On leaving twitter (for now)

When I was a trader I made most of my money by betting against the madness of the crowd. On Wall Street this is called “fading the news,” “shorting the madness,” or “Selling the hype.”

It is a pretty standard way for a group of traders to make money. Some news comes out, or a story, or a politician does or says something somewhere, and the markets go crazy and you wait and wait and wait (waiting is the hardest part), and then you bet that the craziness is overdone.

Most of the time this works, some of the time you get the timing wrong and you have to have the discipline to pull your bet (stop out).

The point is, the markets are not always right, certainly not in the short term, not by any stretch.

Twitter is kind of like the markets, prone to the madness of the crowds, hardly ever right, especially in the short term, especially after some breaking news.

But you can’t “short the hype.” The equivalent (if there is one) is in the midst of an uproar and outrage you tweet suggesting perhaps the uproar is unhelpful, or wrong, or pointless. All that will get you is more outrage directed at you. Accusations that you are heartless, stupid, an animal hating communist, a nasty fascist, who deserves whatever ills befalls you. Or whatever the current twitter fad of showing distaste is.

There simply is no winning on twitter.

A few weeks ago I backed away from twitter. First I took it off my phone, then off my computer, then finally off my laptop. I initially allowed myself an hour each evening and went back to the way I had consumed news for the prior 35 years of my life: By reading newspapers nightly (WSJ, NYT, and my local paper), listening to the radio in the car (NPR for the news when it came on), and talking to friends and neighbors.

It took a few days to adjust, but within a week I was ok with this. Not only was I ok, but I was happier. I was happier because I was, to use a cliche, less connected, certainly less often connected.

But I wasn’t less deeply connected. Without an outlet to express whatever micro frustration or feeling I had based on whatever was going on, I was more focused on how the news impacted whoever it was happening to. I cared less about what MY spin on the news was, and more on WHO has being impacted by the news.

Nine days ago I completely removed myself from twitter, no longer checking it at night. Of course, during these last nine days a big news story, a tragic one, happened in Houston, which I read about each night and heard about as I was driving each day to take my daughter to work.

During Sunday mass a prayer was said and a moment of silence was observed for those in the hurricane’s path, along with a listing of smaller local tragedies. There was a table set outside the church raising money for a congregation and shelter in Houston which I and the rest of the congregation contributed to.

When I returned from church I broke my vow and I logged onto twitter, to take a peek to see if I was missing anything concerning what was going on in Houston.

My timeline did have a few informative tweets (some of it wrong), and tweets sweetly expressing empathy for those in Houston. But those were countered by a lot of outrage, at things distantly and tangentially related to Houston — something someone on twitter had said about this or that.

It was also filled with people using the tragedy to try to prove a point, usually a point they often try to prove. The outrage had spun into side fights about climate change, about Trump, about shoes, about memes, about insensitivity, about seemingly everything.

It was less about feeling empathy or trying to understand what those in Houston were suffering, and more about expressing whatever feeling someone else had.

I looked at it for a few minutes, and did the only thing you can do to “Sell the hype.” I logged off.

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