the first four days without twitter

I have spent the last ten years of my life on Twitter. I have posted countless photos of my pets. I started a few hashtags that got pretty big. I have yelled at famous men. I have been yelled at by famous men. I have been threatened and harassed. I have passionately defended Twitter against the haters. I have gotten pretty drunk with my followers. I have been asked by fancy people to help them get better at Twitter. I have managed social media for movement events and political actions.

And I have, time after time, rolled my eyes as people sanctimoniously (to my mind) announced Twitter “breaks.” Because I was stronger, cooler, snarkier. I could handle the worst parts of Twitter, because I was tough. I was an expert at doing tweets.

And then, four days ago, I quit cold turkey.

The idea had been stewing in my mind for a couple of weeks, maybe longer — maybe since Trump’s election. My husband and I moved to California from Texas, and I became frustrated and angry and desperately lonely, not to mention professionally confused. For months, I’ve been wondering what, exactly, I’m supposed to be doing with my time. I started a storytelling podcast for new activists; I also started a podcast about Guy Fieri. I started a food blog about politics. I owe my increasingly frustrated book agent a pitch. I’ve taken a lot of solicited assignments but don’t reach out to editors a whole lot. I’m good at writing and bad with ideas, I thought.

Until I realized that I’d started writing everything from e-mails to recipes in 140-character bursts. I had stopped consuming news for the sake of my own edification, and started consuming it for the production of snark — and those delicious, validating RT’s. And I had gotten into a bad habit of threading really good story ideas into hugely popular Tweetstorms, giving away what is arguably my best skill — funny, goofy political analysis backboned by righteous indignation — for free.

I woke up Friday morning and bailed on Twitter. Just straight up bailed. Told everybody I was leaving for a while, and did it. Deleted TweetDeck. Deleted Twitter off my phone. Turned off email notifications. Un-saved my passwords in my browser to make it even harder to pop in for an errant holler.

That afternoon I went to the library and checked out a pile of books about medieval France, the setting of a novel I’ve been telling myself I’ll write for five years. My husband and I had drinks at two different bars that night. I watched the sun set over San Francisco and looked at his face instead of my phone. The next morning, we went on a walking tour of the city, and I saw the Barbary Coast Trail through my own eyes, instead of cultivating commentary for the 30,000 screaming people in my pocket. I watched House of Cards without hearing two dozen different spoiler-theories about the Underwoods. I ate brunch without a live lamentation of the Sunday news show shenanigans eating away at my notifications; I had an overdue phone conversation with a friend and processed it in the sunshine, rather than squirreling myself away in the backwoods of Sunday afternoon Twitter.

I took a nap and had a nightmare that I was back on Twitter.

I woke up Monday morning and read the newspaper and listened to a couple of really solid political podcasts. I curated a new Medium feed that includes many of my favorite Twitter folks; here, I can read their thoughts in full, unimpeded by tiresome demands on my attention from nice, liberal men who need to be assured that they are Good, and from right-wingers who need to assure me that I am Bad.

I am better informed, calmer and happier than I have been in a decade. I miss the people who made Twitter awesome. I miss the drags, the cat photos, the righteous social justice warriorship that has shaped so much of my politics over the last ten years. But right now, I am really enjoying meeting a new person — someone who doesn’t think constantly about what a kick Twitter is going to get out of something wacky that happened on her way to the bus, someone who isn’t asking avatars to answer her every errant question, someone who is learning to live life in paragraphs, again.