Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of deleting my Twitter account. My philosophy on social media is that it should earn its space in our lives. We should be getting something positive from it, whether its financial, social, or emotional in nature. If I’m being honest with myself, I’m not getting what I need out of Twitter these days.
It’s morphed from the author platform I created it to be—mostly focused on writing, books, pop culture and space geekery, and connecting to other writers and readers—to one more indicative of the current social and political climate and my thoughts and impressions thereof. That’s not a bad thing, because social awareness and activism is important, especially during this election season. We need to be vocal—silence is another form of complicity, after all. My problem is discipline and balance in the way I use my account.
For starters, it’s a bit of a time suck. I log on “just to check” a few things, and then, before I know it, I’ve fallen down a seemingly bottomless rabbit hole of doomscrolling (or ragescrolling, which is my usual visceral response to much of the news these days…) which results in an hour or two or three of zero productivity. I hate that I do this, mostly because of what it says about my willpower—to wit, that I’m not as disciplined and goal-oriented as I’d like to think I am.
Of course, it’s not completely my fault. Addictiveness is a “design feature” of social media. If you’ve seen The Social Dilemma, you know that while we are primarily consumers, we are also products for marketing. The longer we spend online, the more eyeball space social media platforms get to sell. They tweak their algorithms to show us posts likely to keep us online longer and intersperse them with ads we’re most likely to click on.
I don’t like my time being manipulated to someone else’s ends, even if it means I’m getting something out of it, like cosmic-print tapestries. (Yes, I bought two cheapie tapestries on Instagram that I don’t really need for video calls I hardly ever make because they looked awesome.)
My other issue is content balance. As I said, I established my Twitter account in 2015 to serve as the social connection part of my author platform. It has since mutated into a non-stop doom-and-gloom ticker. A lot of that has to do with the state of the world—and especially the United States—since the 2016 elections. The coronavirus zeitgeist has only worsened it.
That’s not to say I want my Twitter experience to be only unicorns and rainbows. I also value the social issue discussions that take place there. I’ve learned a lot by following and listening to various people—especially creatives from marginalized communities. Of course, we do have some measure of control—through muting, blocking and unfollowing—over what we see in our timelines, but some topics are inescapable and overwhelming. And as a result, the happy unicorn part of my online experience is becoming as rare as, well….you know.
For these reasons, deleting my Twitter account holds a certain appeal. And between you and me, I don’t really miss being logged on. Earlier this month, I asked my spouse to lock me out of my account for a month or so. He changed the password, wrote it down then hid it, only to be given to me sometime after the elections—if he remembers where he hid it. I have other sources for news (and arguably more reliable than the maelstrom of Twitter), and I still have access to my Instagram account, which I find to be more balanced and less piggy with my time. It’s obvious I can survive without Twitter, so why not pull the plug completely?
The thought of deleting my Twitter account makes me nervous. It’s irrevocable. Permanent. A serious, serious step. I’ve invested time in my Twitter profile. I’ve made some great connections there, and while I don’t have a huge following (something I’ve never worried too much about), I genuinely like most of my mutuals. I enjoy the casual interaction with them that the platform provides. Regaining that rapport will be difficult to do from scratch.
FOMO—fear of missing out—is also a powerful inducement to stay connected. I mean, who knows what cool and exciting projects or conversations might take place that I’d no longer have access to? And it seems to me that Twitter is the Facebook of the writing community and publishing industry. Nearly every single author, editor, and literary agent I know has a Twitter account. It’s almost a requirement. Like, who are you in the book world if you aren’t on Twitter?
(Side note: I had a Facebook account back in 2012ish. I deleted it before the year was out, and never looked back.)
Yes, that’s a perceived peer pressure on my part. Writers CAN be successful without social media accounts. At least, I think they can. I tried searching Duck Duck Go for “authors who don’t use social media” and the results only returned a plethora of articles about HOW and WHY to use it as an author, but not one single mention of authors who are successful without it. So maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who’s cultivated a dread-based relationship with my Twitter account. I don’t think that’s true, though.
All things being equal, I think I’ll continue my self-imposed exile for now. I don’t want to take the drastic step of nuking my account just yet, but I don’t have an overwhelming desire or need to be active on the platform either. I’ll remain logged out and see how the next month or so goes. Maybe by the time I return to the Twitterverse, I’ll have new book news to share and querying stats to tweet about. Or maybe I’ll just fall down more rabbit holes of endless scrolling but ones made equally of doom and unicorns.