A few weeks ago, I had to end a relationship. We’ve been close for six years. We’d been all over the world together and shared some incredible memories. They knew all about what I thought, my dreams for a better world, my political leanings and my sense of humour. They knew just how to make me laugh.
It just got to the point where I couldn’t go on any further. Where at first, we had robust conversations and I couldn’t predict what they were going to say, they didn’t like this. They started to agree with me. On everything. Then they started telling me things I felt I should agree with, even if I wasn’t exactly sure how true it was. They introduced me to a lot of new ideas, but after a while I felt like I was being told the same thing repeatedly, just in different words. Their sense of humour moved slowly from wacky and absurd to caustic and shameful. They talked a lot about people, mostly famous people and how stupid or selfish they were. I really had to ask them to try and tone it down. A lot of their stories were laced with schadenfreude and left me feeling uneasy after we’d parted ways.
I tried to cut down on the time we spent together as I knew it wasn’t healthy, but I was entertained and kept busy, and they saved me from boredom. From myself. My mental health suffered as I became dependent. When we weren’t together, I was constantly thinking about what they were saying when I wasn’t there.
But it was time to go – things weren’t healthy, and I didn’t like myself when we were together. I prioritised them over other people that were with me, other conversations and relationships. I hesitated for a while because I’d already put so much time in to make this thing work – to leave was to say that all that was a waste. But I just couldn’t keep going.
So, I deleted my Twitter account.
Now, you probably saw that coming. Making the jump has been on my mind for a while. And I will miss great parts of it, for sure. I do miss the hilarious animal gifs and genuinely funny, original jokes. But the costs outweighed the benefits – I came to see the toll on my mental health, how I prioritised my online presence at the sake of relationships in front of me, and most chillingly, the echo chamber of ideas I was sucked in to. It suddenly made sense when I heard Sally Kohn say this in her discussion with Erick Erickson: “The left, by and large, is nicer to humanity in general but not people in specific, and conservatives are nicer to people in specific but not humanity in general.” That is exactly what I experienced in my time with Twitter.
Pointing holes in someone’s argument and speaking truth to power happened… It just came at the expense of civil dialogue. The stories of reconciliation and forgiveness were far fewer than the acerbic finger-pointing and vehement disagreements I saw. I could see how confirmation bias, the false consensus effect and anchoring were colouring my ability to hear the value in other people’s opinions and stories and think for myself.
To reinforce how much of my time spent on this platform was sucked, I ran some numbers and estimate that over the last six years, I’ve spent over thirty-three days just scrolling through my Twitter feed. That number floored me.
So what do I have to show for it? What tweets can I remember of the top of my head that have helped me? Who has left a lasting impression?
There’s only one Tweet I can think of that has changed my behaviour in a positive way, over the course of reading millions of them, and it’s this one here.
I think about this tweet when I’m about to do something scary, and Vivian’s philosophy has inspired me to go for opportunities I didn’t think I deserved, as well as have the courage to keep writing this blog.
I’m thankful for that, and for the fun and distraction, but it was time.
Time to prioritise the people in front of me.
Time to cultivate a longer attention span.
Time to find out how to get my news from more diverse sources.
Time to learn how to respect and talk with people I disagree with.
Time to read more books.
Time to put on my shoes and get out the door.
Time to figure out what I think.
Time to write more.
Time to stop hiding.