Twitter account deactivation notice

So long, Twitter

I finally did it. I deleted my Twitter account, uninstalled the app and felt buoyed by a weird mixture of triumph and relief. And then…I had the urge to tweet about it. Old habits die hard and all that. The funny thing is, I’ve barely tweeted in the past 2 years and the only reason I still kept the account was to badger customer service reps (does this make me a Karen?).

Even though reminiscing about the halcyon days of Twitter feels very redundant, I’m gonna do it anyway. I can’t let the moment slide without devoting some final thoughts to the social platform I spent (wasted?) the most time on.

In 2022 it’s an accepted fact that Twitter is a cesspit. So, what I’m about to say sounds so far-fetched I’m almost doubting myself. But, at one point in a galaxy far, far away, Twitter was the best place to be on the internet. It was the social network, the most addictive, the most validating (just watch those RTs roll in).

This was a time when young women writers began declaring ourselves ‘strident feminists’ and we all aspired to be Caitlin Moran, when you could start a Cats That Look Like Steve Buscemi account and land a book deal just in time for Christmas, when everyone wanted to be friends with Stephen Fry – and Twitter’s accessibility made that seem like it was one witty tweet away from reality. Once at a job interview I declared ‘I get all my news from Twitter now’ and I meant it.

Not only was Twitter good fun (really!) but it was genuinely useful. In many ways the perfect social media platform for journalists, Twitter undoubtedly democratised entry into an industry notorious for gatekeeping. On Twitter, you could tweet editors of the glossies, get a follow back and, before you could say hashtag blessed, your X Factor tweets gave way to a weekly TV column. When I worked in radio, Twitter was like a Rolodex in terms of finding and contacting guests, discovering new voices and tapping experts for opinions. Like most journalists, I used and abused the journorequest tag for stories, shamelessly promoted my work with an “I did a thing…” tweet for every new byline and got to know more people in the industry through Twitter than I probably would have if I’d had to rely on good old-fashioned ligging.

Before this nostalgia-fest convinces me to reactivate my account, let’s jump ahead to Bad Twitter, shall we? I can’t pinpoint exactly when Twitter turned sour for me but once I grew to dread replies (the “Well, actually…” replies from randomers were my faves), I knew I’d stayed too longer at the party. You see, Twitter is not a place for reason, nuance, or discussion. A place where you could admit you didn’t know something. Or even make a joke (is there any corner of the internet left for just messing around? If there is, sign me up).

More and more the site seemed to be fuelled by cloutrage – people permanently outraged in order to clock up engagement – and it seemed like even people on the Left – supposedly the Good Guys – were all too quick to jump on someone to show the rest of us that they were Right. It was all so exhausting, but more than that, dangerous.  I would log in for 5 seconds and wonder, how are you not all so tired of this, of yourselves? So, you could say I’ve had my cursor on the Deactivate Account button for a while. (Side note: this New Yorker piece “How harmful is social media?” is really interesting.)

I did pick up a few useful lessons from Twitter, though. Namely, that people don’t read things. Or, that they see what they want to see in things (if they want to get angry, they’ll get angry, regardless of what you’ve actually said). As a writer, this is both interesting and appalling. Years of crafting succinct tweets (especially before the word count expanded) has definitely helped me become a concise writer, a skill that’ll come in handy when we’re all writing for our tech overlords. Every day when I saw “fact-checkers say…” on the trending topics, debunking whatever viral story we all shared the day before, I would be reminded of the old-but-still-useful-when-using-the-internet adage “if something sounds too good to be true…”. Oh and I now have a long list of words and phrases I have a Twitter-induced allergy to: woke, cancel culture, offended, fake news, Elon Musk.

Will I miss Twitter though? I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t. The muscle memory urge to tweet when something weird happens is so strong. I’ll miss the breaking news – although even that’s become unreliable (how many times has Kim Jong-un “died” on Twitter?). Most of all, I’ll miss checking in on the people I genuinely like and got to know through the app and got rare little snippets of their lives. It was fun while it lasted. But that was a very long time ago.

A couple of people have mentioned joining Mastodon instead, but I think I have social media fatigue. Call me cynical but all social networks go the same direction after a while. I think I’ll survive without another app devouring my time. Unless there’s a Streetcar Named Desire-era Brando lookalike on there.

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