I joined Twitter in January 2007.
I won’t pretend I remember what I was thinking back then. That phase of my life is a bit vague. About a year before joining, I think I was finishing up with university (or was I already done?), and I was working in a job I hated.
I remember commuting to job by bus, listening to music on my iPod nano (RIP) and feeling miserable. As a young adult joining the workforce right before finishing my studies, I kept thinking: wait, is that it? Is this the famed career everyone was talking about? Putting my values on the back burner while generating profit for other people?
It took me fifteen years to circle back to this thought.
2. Early adopter
At first, we were tweeting as if we were talking about someone else. Like we were telling the story of someone else living our lives.
Another was Maria, a gifted web developer, lost too early. I miss her sparkling wit.
I never got viral.
At first, virality wasn’t even a thing. Twitter was a niche platform for Web 2.0 nerds. It was down a lot. When failwhales started to show up, we looked for the next Twitter-clone that did basically the same thing (microblogging). Plurk was one of the alternatives, the one with the horizontal timeline. Do you know that it still exists?
My specific brand of quirky tech only-tweeting-in-english-for-some-reason girl never seemed to take off much. I was steadily getting a new follower here or there. At some point, I was keeping tabs on unfollows as well. I installed an iOS app named Birdbrain which showed me who unfollowed me. I was so petty about it, I used to unfollow someone as soon as they did. And the next day, Birdbrain showed me that they followed me again, because it wasn’t intentional. It was an API error (of course).
I never followed them back.
I almost got cancelled once.
I posted a stupid tweet, criticizing the demonstrations about the death of Alex Grigoropoulos, a very loaded event in recent greek history. I got a ton of vitriolic responses and I had to switch my profile to private for a while to stop seeing the death threats. In hindsight, I was naïve. I’ve made a 180 degree turn on that matter (as I should).
I avoid reading my old tweets. I feel I don’t know who that person is. Was I really using “gay” as a slur? Was I that passionate about LOST? Why did I feel the need to share my life that openly on such a huge platform?
What the hell was I thinking?
Little by little, Twitter became an extension of my public persona. At points, I would argue it was my public persona. I carefully curated it to express who I aspired to be, but I didn’t bullshit my followers. It was my own personal stage, where I could appear at all times of the day, broadcasting little snippets of my mind.
I changed my Twitter cover photo two times. When the feature was introduced, I had this monochromatic quote that said “I work because I love this shit”. And you know what? I really did at the time. I’ve recently changed it to this amazing photo of Debbie Harris, for obvious reasons.
A few years ago, I realised that every time I was loading Twitter, I was tightening my abs, like I was getting ready for a gut punch. What fresh hell would the day bring? What kind of atrocity would I live by proxy today?
Even with a tightly curated Following list (currently sitting at a not-too-bad 310 people) and a modest follow (stuck at 3.5K for years now), I kept seeing bad takes on my timeline. The algorithm kept showing me tweets I would be enraged with to ensure the engagement treasure hunt would go on and on. Reply! Quote-retweet! Be angry!
I was exhausted. And when Elon Musk decided to buy Twitter, I broke up with it.
7. Radio silence
When I decided to stop checking Twitter daily, I posted on Mastodon (don’t judge) that it felt like a radio blasting nonsense in my head for the last ten years suddenly stopped. I could think my own thoughts again, not just chase strangers’ thoughts bouncing around the walls of my brain.
I kept automatically opening a new tab and pressing
tw to trigger autofill. I caught myself, and closed the tab. Again. And again. And again.
But I don’t miss it. I thought I would miss the friendly banter (the what?), the hot takes. The memes, oh my god have you thought about the memes? How are you going to keep up with the times now?
As Bo Burnham masterfully sings in Welcome to the Internet, I just wasn’t interested in everything all of the time.
I’m not sure how I’ll do on social media from now on. I and Stelios co-manage a (greek) Discord server for our podcast community, and that helps with feeling alone. I keep in touch with a select few ex-coworkers in a Slack server. I’m posting work stuff on LinkedIn and some private Slack channels. I dabble in Mastodon, still have no idea what I do there. I do Instagram more, just opened an account for my business. What can I say, I’m visually stimulated.
I get on Twitter maybe once per two or three days. I check the first tweets that the algorithm spits out, or whatever’s visible above the fold. Nine times out of ten, I see nothing interesting and close the tab. One time out of ten I see something interesting and I might reply. Then I close the tab.
I might consolidate my social media platforms, but probably not. I’m trying to navigate this new reality. In a way, I feel like I lost a close friend. The kind that you know is toxic, but you know them forever… You can’t really get them out of your life like that, can you?
Well it turns out, you absolutely can.
Find me in Discord for synchronous chats in greek. Instagram for snippets of my life. LinkedIn and my Instagram business account for anything related to my consulting & coaching business. Or a plain email, you know? That will work too.