I quit Twitter for the first time nine years ago. Two years ago, when I started at Basecamp, I felt like giving it a new try. Long story short: it didn’t work.
I had identified noise as my biggest problem with Twitter back in the day. The signal was very low. I naively thought I could improve that by carefully selecting who to follow and letting Twitter know about the tweets I didn’t like. I failed miserably. I quickly found myself in a situation I knew well: spending too much time consuming information that, for the most part, I didn’t care about.
On top of the noise, there was now a new ingredient: Twitter often made me feel sad, or angry, or outraged, or hopeless, or a bunch of other negative emotions. It happened in small doses, one tweet at a time, not at a high intensity, but relentlessly and inexorably. Energy is a very real thing, and the energy in Twitter is just terrible. I opened this door to negativity and nonesense in my phone, every day, several times per day. This brings me to my next point: addiction.
I have wanted to quit Twitter almost since I re-opened my account, and last year was not short of reminders why. And yet, it took me a long time to pull the trigger, which I finally set as a noble new year resolution. So why did I keep consuming something I knew was bad for me? The only sensible answer I’ve found is that social media is addictive. You can get addicted to any activity that generates dopamine, and Twitter and friends are perfectly-engineered dopamine-dispensers.
I know a lot of people have a healthy relationship with Twitter. I wish I were like that, but in my case, it ends up being like water poured into a jar with rocks: it fills all the available space, which here equals chunks of free time filled with noise and negativity. Removing Twitter from my life reminded me of something I already enjoyed the first time: silence. You feel it the first days, but it’s when weeks pass that you fully appreciate how good it feels.
I am not looking for novel systems to consume better information. Good old RSS with Reeder has worked wonderfully well for me for many years. And if I can read a few pages of a good book before going to bed, I am more than fine. I still care about the quality but now I care way more about the volume. I want less of information and more of silence.
I am not closing my Twitter account this time. I don’t want to have to create a third account if I change my mind again. Instead, I intend to use it to retweet things I write (like Seth Godin, but without any audience). I'll do it using Buffer or similar, to keep it closed for good. As I write this I feel like an addict trying to avoid a relapse, which I guess is what I am after all.
For now, silence will be.
Photo by Ernie A. Stephens on Unsplash