In the vein of my previous post on returning back to a simpler internet, I did something today that I have been wanting to do for a while: I unfollowed everyone on Twitter.
I’ve been on Twitter for over a decade. When it started, it was fun and interesting. You could talk to all sorts of people you never would have had casual access to. It’s how I found my first connections in the world of data journalism, and it’s probably how I landed my first internship. In some ways, I owe my career to it.
It’s a cliche to say this now, but over time, it’s become a lot less fun. I’d followed friends, journalists, politicians, activists, scientists, musicians, artists, a ton of random homosexuals and at least one Federalist writer (sometimes you just want to peer into the void, you know?).
And over time, it seems like all of their conversations melded into one meta-conversation: about politics, media, identity. You know, the conversation everyone is having at all times. Except on Twitter, there’s constant context collapse, and everyone is looking for the latest villain.
Actually, there were two groups of people who were continually enjoyable: The mappers and the seismologists. Earthquake scientists are such nerds, and they’re not studying the end of the world – unless you live on the west coast – so it’s interesting without being depressing.
For me, having the temperature cranked that high all the time made me numb to the very real problems people were discussing. And frequently, my feed just made me sad or upset, the kind of emotions that social networks need in order to rile you up and come back for more.
So, I’m starting over. It has nothing to do with how I feel about most of the folks I followed. I liked a great many of them! But I’d like to be a bit more intentional, and perhaps do what Matt Hodges said and keep a tight cap on the number of accounts at any time.
I’ve thought a lot about ditching Twitter entirely and perhaps trying something like Mastodon, maybe even running my own network, but right now the user bases of those networks are sort of self-selecting, and I’m not sure if I’d enjoy it as much. I appreciate, for example, that @aphyr created his own social network for kinksters after he and his friends kept getting banned by Twitter – but I’d still like a feed that’s a little more general interest. I’m very glad those kinds of options exist for people though.
I keep joking that I want to add people to my blogroll or my webring, and truly I’m only half joking. I don’t think you can put the genie back in the bottle and just get everyone to blog again, but then again, what is Substack except professionalized blogs with email distribution and a paywall? Hell, they have RSS feeds, and they even added their own reader (but just for their content on their platform).
We’ll see where I land on Twitter use post-cleanse, but for now, I’m glad the internet still gives us the freedom to write down words and publish them on our own servers.