I’ve been re-evaluating my time spent online.
In November 2008, I joined Twitter. My first tweet was, like a lot of first tweets, totally innocuous: “Looking for bicycle images.” Which, in hindsight, is kind of entertaining. I don’t like biking, generally. I can remember the reason I was looking for bicycle images: I was sewing a tie for my spouse for Christmas and wanted to print a bicycle related image on it. I’m not sure why Twitter needed to know that.
I was home with a four month old baby and isolated. I was blogging on the earlier version of this personal blog at the time as well (basically post after post that said holy smokes parenting is hard) and connected with a few people through that, but not many. Twitter seemed like a good diversion. I didn’t know at the time that joining Twitter would set off a series of events that would put me on a path to be deeply connected to my community in a transformative way and to make heartfelt and lasting friendships.
But here we are eleven years later.
For a myriad of reasons, Twitter has become an addictive cesspool. Participating on it now makes me feel hopeless. It stokes fires of personal, deep, irrational fear: missing out, being wrong, being excluded. At times, it makes me feel ill to witness some of the ways people interact, even if that interaction does not involve me. It is worse because I earned some of my income over the past decade from teaching people about Twitter and I feel somehow responsible for the monster it is. And yet, there I am many nights, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, refreshing and scrolling mindlessly. I don’t know what I’m looking for.
I have justified staying active on Twitter for years as I was self-employed and felt I needed to be online in an instantaneous way. But my career has taken a wonderful turn this past summer and that’s no longer the case. So, it is time to change how I use Twitter.
Starting today, I’ve silenced the app, turned off all notifications, and made my account private. This doesn’t mean I won’t still have an account. It just needs to go back to being worth my time. I need a reset. You can still reach me. If you know my phone number or my email address those haven’t changed and I answer those. They are not hard to find if you don’t know them.
I’m online in other ways. I use Facebook to participate in interest Groups, mostly. I use Instagram and Instagram Stories as a form of visual micro-blogging and liberally use their explore function to find the topics I am interested in. I go on Pinterest binges for recipes and crafts a lot. I also recently downloaded WhatsApp again for some group chat stuff and I still write a post here once in a while and hope to spend more time doing that.
At night, no more mindless scrolling on Twitter. I have books to read. And stuff to write. And most importantly, people to interact meaningfully with. Here’s to healthier ways.