Yes, Delete Your Twitter!

Do it. Right now. You know you that deep down, you want to.

1.

I’ve had a version of this note in draft for months. To this day, it never felt quite ready. Then this happened.

Delete your account.
@HillaryClinton

So here we go…1

2.

About a year ago, on a sunny day when my phone was buzzing around the clock, I realized that I had more than a few apps whose primary function was to waste my time; I gave them time and attention, and they gave me pretty much nothing in return.

Like a shirt you’ll never wear or a number in your phone that you’ll never call, these things had amounted to nothing but digital clutter. I’m far from the first person to notice this, but I decided to do something about it: wipe them out.

Goodreads? I like the idea in theory, but I can’t say I’ve ever gotten a single book suggestion from it. Gone.

Quora? I suppose I could open a question about what I got out of it? Or better yet, I could delete it.

Twitter?

I was torn. I followed people. They followed me back. But looking at my feed, none of us really said anything of value anymore. I scrolled through the tweets because that’s what tweets are meant for.

But Twitter has a purpose! It helps you keep up with what’s going on in real time!

Is that a good thing?

3.

I looked at my feed: the grand parade of tweets, tiny self-contained bubbles that marched in a row yet had no relationship to each other. A snarky political joke here. A link to programming post critiquing another post critiquing something new in javascript. Some news articles that I might read but not right now. Lot’s of retweets with people angry about… ah, who cares.

Does it make me a callous person if I don’t need to know what the Twitterfolk are angry about?

I looked at my own work: a corpus of hit or miss jokes, griping about computers2, and retweets.

I like jokes. I like jokes more when I don’t have to fit them in under 140 characters. The rest… nobody needs to see those. I’d become a crazy person talking to himself on a park bench.

How did that happen?

4.

I remember when Twitter was fun. Before Oprah made it popular and Arab Spring made it “important” and armchair mobs got people fired for jokes (which is weird because the theory of comedy is called benign violation for a reason).

At the time it was about people talking to each other. The bigger it got, the noisier it got. Like a party that was great at the beginning of the night, but as the room filled up everyone was talking and you couldn’t really hear anyone and didn’t even recognize most of these people.

I’m told this is my fault. I need to curate better lists, or follow better people.

Maybe that’s true. But on the other hand, plenty of people have shut up or quit explicitly because Twitter won’t enforce it’s own harassment rules.

Twitter felt important the night the shit hit the fan in Ferguson. I’m from St. Louis. I stayed up and watched it unfold.

Six months later back in St. Louis, I had coffee with a friend. He was flustered with the way St. Louisans retreated into their corners immediately and with absolute certainty, before any of the ambiguities were cleared up. He’s not wrong. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about bad cops or programming frameworks. Certainty regardless of the facts is not a good thing; dogma is poison.

If we’re going to have an public discussion ecosystem that’s important to our work or our civilization, it has to embrace nuance and depth over bumper sticker one-liners.

It can’t be a Noise Machine™.

5.

Deactivate your account.

Click.

Is this goodbye? Are you sure you don't want to reconsider? Was it something we said?

Yes. Please. Deactivate @JasonTheVillain. May he, and his alleged evil ways, rest in piece.

Postmortem

I suppose, because it’s 2016 and I’ll probably crosspost this to Medium, that I should tell you how this changed my life for the better, and something about mindfulness. I need to explain the deeper meaning of life after hashtaggery.

But nothing really happens when you delete your Twitter. I read the news a few hours after it happens (the horror!)3, I miss the latest schoolyard drama about someone I’ve never met saying something that offends someone else I’ve never met, and it turns out all the programming blog posts and such were pretty useless anyway.

But my phone is a little quieter. So that’s good. Maybe yours should be too.


  1. And there will be no further mention of the election on this page, for everyone’s sake. 

  2. As they say, developers are people who hate computers for very specific reasons. (And yes, I first saw this joke on Twitter.) 

  3. Email newsletters are a great way to fill the gap when you stop using social media for news.