Last week, I decided to delete my Twitter account after about a decade. Here are the reasons.
First, time. social media is notorious for becoming a massive time-sucker. That’s what it’s designed to do. A platform like Twitter has the tendency to fill in the crannies of your life. Have a spare moment? Check your notifications. Post a tweet or a reply. Scroll through your feed. Slowly, gradually, it begins to claim more of your life. Then you do a rough calculation about the hours you spend on a platform in a week and your blood runs cold. It’s time to simplify.
Second, attention span. To appeal to Marshall McLuhan’s overused maxim: the medium is the message. People who believe that the way to wisdom and understanding is a long and winding road are at loggerheads with their convictions when they devote so much time to a platform devoted to pithy exchanges. Don’t tell me we all need to ‘read a book’ when you’re posting fifty tweets a day. Of course, you can link great articles on Twitter or craft a penetrating brief essay in twenty linked tweets, but that’s like using a Miata as a grocery getter: it’s not really what the thing is for.
Third, polarization. Brief pithy exchanges and short attention spans naturally deepen the polarization between groups. Again, there are exceptions: there are always exceptions. But the overall trend is toward polarization (incredulity condescension, contempt) and the net effect on public discourse is negative.
Fourth, negativity. As groups become more polarized, we’re increasingly indignant, incredulous, outraged toward representatives of the outgroups who don’t share our perspectives and values. Eventually, we’re indignant, incredulous, outraged seemingly all the time. And it’s exhausting. And it does nothing but erodes relationships while giving you a stress-induced peptic ulcer.
Fifth, complicity. When you recognize the cumulative negative effects and continue ignoring them, you become increasingly complicit in the system that simply serves the interests of billionaire elites like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.
That’s not all. There’s actually a lot more to be said such as the huge concerns about data-mining, the perniciousness of (some expressions of) cancel culture, and the siren lure of finding self-worth in the chasing after follows and likes (more on that anon). But suffice it to say, I saw sufficient reason to be off Twitter.
Having said that, my point is not that I am now of the enlightened who have left the platform. It is far more complicated than that. Some people do handle Twitter better than others: they effectively limit their time on the platform, they are a beacon of positivity and don’t feed the perpetual outrage machine. I just don’t think I am one of those individuals. Twitter just doesn’t work for me for the reasons I gave. I make no comment about any other individual, although I do believe the reasons I gave do apply to many individuals who should probably rethink their involvement as well. I just make no claim about who those individuals are.
I still might use Twitter in the future in a limited capacity to send out notifications about new books, blog articles, interviews, or debates. But that remains to be seen: I remain cautious about using Twitter even in that limited capacity. Self-promotion is exhausting. If few people watch my latest debate or read my latest book, I’m okay with that. It’s better than investing untold hours on social media to gain the attention of just a few more individuals. (For some folks, the pursuit of a large platform also feeds narcissistic insecurities. In my case, I can say that has never been a problem: I find no pride in amassing a particular number of ‘followers’ on social media and feel badly for those who seem to find their self-worth in that chasing after the vapor.)
I did get to know some interesting people on Twitter and I had some good exchanges with some folk. But it has been a relief to be off the platform and I don’t miss it.
Now please excuse me while I go read a book.