Wednesday 12 May 2021

My problem with Twitter

One of my goals for May was to not go on Twitter. So far so good! But I thought I'd share a little bit more about why I wanted to make that my goal.

I've been using Twitter since 2011 when I opened up an account to use with my fledgling blog, as a way to share posts and connect with fellow bloggers. Over the years I've followed many people and gathered a reasonable number of followers myself, albeit mainly through hosting giveaways a few years back and making a follow one way of entering. 

But it turns out that, for me, Twitter is terrible for promoting my blog. I've spent hours scheduling several tweets per day in advance, I've been a part of groups that tweeted out each other's posts and I've sent extra tweets whenever I published a new post. Despite the fact that I do generally get some interaction if ask a question or tweet about something that I've been up to, it's very rare that someone actually clicks on these links, and it's definitely not worth the effort.

So I had been pretending that I was using Twitter 'for work' when the impact was negligible. I enjoy using Twitter to see what people are chatting about and to follow trends, but the truth is that my mindless scrolling had become a very negative influence on my mental health. I was experiencing guilt at not using my time more productively and I was unable to cope mentally with the huge amount of often contradictory information that I was absorbing. I could feel my anxiety increasing the longer that I scrolled, but I just wasn't able to turn away. 

Hands holding a phone and scrolling through Twitter
Photo credit Marten Bjork

There's always something new on Twitter and you never know what you might find. Even if you've read all the recent tweets from people you follow (of course you can never get to the actual end of your feed!) you can then go into the trends and find more tweets to read there. And if you get involved in a conversation you have to hang around and wait for replies, so you have more opportunity to scroll mindlessly.  

There is only lady in particular that I'd been following since my early blogging days. At the beginning of the pandemic she was retweeting informative tweets that put a positive spin on things. But gradually as the months have progressed her feed has spiralled into one filled with misinformation, not just about the pandemic but also covering vaccinations and the US elections, before moving on to debate over the various fringe QAnon conspiracy theories. 

It was like a car crash, and I just couldn't stop looking. I would go into her feed several times a day to see what the latest topic was, read the comments by her followers and the people she was following, while feeling my tension and anxiety rise by the minute. Even when I unfollowed her I could still find her feed by searching for her name and I just couldn't tear myself away.

So this was the final trigger that told me I needed to take a break from Twitter. I'm still allowing myself to follow a link to a tweet from a news source or if shared by a friend (I think that has happened once and I can't even remember what it was) as long as I don't click away from that tweet. 

And I know it's still early days, but I've not missed it at all. I just need to try my very best to make this new habit permanent, as I know how easy it would be to get sucked back in!

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