I've recently curtailed my Twitter activity. It started with a week off, which turned into about 3 weeks after practically forgetting about the service. Well, that's not entirely true. I was well aware of it, mostly through articles I read that referenced a Tweet for purposes of the article lead or some kind of supplimental. I was, however, not driven to log in. I would occasionally click on one of those embedded tweets to see more by the user or read the conversation thread, but I never signed in nor logged back in to check my own feed. Honestly, after about a week I was turned off by the idea of going back to it, the feed, or the flood as I now think of it. WhenI finally logged back in today the first thing I did was unfollow everyone I didn't know IRL. That really felt good, and on a quick browse surfaced activity from friends that I had no clue were active (Twitter's algorithm at work?).
I came to the realization that I was using Twitter for my news, and way more than I could've imagined. Twitter has been known to be "great" for being the first place find out about things breaking in the world, everything from celebrity deaths to the worst this world has to offer, but far too much of Twitter is reactionary. This is not news to anyone who has used Twitter for any length of time and has followed at least one person outside their IRL circle, and I have been caught in it at least a few times. Retweeting something that was an emotional reaction to something said and having to delete or retract it moments later as I read through the thread of the retweet is embarrassing, even if you're sure none of your followers saw it. Makes you feel stupid, or at least it did me. I then try to be better about [not] doing it. Then I think about it more, now especially, and realize how much of my tweeting is retweeting. Yikes, that must be annoying to anyone that follows me and is actually paying attention.
I consume news in several ways. I have my RSS feeds, which I've had for years. I follow some specific sites with content that I know interests me, sources of tech and other news that I trust. I recently subscribed to The New York Times digital because of their excellent coverage of current events and some of the best editorial I've read anywhere for non-tech topics. I've also picked up on Medium more, with news as well as random interests. I check Reddit randomly, but that's more for entertainment than it is news. I have several great podcasts I listen to. The great thing about all these sources? The severe lack of hostile discourse. Many of the sources do have commenting systems, but I rarely look at those, and when I choose to I can just go away if things get childish. Twitter for a long time, and even more now with the coverage of our new president, is just hateful, vile and depressing, and very frequently brought me down when I would just browse my feed. Besides, with all these other sources, why did I even need it? To catch some breaking thing, that I would have to be browsing anyway to catch? My time away proved I didn't need it, and found I was much happier without it. Twitter does, however, have value, which is why I went back today and pruned my follower list.
Social media is powerful and important, but what I've found is I don't need, nor do I really want, to be connected to every person and thing that interests me. Instagram has become a nice place to follow some celebrities and other personalities because pictures always seem to bring an immediate joy (except when they post text, in which case they get unfollowed). Twitter can be a feed of such vile, hateful, and depressing things, but you can control it, and that's what I'm starting to do. I might actually look forward to checking Twitter once a day, verus used to feeling the need to check it regularly throughout the day. I dumped Facebook years ago because of that, should've realized the similarities in Twitter sooner. If something goes up on Twitter that's really that important I'll hear about it shortly thereafter, either via a friend, or one of my preferred sources, filtered in a way that I trust. Twitter may get some things first, but what is the value of knowing about it seconds/minutes before someone else? To me, nothing.