I quit Twitter a couple weeks ago.
My relationship with Twitter has often been unhealthy (a common refrain of Twitter users), but during the pandemic, it really ratcheted up in terms of being a life sucking source. I could not stop doomscrolling. Continually glued to all the absolutely horrendous news about politics, police violence, widespread protests, the fact that California was on fire, just all of it.
There were times when I thought or said out loud that I needed to stop. Having the internet prove to me every day that the entire world was an absolute dumpster fire was not really the most calming habit I could have picked up during a stressful time. It also made being pregnant real weird. (Even weirder than being pregnant during a pandemic was already.)
I officially logged out a few times and managed well for a few days or a week at a time. One time I had successfully left Twitter and then Ruth Bader Ginsberg died a month before a national election. When the election itself actually happened, I stayed off all social media for a few days because my anxiety had already reached such a peak I didn’t think I’d be able to survive it. Then, when the votes started suggesting that the results wouldn’t be disastrous, I got back on to celebrate.
Sometimes there is good stuff on Twitter! Nothing makes me laugh out loud quite like an absolutely bizarre tweet or meme that you only understand when the Twitter brain worms have fully taken over. Because I am officially an Old, and will never download TikTok, I got to see some of the best of TikTok through Twitter. This particular dance to “Rasputin” by Boney M. for example. So delightful!
The less pleasant aspects of the platform, though, started to outweigh the other stuff. Dunking stupid tweets and dogpiling people seems to be Twitter’s favorite pastime. And although I hardly ever tweet and am too scared to voice opinions to become the Twitter main character of the day, the ghost of that threat seems to loom over all interactions.
Piling on can be fun in the moment, and it can often reveal truly bizarre intersections of humanity (the most recent examples being Bean Dad and the Cinnamon Toast Shrimp Guy), but it finally started to dawn on my that this meant all my feed was breeding was negativity. Everyone is criticizing everyone. Either because they won’t open a can of beans for their daughter or because people are taking the bean thing way to seriously or because nobody can just have fun on the internet anymore or–
Even all this might not have been enough to do it. Social media addiction is real and so is starting the doomscroll anytime you have a free second.
But I had a second kid in December and went back to work in March. I’m up for an hour in the middle of the night most nights. My sleep is pretty destroyed and my days are an absolute blur of taking care of children, trying to productive at work, cramming in a boatload of chores, and then collapsing in an exhausted heap so I can sleep for three hours before the baby wakes me up.
Most nights, I try to squeeze in a tiny bit of personal time before the exhausted collapsing part. Read a little bit, watch a short show, have an actual conversation with my husband. When Twitter was how I spent my personal time, I got sucked in for far too long, which was then further destroyed my already terrible sleep schedule.
It all came to a head and I logged out. It’s been two or three weeks now. (I honestly can’t remember just how long because time means nothing these days.) I miss the memes and the goofiness somewhat. But I’m also getting a little more reading in. If I pick up my phone mindlessly, I try to open an ebook or put the phone back down. I can’t marvel at hot takes that truly bend the fabric of the universe, but I can get to bed thirty minutes earlier.
Does this make me a better person than anyone still on Twitter? Nope. Social media can be great for people for a whole of reasons.
Which makes me think. Just because Twitter isn’t good for me right now, could it have been at some point? Despite all the bad on the platform, could the sheer amount of time I spent doomscrolling on Twitter in 2020 have been a little bit good? I was anxious all the time, but that would have been the case anyway. And because I couldn’t see anyone and was essentially trapped in my home, I could at least log on and see that everyone else was feeling the same. We all sort of went a little bit mad together, true, but would it have been any better doing that alone?
The isolation of the pandemic was pretty heightened for me. Being pregnant is difficult and doing it mostly alone was ever harder. Not that anything I was doing online had to do with the pregnancy. But still. Maybe it was helpful while it needed to be and now I’m entering a new phase where it’s not. Different things for different stages of life and all that.
Will I stay off Twitter forever? Unlikely. I will be very proud of myself for hitting some milestone in the future. Tell myself that I’ve broken the habit and it can’t hurt to log back on and take a peek for just 30 minutes. Then I’ll discover that someone thinks baking cookies is anti-feminist or that some person we all used to love is actually super problematic or that the shipping wars have fired up over a new media property. And I’ll be right back in it.
Hopefully, next time, with more really fun dance routines.