Dear Twitter, it’s not you, it’s me.
It’s Monday and I’m finally ok with saying goodbye to my personal Twitter account… So why?
I should have added when I first published this, that leaving twitter for now is more of a personal experiment than a hardline position against the incredible value and utility of Twitter and other similar social media platforms (which of course I recognize). Social media is as wonderful as it is flawed so I’m taking some time away from it to reconsider how (or if) to use it at all.
- Because I’m still not sure what it is.
I’ve been using twitter it off an on for about 7 years and I still am (A) not sure if I’m using it correctly to get the most out of it and (b) if I was asked why I use twitter, I’m not sure I have an good/well formed explanation.
Similar to social media like Facebook (which I also left) I had some social health concerns about it that were personal to me. Broadly (a) I began to be more aware that of that very real dopamine high reliance. It’s not a twitter specific issue, more of a social media one. We’ve seen countless published stories and research from reputable sources about the negative, often depression inducing, mental health challenges associated with social media use. I shouldn’t wake up and the first thing I do is check twitter before I go say good morning to my girls. That’s crazy. I need to cut it off — and I’m more of a cold turkey person. (b) I could see that I was too often caught up shallow ‘social’ interactions and would rather remove the distraction all together. While social media allows us to create far more connections, I fear that the limited time I do have to foster (healthy) social connections/relationships have been neglected – at the very least indirectly because of social media like Twitter and Facebook. (c ) I became more and more aware of what a distracting time suck it was – and far too often left a nasty taste in my mouth than it did me leaving feeling positive of the time spent in it.
- Uncertainty of career/professional value.
I don’t believe keeping a twitter account is necessarily a requisite for a successful career (note: I only have 300 followers anyway). I had this feeling for awhile that I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to keep an active twitter engagement, but I worried if I left I would lose touch and connectivity with people in my career and ‘what’s happening’. I realize that’s kinda crazy now. If you want to get in touch with me, linkedIn is fine for that. If I want to share something of interest professionally, I’ll do it on linkedIn or through Mailchimp if related to some business endeavor. If I want to keep in touch with industry news there are a dozen great platforms for just that. I’ll maintain a twitter account for my LLC, but it’ll likely remain dormant until/unless I think of something useful for it that only twitter helps fulfill.
- Authenticity annoyances.
Per followers: (A) Twitter eggs. (B) Does it annoy anyone else that you can hack the system to have thousands of followers that are not real? (C) Other authenticity ‘hack’ annoyances like when someone follows you just so you briefly confront whatever temporary personal branding/publicity they want to attract, and then they immediately unfollow you.
- Is it a good communication tool?
For many different uses – of course it is. But there are for sure alternatives – enough so that it’s not something I can’t live without. If I want to say something, and want to get that message or thoughts blasted out into the world, I think Medium is a better place for that. Also I’ve always had a hard time with the complexities and communication challenges of 140 character ‘hot-takes’. Of the easiest ways in the world to get in an argument with someone – using sms or twitter have got to be near the top. It’s just so easy to misunderstand intention, context and nuance in 140 characters. Misunderstanding leads to either like or dislike with no in between. And by the way — the new 280 character thing is ridiculous — it just seems like an arbitrary limitation, so where does it end? Who is picking those things?
- News or garbage dump?
Twitter (as well as Facebook) is a place for everyone and all messages — That’s the point – and that’s sorta the problem for me personally. In part, it considers itself a platform for sharing news, statements of all and any kinds and Twitter does not want to be a gatekeeper for info – we all get that. But that means that there is as much good and important valuable communication happening as there is vile evil, horrible shit (and people). You can say, do, whatever you want, manipulate facts, spread lies and share it with the world. And because there is this horrible equivalence with what we see on twitter and what is actual real, factual news and journalism today, there are entire massive swathes of our population that have been manipulated into believing things that have incredibly changed the trajectory of our country and world — in my opinion, for the worse. Typically (though not often enough) A news organization will issue a retraction or apology when they get something wrong and spread a lie on their platform (at least that’s the hope). Can and how could Twitter or FB do that — a place where so many people get their news? Again, I understand it’s great that anyone can get an account and say/do whatever they want immediately. On its face — that’s probably a good, fine thing for a communications product to do, but for me, I’m of the mind more so lately that a product with some more curation or filtering is better suited for me. It’s noble to give everyone a microphone — but tragically, mass human participation in anything far to often showcases the dregs of us. Which leads me to…..
- Twitter (… and Facebook) and the Kremlin made me wonder if we deserve our democracy – we’re gullible morons.
It’s become evident that many of the social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter — as well as Google), collected revenue through paid content and/or allowed tactically placed content on their platforms by the Kremlin to undermine our democracy. The deliberate fallacies that were allowed to be spread had profound and unmeasurable influence on the public’s opinion and exploited and clearly enraged vulnerable divisions and anxieties in America. Twitter/Facebook didn’t elect Trump of course. But the lies spread on Twitter and Facebook did make his opponents far less desirable/electable. I can attest to this first hand, as I had many conversations with relatives and family friends who had voted for Trump. Of their many rationales — all of them were much more about not voting for the other person than they were in favor of voting for Trump. Bewilderingly, of the reasons they shared, few of them were factually accurate (depending on your threshold for facts) and most were some iteration of the conspiracies shared on platforms like Fox & Friends and Breitbart. Where did these generally grounded people develop those views? Just as tens of millions of others had around the country: Watching conspiracy and Tea-party styled opinions aired on Fox News and reenforced/emboldened by blatant lies shared and collected on social media. Social media platforms like facebook and twitter did nothing to identify this issue as undermining democracy (and maybe they couldn’t or weren’t prepared to). Fox news wants a conservative agenda, that’s fine, Trump was their best ‘conservative option’ (albeit a deal with the devil). The Kremlin however wants a weaker America — and to the best of their ability — to do what they can to encourage that we elect inept, destructive leadership. And they very much succeeded – we have an inept, destructive leader in the oval office. Notably: its recently been reported by Politico that Twitter and Facebook has actually since deleted much of the data demonstrating the degree of Kremlin use on their platform.
Through twitter he has leveraged this platform and technology to get his message out. Thats what Twitter does as a product – and as so, Trump may be the most successful account user that that company has ever had. The two basic problems with that are (1) as the Commander in Chief of the United States his messages can change the lives of millions of people in a single tweet. For some leaders and movements – that’s a good thing, and twitter takes credit for providing the platform for it (and they should). For Trump I can only find things that have effected citizens lives negatively. And (2) among many other either vile or just reckless things, his message has: (a) signaled out private citizens — many of them women and minorities— and brought on harassment to those people (b) has emboldened racists, klansman, white nationalists, white supremacist, and literally neonazis (c) animated deeper race, culture and class divisions in America (d) activity mislead the public — either because he’s a moron or to advance a descriptive populist agenda (e) has demonstrated a childish tit-for-tat recklessness in dealing with unstable leaders such as North Korea – escalating tension to war posturing – which would have never happened under cooler heads and a Potus with such reckless twitter use.
Trump is worth something like $2 billion to twitter according to Future so it’s easy to understand the rationale for why @jack or @biz won’t pull the plug. But for me, I’m out. Ironically, much of Trump’s own supporters wish he did not use twitter so if @jack or @biz are worried about backlash against from his base for removing him — I actually don’t think anyone will be too much up in arms about it except for Trump himself!
- No Safety Switch.
It’s likely, knowing myself, that I’ll eventually say something horrible and indefensible on twitter (and … maybe I already have?) — so I’m taking the ‘gun’ away from myself, putting it in an old shoebox and placing it in my attic.
I’ll be collecting all the contacts that I don’t want to lose from Twitter over the next few days and will shortly be pulling the plug on my personal account. Please find me at www.crpike.com / www.shapesatwork.com, here on Medium, or LinkedIn.