Last month, I deleted my primary* Twitter accounts. I’ve been looking forward to saying that for five years, but now I’ve finally had enough.
* [How can one have multiple “primary” Twitter accounts, you ask? Well, it’s a long, dumb story.]
A few years back, I landed on a maxim about the real, bullshit-free goal of an Information Economy™ career. The goal is to be able to get rid of your public internet presence eventually. Once your work has brought you to the point where you no longer need to feed the beast on public social media or receive spam via your Personal Brand™ website — or you have a staff to handle it for you — you’re done climbing the ladder, and you no longer have to endure the pointless, low-grade psychic attrition it all entails.
This is why it felt like I’d been trying but failing to delete my Twitter accounts for years. I stopped enjoying my time on Twitter a long time ago, but I wasn’t sure I could afford to leave. Lately, for the first time in my whole career, professional opportunities have been appearing in places other than on social media. That was one factor. The steady improvement of the quality of Apple News recommendations has been another. The last straw, though, was my first personal attack from an honest-to-God alt-right Pepe-ass Twitter troll. (They’d been after me on email since I made the dubious decision of announcing my involvement in the Ossoff campaign, but, you know, can’t get rid of email… yet.) When I saw that troll tweet, I decided I’d had enough of this “maintaining my Twitter Presence™” bourgeois crap.
I did keep my reading bot, which I gave my prized @ablaze handle, but I mostly just did that to piss off the people who have been trying for years to hack my account and take that name. It’s my final fuck-you to the vanity of the place. I mean, look at what’s become of the media thanks to this service. There is a professional journalist who thought this story mattered!
I haven’t had a single moment of regret, but I probably could get sad about this if I wanted to. Twitter was synonymous with “the internet” for me throughout the time when “the internet” was something I loved. It was my conduit to information. It was my résumé — I got every full-time job I’ve ever gotten because of Twitter, unless you count AmeriCorps after college. It was the first place I received writing feedback from strangers. Sometimes it made me feel like every human being on the planet was present and bearing witness to the same moment. That was pretty cool.
I’ve already done the grieving about this, though, I realize. I just sat on Twitter and mourned the death of Twitter for years. When that blessed troll showed up, I realized I had no feelings at all about Twitter anymore. Deleting my accounts, one of which was nine years old, was a totally dispassionate action.
There’s only one thing that worries me at the bottom of all this: that I might be pulling up the drawbridge, exercising my privilege to withdraw from the public “discourse” [Lol.] out of disdain. But I have evidence in my RSS feed and my book pile that I’m engaging more than ever with ideologies vastly different from mine (Irving Kristol and Rod Dreher have both featured heavily, which probably explains why I’m thinking about drawbridges). I’m reading more actual journalism than I have in a while, too, now that I’m not relying on 140-character quips from procrastinating journalists. I’m not engaging in Bubble-ism. I think the evidence is pretty strong that the communal id of public social media is more bad than good for society. For my own psychology, there’s no question.
This is, without a doubt, a turning point in my career. However, the feeling is slowly creeping up on me that everything I’ve thought of thus far as “my career” has just been a waxing and waning of the gratification of my ego via the medium of the internet. It feels gross to dwell on whether leaving Twitter was a “good idea” professionally. Now that I have a reasonably steady job and Ariel is just two years away from being a rabbi, I think I should just stop asking that question.
If anyone needs to find me, they can find me here on my own domain. I have enough trusted, vetted sources of information to keep my diet healthy. As for “the conversation”, or whatever Twitter’s corporate branding guidelines call its cacophonous planetary chat room from hell these days, it’s over. Ev Williams seems to feel positively guilty for creating it. Don’t worry; I’m sure I’ll hear about the progression of Donald Trump’s McDonald’s-induced dementia from some other source.