In July 2016, I stopped tweeting and replying to DM's on my personal twitter account (@masuga). I didn't tweet that much to begin with (maybe seven or eight tweets a day on average), but I did spend a ridiculous amount of time reading tweets and going down reply rabbit-holes.
I got so burned out reading tweets - particularly those that had to do with politics - that I couldn't handle it anymore. Coupled with the worst first half of a year my web development business ever had, the negativity and snark of Twitter was soul-crushing. It felt like an unnecessary pressure having to scroll through my timeline to "catch up" every day. I also felt like I simply had nothing to say or offer anyone any more. I was empty.
So, I left off with a nod to one of my favorite movies, hinting that there’s more out there than a Twitter timeline:
it’s full of stars— Ryan Masuga (@masuga) July 20, 2016
It wasn't really a conscious decision to take such an extended break. At first I thought, "I'm not tweeting tomorrow." That became: "I can make it a month." Then, "Wonder if I can make it until the end of the year?" Turns out I could, quite easily. The need and compulsion to tweet about every little thing diminished as the weeks went by.
After a while it was: “What the hell, let's go for a year. And while I'm at it, why not delete all my tweets?” I wiped the slate clean, deleting over 18,000 tweets (10 years worth), saving just two. A year passed. Then a year and a half, until I realized...I sort of miss the interaction.
What did I do with the time I had to do other things?
Taking a break from social media was good for a few reasons:
- For one, I got out of the cycle of cynicism and negativity
- Spent more time with my kids
- Turned around my business
- Rediscovered how much I enjoy playing Chess
- Read a lot more books
- Taught myself piano
- Finished my second book (a guide to Craft CMS)
- Started writing fiction
Not a bad use of that time at all.
In taking that long break, I realized a few things, too:
1) No one cared whether I was on Twitter or not.
You might think your followers are hanging around waiting for your next pithy comment or sarcastic riposte, but the reality is that most people aren't seeing your comments at all before they are drowned in the endless flood of tweets. I don't think a single person realized (or cared) that I wasn't around. Check your ego at the door.
2) Twitter is a cesspool where negativity festers.
I don't know what the answer is, but anonymity coupled with 140 (and now 280!) character hot takes is a recipe for peak negativity.
It didn't matter how non-political accounts were, the infantile knee-jerk hatred that is part and parcel of the current political climate crept its way into areas I never expected to see it.
Simply opening my app and browsing through tweets - let alone reading the responses to those tweets - put me in a negative state of mind every time without question. The bad seemed to outweigh the good, always.
So, at the same time I quit tweeting, I stopped reading Twitter altogether for a number of weeks. I was *completely* off, out in the real world, which, it turns out, really is full of stars.
My state of mind has been better when I don’t feel the need to reply to trolls, or read replies to tweets.
3) I’m missing an opportunity.
I slowly dipped my toes back in after a few months - but only to read very select accounts. I felt like I was missing out on news and updates related to my profession.
I unfollowed everyone and added a few of those accounts back to a private list. This took the number of tweets I waded through per day from north of 600 to 100 or less.
I kept that steady for the next year or so. I was still not inclined to add to the conversation. A fly on the wall.
Now, after about 650 days, I’m feeling a desire to jump back in. The flip side of not being present on Twitter is: I'm not in front of people like I used to be. I own a web development company, and I’m not present on relevant hashtags in my company's areas of expertise, so I have less mindshare than I did a couple years ago. I feel like I knew people, but now I feel like I’m out of the loop, which I believe is having an impact on the business.
The opportunity I’m missing:
- Putting out “signposts” about expertise. Tweets are opportunities to share a tip or insight.
- Retweeting and sharing things I think are worthwhile. There is good and humorous content on Twitter. I can do my part to share some.
- Engaging with people I know. Its beneficial to converse with peers and people I’ve met at conferences, from all over the world.
If I can do those things while staying positive and not getting sucked into whirlpools of negativity, things will be fine.
I could do those types of things from our company account (@gomasuga), but in my opinion personalities are always more interesting than companies. I think that’s one reason why my personal account has always had around 4x the number of followers than our company account. I have certain people that own and operate companies on my lists, and to me their personal accounts are always more interesting than their company accounts.
So, I’m starting over. I’ll see where it goes. Eat at Arby’s.