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RIP My Twitter Account (2009-2022)
when Twitter fingers become trigger fingers
After months (perhaps years) of having an addictive relationship with Twitter, I deleted my account last summer. It was not the first time I decided to take a break from the platform. In the summer of 2010, I took an extended break from Twitter while enduring the struggles of a broke 20-something. I could no longer afford to live in my apartment and had to move in with my sister, sharing a bedroom with my 14-year-old niece. My car broke down, which made commuting between work and school arduous, especially in cold Minnesota winters. My mental health plummeted, and I eventually dropped out of school and ultimately gave up on pursuing my Social Science Degree; I needed to focus on my survival. At the time, Twitter was relatively nascent, and the platform functioned differently than today. Back in the days of #FollowFriday, my timeline felt like a tight-knit public group chat. We engaged with other Twitter users as if they were our actual friends and not simply accounts representative of beliefs we either agreed or disagreed with. It was not yet a norm to engage with people for the sole purpose of debating.
The gap between my Twitter and IRL communities was so narrow that I collaborated with a few friends to curate an event called "Tweet and Meet," where we linked up with other Black Twitter users in the Twin Cities area. Because of the tight-knit nature of how I operated online and my tendency to talk about my thoughts and how my day was going, I didn't feel I could authentically engage with my digital community while enduring the shame of my hardships. Even back then, I knew that Twitter was not a safe space to be vulnerable or the best use of my time when I was in a painful period of growth.
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What once felt like sitting at a high school cafeteria table immersed in a mixture of conversations amongst friends now feels like a cacophony of cheers, boos, chants, and stray bullets in an overcrowded stadium.
Since then, Twitter has morphed into something almost unrecognizable from what it once was. Aside from expanding and changing its features to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of social media (remember Fleets?), its ethos feels much different than what initially drew me to the platform. When Twitter changed to make liked tweets appear on the timeline to your followers, it gradually became open season on any thought or opinion you expressed that rubbed strangers you've never engaged with the wrong way. What once felt like sitting at a high school cafeteria table immersed in a mixture of conversations amongst friends now feels like a cacophony of cheers, boos, chants, and stray bullets in an overcrowded stadium.
I didn't have the urge to return to Twitter within the 30-day grace period it gives you before permanently deactivating your account. In previous years, I'd find myself deleting the app, only to go login on mobile and still scroll. I had become a Twitter addict, and like many addicts, I reached the point where using didn't even feel good anymore. In the years since 45 was in office, Twitter has become an increasingly triggering place. Waking up and scrolling my timeline felt like stepping on pseudo-intellectual landmines. I'd start my day feeling annoyed instead of giving that time to myself to read, meditate or find other ways to ease into my day clearheaded. It reminds me of that line from "Captain Hook" by Megan Thee Stallion "Okay, you woke up mad at me 'fore you even brush your teeth" --- that was me and my relationship with Twitter.
Taking time away from the platform more intentionally made me realize my attachment to it was fueled by something deeper than my issues with the platform itself. After all, I didn’t have to be annoyed by my timeline to the point where it put me in a funky ass mood for the day, so why was I? If I’m being honest with myself, my annoyance came from feeling like I had no power over changing the minds of the ignorant — but why did I need that power? Why not focus on sharing information with people who actually want to receive it? Why not be the change I want to see in the world instead of wasting my energy being mad at people who don’t see an issue with the status quo?
Twitter opened up old wounds related to my self-expression. It was a crutch that gave me a sense of validation in my personal beliefs, ideas, and, to a higher degree, my right to have my own opinions. As a child, I earned the nickname "Wealth of Information," aka "Wealthy," from one of my aunts. I was what many would call a know-it-all (how much can one know as a kid, though?). In my early adulthood, I gained a more robust perspective on social issues through a Black feminist lens. I got a reputation for being extremely outspoken online, often being labeled an "angry Black woman" and "man-hater" (the latter was given to me by another aunt; it be your own people). I internalized this feedback, and it influenced my need to speak out in spaces like Twitter, where there were like-minded people that didn't make me feel gaslit for formulating an informed opinion. However, I came to learn in my most recent years as a Twitter user that expressing opinions on a public platform leaves them subject to being challenged by anyone ranging from trolls, contrarians, scholars, or people who simply know more than you do. It left me confused about where I stood within the spectrum of social media discourse. I knew I was more intelligent than people who refused to think critically about anything, but I also knew way less than people whose life work involved studying and creating a language for things I had only just begun contextualizing.
A big part of the issue with how exchanges happen on Twitter now is that too often, they feel like knee-jerk jabs from people who feel attacked by other people’s tweets (even when commentary isn’t directed toward them), they serve as a way to taunt people with opposing ideologies in order to regain some sense of intellectual superiority.
What started as a Twitter break to gain more restraint over my responses and internal reactions to opinions that I found harmful, myopic, or lacking in empathy evolved into craving more intellectual input and reserving my output for spaces where mutual respect is the foundation. It’s not that I was trying to actually be a know-it-all, but I was humbled into taking a step back to think and listen more before speaking and being very selective about who I speak to. A big part of the issue with how exchanges happen on Twitter now is that too often, they feel like knee-jerk jabs from people who feel attacked by other people’s tweets (even when commentary isn’t directed toward them), they serve as a way to taunt people with opposing ideologies in order to regain some sense of intellectual superiority. Seldom do people have that same energy for folks they disagree with in real life. I would even argue that many people take their frustrations out on random Twitter users because they cannot do that to people they actually know. It all is counterproductive, and instead of expanding minds, it allows people to double down on anything they’ve been challenged to reconsider. In some ways, it feels like the pendulum has swung. We can credit Twitter for giving us more exposure to other people’s experiences and what oppresses them (“woke” which is an AAVE term, was co-opted on and popularized by Twitter), but now it’s chiefly a platform to invalidate folks who are marginalized in ways ultra privileged people will never understand (hence politicians literally trying to make “anti-woke” a thing).
Despite what Twitter #discourse may lead you to believe, being informed is not a competition, and I've learned that it serves me more to lead with a desire to learn and understand; my desire to express myself was purely fuel for my ego. This shift in perspective doesn't mean that I don't have opinions or will never express them, but I'm letting them marinate these days. It's almost like I'm permanently courting my thoughts and ideas. I'm taking my time getting to know them and have yet to develop a deep attachment to them. I've stopped over-identifying with my thoughts because, in doing so, I create more space to expand and evolve my perspective beyond what I know in this present moment.
Despite what Twitter #discourse may lead you to believe, being informed is not a competition, and I've learned that it serves me more to lead with a desire to learn and understand; my desire to express myself was purely fuel for my ego
These days, I'm less up-to-date on trending topics because I'm curating my news cycle on my own. I see less commentary from trolls and contrarians, and when I do, I keep scrolling. I read a lot more books because my screen time has decreased. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and it feels really good to nurture and pour into it. In the current sociopolitical climate, this may seem too passive. We are in dire times, and using our voices for good is necessary and transformative, but it’s not enough to just speak. I want to do more of the work and be heard and understood, which requires expanding my knowledge base and rebuilding my voice from scratch. There will likely be a time when I've taken enough space to contemplate privately and feel more comfortable and empowered to be outspoken again. However, I don't see Twitter being the forum for that (more than likely, it’ll happen gradually in this newsletter). Given my history, sensitivities, and the areas I'm growing in, this choice is an intentional step towards self-preserving and cultivating a more peaceful existence both online and in the real world.
So! If you've missed engaging with me on Twitter, know I'm accessible, just not how I used to be. I usually sign off this newsletter by saying catch me on these digital streets, but I think you know where you can find me this time.
A recovering Twitter addict
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