Why I Quit Twitter (and you might want to, too)

I’M A QUITTER. A serial quitter. I like quitting things. Things I’ve quit: coffee, owning a car, dyeing my hair, wearing high heels, most recently some social media including twitter… I quit because I get a kick out of it – a sense of clarity and relief. Maybe it’s my catholic upbringing (you know, all about the suffering and sacrifice, that religion). It’s tired cliche, but it’s a cliche because of its universal truthiness. It’s as if an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and that, finally, now I have time to concentrate on the more important things in life.

Unfortunately it wears off, that feeling. Or, more likely, I get accustomed to it. Hedonic adaptation. So then I go looking for the next thing to quit, to trim, to declutter, to scrap, to refine. And do you know what – I never regretted any of the quitting. It’s brilliant. I just fill the time with more interesting stuff, drink a more varied beverage menu, get around by bike or train, let my greys twinkle and walk further in flats.

A serial, addicted, quitter. Konmari-ing was a DREAM.

Back to twitter. Late last year I had around 2500 followers and was following somewhere around the 500 mark. Check out that ratio, would ya! *Smug face*. But I’ve been on the site since 2008 so there would be something wrong if I didn’t have a fairly decent number of followers, and at the start of my twitter journey I would spend hours a day chatting and cementing ‘relationships’ (yeah, bit of a stretch of the definition there). Every notification was a lovely little dopamine hit. I reeeeeally enjoyed it.

Fast forward just under 10 years and I’d fallen in and out of love with the site a good few times. Then, in late 2017, I read Deep Work by Cal Newport and subsequently many, many blog posts and articles and news op eds that recommended dumping twitter and other social medias. It gets in the way of your life, they said. You’re addicted to it, they said. It makes you anxious (along with Facebook and all the other social medias), they opined.

So I dumped it. You know though, it’s not like when you deactivate Facebook (which I have, obvs). On FB you can deactivate and activate again and back again ad infinitum without punishment. All your content will still be there. I’ve taken to logging on and deleting a bunch of posts (I still can’t work out a quick way of doing it) sporadically. And then deactivating again. I find messenger super useful for arranging my real world social life (such as it is) so I’m not going to completely ditch Facebook any time soon. Unless they can completely separate the two, which,  of course, isn’t going to happen.

Back to twitter. I deactivated then reactivated around 3 weeks later, starting to think maybe I’d made a mistake… and I’d lost 500 followers! Yikes. It was then I realised that I was actually pretty gutted. But why? Because I was addicted to that little follower count, that social proof of my worth. Never mind how many people had hidden me from their feed. And how few people I interacted with or responded to any of my posts. I might as well have been following 10 people.

With this in mind, I re-deactivated and all those thousands of posts of mine were removed from twitter’s servers (I kept a back up of the inanity I’d spouted for those 10 years, I’m not an idiot). And the remaining followers GONE. And I do feel free. And less anxious (though Facebook was more of a culprit for that). I’m still an information addict, like most humans, and I’m seriously considering ditching my Instagram relationship right now (OMG Heather it’s not a chuffing relationship). I’ve just signed up for Vero (that limited-time free offer hooked me in, I’m not proud). The Guardian website gets more hits than I’d like from me per day.

What I needed was a replacement activity. So I’m getting back into New Scientist (free as an e-magizine from my local library), I’m reading tons more real books (currently making my way through all the award-winning or -nominated women sci-fi authors) and learning German with DuoLingo – I completed Spanish a year ago and though I really could do with a refresher there’s a usefulness to learning a language that is multiple powers ahead of my barely curated, opinion-as-fact, scatter-shot twitter feed. What’s more, between my basic Spanish and John’s GCSE German we managed to get by on a Spanish holiday where somehow we’d managed to stay in a place where English wasn’t spoken at all in either shops or restaurants, but Spanish and German was. Phew again. USEFUL.

Utility is my go-to metric for whether or not I spend time energy or money on something. I get joy-sparks from usefulness, aesthetics and comfort a joint second. I guess that’s why I like writing music for other people’s projects, rather than just producing tracks and hawking them on Bandcamp. I need to feel useful. Ugh. ANYWAY.

Twitter may or may not have been useful. It put me in touch with Premiumbeat that has kept me afloat in some lean times. I’ve had nice chats with nice people. But it gets in the way of making music. It’s a distraction at best and makes me less useful at worst. So out it goes.

On saying that, I’ve reinstated my @hethfen account just to retweet blog posts. It’s automated. I rarely check it. I you want to tweet me, email me instead.

Edit May 2018: I’ve deleted my account again, along with Facebook (not just deactivation but proper deletion), Instagram, LinkedIn and Google Analytics. Let’s see how long this lasts…

Image: Flickr

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