Apparently I’ve been on Twitter for 12 years. For a lot of that time it’s been a positive thing. A way to chat with friends, or keep track of favoured musicians, writers etc. and what they’re up to. There have been a lot of cat videos liked in that time. But over the last 6 or 7 years it’s also been a key source of news and political gossip. Which is great, if you don’t mind being swamped by people’s angry opinions every time you open your phone or sit at a laptop.
A couple of years ago, probably not long after the Brexit vote, I got so fed up with being constantly reminded how much of a shitshow things were that I decided to curate my Twitter feed to something more positive. I unfollowed most political pundits and the people who filled my feed the most with content which just made me angry, sad or anxious. I replaced them with more musicians, writers and accounts related to things that interest me in a positive way – like environmental scientists (as I’m studying this with the Open University).
Gradually, as the twin disasters of Trump and Brexit came to a crescendo, followed by the apocalyptic events of 2020’s global pandemic, the pendulum on my timeline swung back to politics and current affairs. I couldn’t help it. It turns out that musicians, writers and a lot of other people all have thoughts about the depressing shit that’s going which they have to share on Twitter! I started following political pundits again and actively started seeking out accounts which kept me up to date with just how big a mess our government were making of things. Then I spent most of my spare time, and a large chunk of time that I didn’t have spare, scrolling forever down this timeline of unrelenting doom.
Unsurprisingly I also found I had problems with general anxiety again for the first time in a couple of years. Now, this might not just be due to my Twitter use, but I don’t think it helped. Every time I found myself scrolling through Twitter I didn’t find myself being cheered up, or relaxed. It wasn’t a positive experience in any way and I was spending HOURS doing it. That’s time I could spend doing things that were fun instead! Or at least studying for my degree or even working at my dayjob…
So a couple of weeks ago I deleted the Twitter bookmark from my browser, uninstalled the app from my phone and posted a short message saying I was taking a break. You know what? It’s been brilliant. I haven’t missed doomscrolling at all. I’ve managed to get my current uni assignment completed in plenty of time. I’ve hit the ground running at a new bit of work for my day job. I’ve fallen down numerous YouTube rabbit holes. I’ve spent more time actually engaging with my kids! I found time to pick up some instruments and strum some music again. But most importantly, I’ve felt a lot better mentally.
Now I’m still interested in how shit the government are at managing a public health crisis and all the other things that I was so keen to keep to date with before. But now if I want to find out what’s happening I have to make a deliberate effort to go to a news site and seek it out. It’s not just constantly picking away at my mood as I scroll, and scroll, and scroll, and scroll.
The other thing I’ve realised is that Twitter just doesn’t matter. It’s completely irrelevant to most people. For all the anger, the hate and the ridiculous rhetoric that floods Twitter, none of it makes any difference to the vast majority of people outside of it. If you are expressing an opinion on Twitter you have already 100% made up your mind on it and you will not be changing it for anyone, thank you very much. Yet no matter how correct you may be, or how much of an expert in your field you are, or how innocuous the comment, there will be people on Twitter who will hunt you down and shout about how wrong you are right in your online face. That’s not good.
I used to be quite firm in my opinions. I still am really, but I’m very much reluctant now to express my thoughts anywhere online because discussions about almost anything have been poisoned by Twitter and it’s endless tide of sealioning users. I don’t have the energy to spare arguing with people and getting into conflict with others stresses me out. So instead I just sit online, quietly tweeting about not very much at all and wonder what the point of it is.
To hell with it. I’m better off without it, I even found time to write a feckin blog post! I’ll keep my account (I still want to occasionally retweet cat videos) but the bookmark is staying deleted and I’m not going to reinstall the app. Death to doomscrolling!