Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why I'm Leaving Twitter. (I Think)

Last night, I deactivated my Twitter account.

I’ve done this a couple of times in the past when I wanted to dim the noise of social media that was flooding my brain, but I think this time it’s permanent. I’m not sure. The rush of constantly updated stuff — Information? Gossip? Debate? — has appeal to a guy like me. It’s possible, in fact, that I’m an addict.

Which is reason enough to pull away: I’ve spent too many evenings dicking around, flipping from Twitter’s stream to Facebook’s stream back to Twitter’s stream — all while a book sat just a few inches away from me, begging to be read.

Lest this come off as a “It’s not you, it’s me,” breakup letter, let me be clear: The problem isn’t just me — it’s also Twitter.

For whatever reason — and I haven’t really analyzed it — Twitter seems to be particularly suited as a form of delivering abuse to some of its users. I’ve watched women take breathtaking levels of abuse on Twitter, with very little recourse left to them. The Leslie Jones incident was nearly a final straw for me; in retrospect, realizing that Twitter defended her and her celebrity, but often leaves its other users at the mercy of trolls, I am done.

I’ve not trolled Twitter, exactly, but I do understand some of the temptation. The 140-character limit places a premium on pithy incisiveness: You only have a few words to “score,” to indent someone’s consciousness — and receive the Holy Grail of being retweeted — before those words disappear down the timeline and into the ether.

It’s scary, as a writer, to abandon a pipeline to the audience. For me, having recently moved away from Philadelphia, leaving Twitter means — it seems — leaving behind direct contact with my East Coast people. But Twitter has never provided that many clicks, and I’m going to have faith that I can continue my meaningful Philadelphia connections via other means.

Finally: Why boot Twitter and not Facebook. Isn’t that noisy too?

Sure. Sometimes Facebook feels like a floating class reunion you can’t escape — or, worse, a political argument at Thanksgiving that extends into perpetuity. But it’s also been useful: Connecting me with friends when I was alone in the hospital after surgery; re-connecting me to Lawrence when we decided to come back. There are arguments, yes, but it doesn’t enable abuse the way Twitter seems to.

So: The countdown is on. Once 30 days have passed after deactivation, it becomes impossible to reactivate your Twitter account. Can I stay strong? I hope so. There are books to read and deeper thoughts to think. I hope.

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