TLDR: I’m stepping away from Twitter for 2018, from January through December.
I’ve talked before about how Twitter is a communication service, not an entertainment channel. I resisted changes to the format, retreated to third-party clients, and relied on lists* to make sure I’m seeing what I want to see, not what Twitter wants to show.
None of that is why I’m taking a break, though. Twitter’s been good to me for over a decade. I met some of my favorite people there. SpaceUp owes its existence to Twitter. (Specifically to @cariann, but that’s another story.) I work at a rocket factory because of Twitter. (Thanks to @malderi, yet another story.) I still hold that if Twitter were to go away, we’d have to invent something to take its place. (Something with a bit more empowerment and a lot less abuse. I can dream.)
I’ve actually spent more time on Twitter this year than before. I commute on buses a few hours a day, and Twitter is a reliable stream of low-effort infotainment I can hold in one hand while hanging on with the other. I can get excited about an upcoming launch, get mad about someone doing terrible things, feel better about someone being noble, get weepy over one thing and resolved about another, and calm down by looking at photos of Earth from space.
And that’s the problem. Once it’s done, all that time on Twitter feels like a waste. A sink. A tar pit made of feels. It’s engaging while I’m in it, but I get off that bus feeling hunched over, worn out, and ultimately unenlightened. Never mind the fact that I’m also contributing to someone else’s stream of social-media dopamine with every retweet and comment.
It doesn’t help that every day the company is growing more Nazi-friendly and less user-friendly, spending more time defending silly new features than defending people from attack. It also doesn’t help that one of the most prominent uses of Twitter is destabilizing western civilization, whether by botnet, crowdsourced horrible behavior, or single-handed idiocy. My gut tells me that Twitter is one more garbage decision away from a mass exodus. (Don’t laugh. It happened to Patreon quickly enough.)
So for 2018, I’m going to try life without Twitter. It’s not a rage quit, but a pause button. It’s not intended to be a judgement on anyone else. I just want to see what days are like without that particular monkey on my back. In January 2019 I’ll reinstall Tweetbot and take a look with fresh eyes. Who knows what I’ll find?
I’m not on Facebook or Instagram, so if you’re curious how to find me internet-socially… I have to ask, why on Earth would you? In general I’ll still be in the small-circle social places, like the Orbital Mechanics blanketfort on Slack and the TMRO audience chat. Heck, you could even dust of the ol’ email and send something to chris at globalspin dot com. Who knows where that might lead.
[*] OK, a confession about lists. If you take a look at my account right now, I’m following 530-ish people. However, I never view my timeline directly. I have two private lists called “Daily Reads” and “Extended Reads”, with 60 people and 380 people respectively. That lets me see everything from the 60 people I don’t want to miss, and skim through the rest. I sometimes worry this is misrepresenting that “follow” idea, but then I realize how little anyone actually “follows” when they’re following thousands of Twitter accounts.