Death to Doomscrolling!

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!

Health and fitness, Tech, Thoughts

Enjoying a Twitter break.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Twitter for a while now. Long gone are the days when it was a place of curiosity where we would marvel at celebrities tweeting while stuck in a lift or when the most serious tweets revolved around what to have for tea.

Now the site feels like a hotbed of trolls, racists, and racist trolls (or the US President as he’s commonly known).

I have a tendency to over-think things and get fixated on topics. Which makes it really easy for me to get sucked down rabbit-holes of Twitter hashtags full of abuse, conspiracy theories, and total fuckwits. I also developed a habit of just sitting on Twitter as my default position, either on my phone on the train or sat on the sofa at work. All that exposure to the extremes of human opinion is not good for my mental health.

Two weeks ago I deleted the app from my phone and got rid of any Twitter and Tweetdeck bookmarks in my browsers. I could still go to the site, but it means I have to type the address in manually. A small, but critical step in preventing me just auto-piloting on to Twitter when my brain goes into neutral. So far it’s worked. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve dipped my toe back in and that was just for a few minutes or to read a specific tweet.

Has it helped? Has going cold turkey from Twitter improved my mood? Absolutely.

Aside from the obvious benefit, not being exposed to a whole lot of idiots and their opinions which make me feel angry, I’ve found myself making much more constructive use of my spare time at home. Picking up projects and hobbies I didn’t have time for recently and being a lot more available for interactions with the kids and my wife. In fact it’s not until doing an exercise like this that I realised just how bad I was for shutting everyone out while I sat idly scrolling through Twitter.

That’s not to say that quitting Twitter has cured me of any of my mental ailments, it hasn’t, but it does stop me from actively seeking out content online which is only going to make me sad, depressed, and angry. Which can only be self-destructive in the long-term.

Am I finished with Twitter completely? Well probably not. There are good people on Twitter and some genuinely good content to be found. At it’s very best it can be used to spread positive messages and wonderful frivolous fun moments. Lately though those pearls are much harder to find.

For now I’m staying clear but when I do return I’m going to have to do some heavy pruning of my followers list to change the kind of content I see on my feed. Until then I’m going to enjoy spending my time away from the gathering of the internet’s worst people and spend more time being creative, engaging with real people, and doing the things that actually make me happy.

I might even manage to start writing again.


Twitter Poems

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been using twitter as a platform for producing some very short pieces of quickly written poetry. Usually inspired by current events, or whatever is distracting me at my desk at that particular moment in time. The quality is patchy but there are a couple that I’m very happy with.

I’ve included a few that I like the most here. Follow me on twitter if you’re interested in seeing more or if you want to share your own short poems.