Many years ago, BC (before coronavirus), twitter was a massive time sink for me. I was not a prolific tweeter, but I did read a lot of what other people put up. I wrote a while ago about some of the steps I was taking, trying to cut down on how much time I spent there.
Earlier this year, after musk decided he was going to purchase twitter, I decide that enough was enough and deigned to stop using it entirely. And recently, after he tried to weasel out of it, he completed his purchase. That gave me the final push to deactivate my account entirely.
And it got me thinking. Now that I’m not using it at all, what am I missing, do I feel the need to go back, and what is it I want.
If you’re interested in deactivating your account, there are a couple of things I would suggest doing beforehand.
- Make sure to download a copy of your data archive. It’s your data, and you should have control over it. Having a record of what you used on the platform is important. For example, if you wanted at a later date to ensure twitter really did delete your data, you have a record to compare against. You may also have uploaded photos only to twitter and might want to find them later. You might also want to re-open old connections on a different platform.
- If you don’t want a record of everything you’ve ever done, you might want to visit archive.org and ask them to remove personally identifying tweets. Usually they like to archive everything, but for personal accounts they make accommodations. They require proving you own an account before doing this, so this needs to be done while the account is still active.
Once I had done all this I went through the accounts I follow to try to find ones that actually made interesting and engaging tweets. No offence to anyone I used to follow, but a majority of tweets are inconsequential and I never think about them afterwards. But many people I followed also had other websites and locations where they kept the “cream of the crop” of their art or thoughts.
Many will have made publications elsewhere. Either as written books or articles. I made a note of these people’s names, and bookmarked their websites[∞] that way I could find them again and check in every now and then to see if they’ve published anything new.
A lot of users also have personal blogs. What often surprises me if that many of the users who have more interesting and lasting comments to make do so in long “threads” – many tweets chained together. When the users of a micro-blogging platform are basically just regular-blogging all the time, you have to wonder where the utility of the platform lies. I added the RSS feeds of these people’s real blogs[∞], and these are useful, even if some of them mostly just mirror what they tweet[∞] in a more readable and open fashion.
Artists and photographers often put their works onto twitter as a way to publish them. But I find that a constant drip-feed every day of this kind of work isn’t a particularly enjoyable way to view it. So instead I worked to find their portfolios of finished work[∞], that way every now and then I can bask and take time to enjoy what they’ve made. I find mindfully looking at paintings[∞], rather than scrolling past them, is far more meaningful.
I followed many artists that published webcomics on twitter. Twitter is an absolutely awful format for webcomics. I have found much better sources on other dedicated webcomic sites[∞], tumblr[∞] and even the odd artist that maintains their own website[∞].
For personal contacts, twitter is simply no good. It’s a network that works at its most efficient when everything is public, and I don’t want my personal interactions to be public. It had a DM function, but that was never as useful compared to old fashioned email, or other direct messaging apps like signal.
Things I Miss
Travel news is probably the biggest issue. Some of my local public transport routes have websites and apps that can update issues in real time, but the biggest local bus provider exclusively notifies of issues on twitter. This is a real pain, and for a public service really ought not to be allowed. I use nitter[∞] to check on that without needing a twitter login.
A public facing access point to companies and brands can make it easier to get immediate help than even their own dedicated support services. In the early days this helped me get an OEM to repair a faulty laptop almost immediately. However because things are much more congested now, if you really want it you need to shout above all the other users, so this is less helpful now.
The connected network, and the means to discover new things, is quite difficult to reproduce. Thinkers quote each other and let you find new viewpoints. Artists share works made by others and let you find new niches you may enjoy. Some people have periodical newsletter[∞] to share this kind of thing, and that helps, but that is rare and it is doesn’t quite have the same impact. Other social networks[∞] and forums dedicated to particular niches[∞] fill the gap quite well.
Things I don’t miss and am glad to be rid of
- The ethical quandary of being a part of big tech, and now big musk’s, machine.
- “The conversation” around whatever inane nonsense is trending on any particular day.
- Yet another advertising stream where whoever pays the most can bombard me.
- A compulsion to have an opinion on everything, and getting angry while doing so.
- Freeing up the part of my mind that thinks “that would make a good tweet”.
- News. I’ll read the news when I want, not when it gets fed to me.
- A hands-off approach to content moderation.
- Finding out that people who you followed for one thing have unpleasant attitudes to everything else.
Hopefully this is an interesting insight to our own little network here on vivaldi.net. Are you on twitter? Do you like it? Or were you never on it in the first place? Leave a comment.