So towards the beginning of this year, a colleague of mine walked into the office and announced that he’d quit both Facebook and Twitter. The decision immediately struck me as drastic, but as time moved on I too became increasingly irritated with looking at the unsolicited family photos and reading the asinine political opinions of nearly-forgotten high school acquaintances and random people I’d happened to have had a friendly chat once at a wedding rehearsal dinner.
Younger, more tech savvy people advised me to create filters in Facebook but as I went to do that, I weighed out the time it would take to make those filters against the actual joy I think I would ever get out of using Facebook and decided just to stop using it.
Months passed and I began to feel similar rumblings towards Twitter. Upsetting shit kept happening in the world and reading the opinions of the great unwashed masses was starting to dampen my mood and make me cynical. I thought to dump Twitter and discussed it with a friend who reminded me that there was still some business value there if I could put in some structure, prune my follows, create lists — basically not let it get as far gone as I’d allowed things to get in Facebook. So I took that advice to heart and began making it more manageable for myself. Here is what I did:
I Deleted the Twitter App from My Phone
I was recently on vacation and midway through I realized I was using Twitter as my main source of news. Forget about major world events, according to Twitter a Taylor Swift beef was really what demanded my attention before I even brushed my teeth. It was ridiculous. I found that when I deleted the damned app from my phone not only did I not go to it for news but I felt less inclined to tweet out knee-jerk responses. Using it on the mobile web browser is not a fun experience so I tend to only tweet when I am at a laptop and when I am at a laptop I usually have more important stuff to do than sit on Tweetdeck.
I Stopped Responding to Randos I Disagreed With on the Internet
I know some people kinda have no choice or that engagement is part of their brand, but talking to people I don’t know about things I don’t agree with them about is not my idea of a good time. I’ve received a fair bit of cyber bullying in the past and I would never victim blame, but I find that making Twitter bearable for me means trying to only tweet things in agreement with people I already like and leaving the other people alone.
I Stopped Looking at Trending Topics
Madness lies that way. I just don’t want to know what the majority of Twitter thinks is popular and I don’t think it’s a nice way to find out that a celebrity you liked died or did something heinous.
I Stopped Clicking Hashtags
If a certain term seems to continuously reappear in my timeline, I will look it up in Google News. I’ve just clicked on enough hashtags at this point to realize that it can just be an abyss. And we all know what Nietzsche says about the abyss, right?
I Participated in More Structured/Safe Online Communities
As a person that has been a “net native” since pre-AOL days, I know there are always warm and welcoming places on the web and I continue to seek them out. I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to many wonderful Slack groups with nice people who treat each other respect. I also (snicker if you want) still maintain a Livejournal where I follow (and am followed by) an intimate group of people, many of whom are my friends IRL. I also maintain a private Instagram where I can share and follow images of people doing happy things with people they love and respect.
I hope that this list has been helpful and helps you to find a healthy medium for yourself, since the digital options are dizzying and can get dangerously habit-forming and mood altering (to say the least!). I’m a big girl. I don’t need every minute to be a “kumbaya moment” and I know no place (online or in fleshspace) is perfect, but life is too short to spend time in places that are unpleasant because you think that one day there will be some sort of pay-off (I kinda wrote about that here). So whenever possible, I see what I can do to make a situation work for me, but when I can’t it’s important to remember that the welcome mat is always laid out for me elsewhere in the nets.