Why Did I Break Up with Twitter?

The year we met was a magical year. Obama was in office and we were full of “Yes we can!” and hope for the future. It was April 2009 and the world was a beautiful place. Twitter called to me. Everyone was doing it. I hadn’t yet joined and my friends teased me. “Get with it, girl,” they teased, “Anybody and everybody is on Twitter!” So I joined. And that was the start of my relationship with Twitter.

At first, I loved it. It was kumbaya, glitter and rainbows. It reinforced my ideals and told me I was right. But I still rarely used it. I just didn’t get why everyone was on there. For seven years, I just dabbled. I logged in and trolled in background silently. Then I started tweeting. Man, it felt good to tweet. I basked in the glory that my opinions were the right opinions, feeling a little endorphin rush every time someone “hearted” a comment I made or “followed” me. Life was good. Or so I thought.

Then the unthinkable happened. Hillary lost. A new sheriff was in town <insert eye roll here> and this new president took to Twitter like a duck to water. He tweeted crazy diatribes and insulted everyone. He dared us to disagree. He dared us to respond to him. And respond I did. I started tweeting back to him how I felt. I tweeted he should resign, go to prison, be impeached, step down from the office he had no right to hold. It felt sooooo good. And then people started hearting and following me and my comments. I felt vindicated. My feelings felt validated. I had lain my righteous indignation on the alter of Twitter, and I loved every retweet, follower and heart.

Then I read an article in the New York Times. It hasn’t been that long ago. It talked about how few Americans are actually on Twitter. It pointed out the lack of diversity. It discussed algorithms that paired us with like-minded people. It showed me how wrong I had been to spend so much time on a platform designed to sucker me in and keep me coming back for more. It was that day I woke up. I realized that not only was I checking Twitter a million times a day, but I had actually isolated myself from the real people in my life. I had stopped living and started tweeting all my social interactions with other people. I had allowed myself to become a “tin god” in my own mind. I only sought out people who agreed with me. I mentally demonized those who didn’t. And I did not like the person I was becoming. It was time to break up with Twitter.

So I did what every good type A does when I needed to evaluate a decision. I made a pro and a con list on why I should break up with my tormentor. The pros were few if any. The cons I was able to distill into 10 main reasons. Here are the reasons I decided to break up with Twitter.

  1. Too partisan — it rewards extremism on both sides.
  2. No room for discourse — it was basically yelling 140 characters of your own opinion at people.
  3. It’s not representative of Americans and leads to a false belief that everyone is either with you or against you.
  4. No topic can be adequately addressed in 140 characters without ignoring the complexity of most (if not ALL) issues.
  5. It insulates you into thinking the only just cause is your own cause.
  6. It’s a little (or very) conceited to think people want to know everything I’m doing every minute of the day in real time. I’m not Taylor Swift. Nor do I want to be. (No offense, Taylor.)
  7. It seems to only show you tweets from people who already agree with you, reinforcing false, dangerous rhetoric.
  8. I’ve never spoken in 140 characters at a time. Since I learned to talk. That’s a lot of years. (Shut up. Not THAT many years. )
  9. You can miss the world, and your life, staring at a screen all day. I know. I looked up and 3 years were gone.

10. While we may be more connected than ever in the history of the world, we have also never been more isolated from each other either. This is profoundly sad to me.

And so we broke up. And I am a better person for it. I can’t say I don’t miss the rush sometimes. Endorphins and validation rock! I have even caught myself inadvertently opening it up and closed it before it could suck me back in its Pandora’s box of false promises of vindication and winning the hearts and minds of the other side. But I’m better for it. And I’m happier now. And for that I’m grateful.

So what are your thoughts?

Please feel free to use more than 140 characters if you feel the need to do so.

Damn that felt good.

Family Nurse Practitioner working in Counseling, Addiction Medicine Nurse Practitioner, Associate Professor of Nursing, Ky Harm Reduction Coalition Board Member