The Great Twitter Unfollow

At the very end of last year, I realized something: for me, more than anything else, Twitter had become a destructive distraction. Scrolling through my home timeline stressed me out. Notifications of new replies or retweets or favorites pulled me out of the moment. Even though I was tired of the curiosity gaps, the FOMO, the long threads of in-jokey back-and-forth about stuff that doesn't really matter, I just kept clicking, favoriting, and pulling-to-refresh, like a robot.

I am not a robot. So I unfollowed one thousand-plus people to see if it made my day-to-day online better. I uninstalled the Twitter mobile app. I unpinned my TweetDeck tab. I poured my energy into other social tools—private mailing lists, private Kidposted Flickr photos, Instagram, Q&A sites, social fitness apps, newsletters, and Slack—and kept my friends close in other ways.

It worked. We're well into March now and I'm just about to start reconnecting with the folks I really miss on Twitter.

Before I do, I wanted to make a note here. There are some really great things about Twitter. It's a place where you get to know new people, get exposed to new and different ideas, and get to enhance relationships with people you already know. There are some pretty bad things about Twitter. It can make you love people less. It can give your monkey mind endless branches to swing on. If you follow talking-head types like I do, forming your own opinion becomes a multiple-choice question of who you agree with versus what you think in your own words. The constant stream of jokes and awful news and self-promotion and good news and kittens and breaking news and snark and calls for help is loud, noisy, and distracting to someone who aspires to a quiet mind. (Ferguson and Gamergate especially destroyed me in 2014.)

For me, from here on in, moderation is key. I've been calmer, happier, more present, and less anxious for the past few months. If I missed something on Twitter, it bubbled up to me in other channels. I'm going to remember that as I re-enter the network: no obligations, no robotics. This stuff is supposed to make my life better.

So, Twitter, you can get off my back now, and stop telling me I should follow some people. I'm going to again, slowly, thoughtfully, and mostly, in a way that aligns with my default optimism about the web and our world.