge?
The bad reasons: being far enough removed from bad/abusive friendships to see how they were exacerbated by Twitter. Being yelled at one too many times for reaching out to someone in distress. Seeing another brown woman harassed offline for having an opinion. Not being able to escape American politics no matter how many names and words I mute. How much time I waste scrolling. How much needless drama I have to sift through to find the work of people I admire. How friggin’ annoying the algorithms are.
The good reasons: my amazing, supportive, and fun group chats with my friends that are not hosted on Twitter. Being inspired by people I respect and love who have stepped back, and are open about the harm Twitter has done. How much better I feel spending a day offline with my friends than I do online. How much more creative work I do without it—and how much better the work itself is. Getting into new communities (Toyhouse, blogging, NaNo) and realizing the Internet still is, and always has been, more than social media.
It’s going to be tough. But I’m looking forward to it. If you read all this, thank you. If you didn’t, well, uh. I’m not gonna thank you for skimming my personal essay. Boo.
Sending magic your way,