Why I quit Twitter for good

I’m really serious about quitting Twitter this time around, I promise. I deactivated my account on March 15 and declared the event to my friends in Slack. They sincerely congratulated me because they all know how exhausting and scary Twitter can be. But now that I’m gone their new joke is to tweet that I “does not exist. “

This is not the first time that I did not exist, and of course my inevitable death, it will not be the last. But my non-existence on Twitter did not stay right away. When I quit on the 15th, I came back three days later because I had decided I wanted to tweet about a new project.

Then I made it my own, and earned it:

It doesn’t feel good to leave something over and over again, especially when everyone knows you’re coming back. When I deactivate my account again for real on March 25 my friend Casey Newton didn’t buy it: “Writing about people deleting Twitter should be like reporting a missing person to the police. You have to wait at least a day. “

And so I went back to Slack to state, once again, that I had quit Twitter. But now I am subject to a real financial penalty. I agreed to pay Casey $ 1000 if I reactivate my Twitter account, and I really don’t want to cut that check. It is an absurd amount of money. Fortunately, I can’t think of a single tweet that would be worth it.

I know this sounds like a stunt or a joke, but it isn’t. Hours after I deactivated my account and put a bounty on it, Chrissy Teigen announced that she would also be leaving Twitter. When I saw his farewell letter, I felt like it was in my own handwriting. “It doesn’t serve me as positively as it does negatively anymore, and I think it’s a good time to call something,” she wrote. “… one thing I haven’t learned is how to block negativity.”

That’s not to say my Twitter experience was like Chrissy’s. Twitter works differently when you have millions of followers and an endless eruption of mentions and replies. (Even rarer: Her tweets often generated coverage from reporters and created entire news cycles.) And like other women on the internet, she has received years of public abuse just for being herself. – except on a scale that few people will be familiar with.

But everyone is exposed large-scale online abuse of others, even if they are not targeted by it. And that means Twitter is a horror show for people who experience real anxiety right after witnessing anger and cruelty. I’ve received a lot of abuse and threats via Twitter over the years because of my job, but what really sticks with me is what I see happening to others. Whether it’s learning too much about the sacrificial nature of the day or falling into a thread of abusive responses to a random tweet, it’s hard to avoid “negativity” on a platform that seems designed for it. reward. Even the intermittent “beautiful” rewards Twitter gives us – the llamas on the loose! Small boulder the size of a large boulder! – risk becoming their own nightmares.

Making a change when you’ve been exhausted for so long may look more like something that has already happened rather than a clear moment in time between the past and the future. I’m exhausted and it makes it much easier for me to quit Twitter. (Well, that, and in theory, I owe Casey a thousand dollars.) But the stress of Twitter toxicity isn’t the only reason I’m leaving.

When Twitter doubled the length of a tweet from 140 to 280 characters, the company recognized “The challenge of integrating a thought into a tweet.” The fact that people have mastered the challenge is a testament to the deeper problem that has accompanied using a tool for over a decade – how it shapes your experience of the world. How it makes you form words and phrases to fit certain types of boxes. How do you feel compelled to complete these boxes and why. How these things change the pace of your life.

In that same blog post, Twitter said doubling the length of tweets causes more time to be spent on Twitter. It is well known that these tools are designed to keep you locked in, and yet it is always easy to ignore how a set of software decisions can change parts of your consciousness and your personal identity.

I’ve never liked the moral panic surrounding “internet addiction,” but there is something resonant about the metaphor. (Leave out things like New York Post calling screens “digital heroine.”) The little voice I once had in my head telling me to smoke cigarettes never actually sounded much different from the little voice that told me to tweet. I’m going to let other people find out the mechanics behind this – all I need to know is that for a while I heard and listened.

When those little voices disappear, you discover how much room there is for other types of reflection – in different forms of time, color, and texture. In 2014, I quit Facebook for good after a few failed attempts. It didn’t take long to stop seeing things in my head shaped like Facebook. I have found other places on the internet to enjoy and other ways to communicate with people. Just because Facebook and Twitter are free doesn’t mean you have to let them live rent-free in your head.

This past weekend a thought came to me in the form of a tweet and I felt the urge to tweet it. But I couldn’t, so I didn’t. And as the thought receded from me, I felt lighter. It was not put on a permanent register. I didn’t stop to look at my phone and see if anyone else would recognize it. I let him go, closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face.

The birds in my garden tweeted approvingly.

Updated April 16, 8:53 a.m. ET: 40 minutes after the publication of this article, Chrissy Teigen joined Twitter. I wish him the best.

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