Recently, whenever I’ve felt stressed or down on myself, it’s been after a long (sometimes very long) spree of scrolling through tweets. Years ago at Brooklyn Beta, Naz Hamid said that one of his keys to a peaceful life was not to compare oneself to other people. It’s harder to follow that advice when a lot of the day is spent drinking a firehose of people’s spiciest selves.
Today — inspired by Caitlin Flanagan’s piece in The Atlantic about what Twitter has done to her brain — I’m starting a little experiment: removing the blue bird app (and the blue and pink apps from that other social company) from my phone(s) and tablet. I’m not so naive to think that I’ll totally quit Twitter, but I’m going to try to cut way back in hopes of taking back some of the brain space that internet randoms have been living in rent-free.
The grid was down, but I didn’t feel anxious; that came later. I felt elated, free. I thought of a maxim I’d once read in a book about business: A 99 percent commitment is hard; 100 percent is easy. I was 100 percent off Twitter. Which would have made an excellent tweet.
One of the most aggravating things about Twitter, especially in the last decade or so, has been that it is both incredibly toxic but also the internet’s de facto town square, or at least its high school cafeteria. I have friends who I literally only know through Twitter; to leave Twitter is to leave people. “The internet” is indeed made of people, just like Soylent Green, and it feels… anti-social to walk away from people. But it also feels wrong to stop eating chips even after eating a whole bag of chips.
For me, Twitter’s toxic quality is the desire to be seen and liked, preferably at scale. As someone who has a bit of a public profile, and would like his profile to be bigger, it seems like a sacrifice to stop participating in The Discourse. For now I’m trying to see this as an opportunity — to be more intentional about what I put on social media, and to divert more energy into this here blog.
So, instead of tweeting, I’m gonna also try sharing what thoughts, takes, photos, and links I have here on this site, possibly in the form of a daily diary with occasional topical posts. (Which I’ll probably set up to auto-post to Twitter, so people can find them without me having to look at Twitter.) I may bail on all of this, but I’m going to try to give it at least a few weeks and see if it sticks.