Late in 2017, I politely said good-bye to Twitter and deleted my account. My Twitter account was 10 years old, and the anniversary, as anniversaries often do, prompted me to think about the value of a decade spent microblogging.
I remember when Twitter was a quiet site for geeks, and my first tweets were about HTTP servers and Git and SliceHost (remember them?). And my geek friends replied sometimes. And there were no politics.
I remember thinking, man, if more of my friends were on here, then this could be really cool.
I remember when Oprah joined Twitter just a few years later, and how I had a bad feeling about it. I couldn’t reconcile my desire for “more of my friends” to be on Twitter with the cringey tweets of a non-geek (who happened to be a celebrity). And then the masses followed. Twitter grew. And my wish for more normal people slowly but surely came true.
Only it wasn’t the happy hug-fest I imagined.
Twitter became a place for complaining and opining. Maybe it always was that place. Heck, I complained about this and that every other tweet probably. There just was nobody to read it nor anybody who cared. Or maybe the opinions were about tech, and tech opinions aren’t as dividing as other ones (at least for me).
The complaints and opinions weren’t enough to ruin Twitter for me though. I learned to accept the bad with the good. The frog was starting to simmer though.
The full on frog boil seems to have happened many years later, when Twitter started tweaking its algorithm. Wow, even writing the word “algorithm” makes me mad. A news feed should be chronological. No algorithm needed.
Twitter started stoking the fires by making controversial tweets and discussion front-and-center. The stuff just won’t go away.
Twitter trained my most beloved friends and coworkers to “engage” with their audience. Read: be controversial. Uggg.
Political opponent hatred. Sports team hatred. Tech hatred. It is everywhere.
Maybe it’s not fully Twitter’s fault. They’re just adapting to the times, along with Facebook and Google News, etc.
Our society loves controversy, loves to be mad about something. I just want to write cool software and learn new things. I don’t need to know what my friends and colleagues are mad about today, after all.
So, I’ve been off Twitter for six months now, and I really don’t miss it. Sure, I follow a link to a Twitter thread occasionally to see what the new hubbub is all about. But in the end, I think leaving Twitter was a good call.
Lobste.rs and HN keeps me informed of tech subjects, and I’m back to using email for talking with old friends. It’s a long-form (or short-form, whatever you need) medium and works well for keeping in touch.
Mastodon and the “fediverse” are promising, but I’m still on break from big like-driven and retweet-driven microblogging. I kind of like shouting into the void, thus I’m just posting to a plain text file for now.
The irony of me complaining here about people on Twitter complaining too much is not lost on me. But, it turns out, you don’t have to “engage” with this blog post, and I don’t need the likes or follows from it!
I was going to end this post with a quip about how “You should follow me off Twitter”, in homage to Dustin Curtis' famous A/B test of coaxing his readers to become Twitter followers. But as I was looking up the URL, I discovered that Dustin had removed the post and excluded it from the Wayback machine as well. Maybe we all want to forget that time in our lives where we pretended that follower count meant something.