Seven months ago, with the first rumblings that Elon Musk might buy Twitter, I made the decision to pull back from the site, and use it only to alert people to things like the publication of my column or my television appearances.
I stopped checking every day. I stopped publishing original thoughts there. I stopped responding to other accounts. Twitter went from an integral part of my life to a tool I hardly used.
Now that Twitter is teetering, it seems worthwhile to let my readers know what the experience of walking away has been like.
Cutting back on Twitter changed my life ... for the better.
Twitter engagement, and most likely social media engagement writ large, changes behavior and maybe even the brain.
It took weeks for me to stop worrying that I was missing out on "the conversation," thinking that I had irrationally removed myself from "the town square." These were, in fact, classic withdrawal symptoms. I had been addicted. But because so many of the people around me shared that addiction, it felt completely normal.
At first, when I had thoughts about news I read or saw, it was hard not to immediately share those thoughts. But, as the weeks wore on, the wisdom of not sharing became increasingly clear to me.
Sitting with a thought, as thinkers have throughout human history, has its merits. The thought grows, is pruned, is shaped and sharpened. Thoughts benefit from being worked over and wrestled, from consideration and care.
Also, most of the trouble I have ever created for myself as a professional, I did by tweeting something that was ill considered or ill expressed in the heat of the moment.
So removing myself has been one of the smartest and healthiest things I've ever done.
I think that one day we will look back on this moment in human history with astonishment. Social media companies turned us all into an unpaid workforce, willingly producing free content because of our desperation to be seen, heard and liked.
We published our thoughts as they came to us, and strangers voted on those thoughts with likes. We came to crave likes. We began to chase them. We began to judge the value of our thoughts by them.
And for the social media companies, all this content was a product alongside which ads could be sold, personal data that would produce valuable consumer profiles.
Insecurity was monetized. Narcissism became a commodity.
Content, content, content.
If you weren't creating content, were you truly living? If you hadn't become a photographer, videographer, orator and comedian, what were you doing with your life? Were you odd, a dud or just old?
And so, social media became a collection of highlight reels, an opportunity to chase an idealized version of life that was a fraction of reality at best and a false reality at worse.
I had to change my relationship to social media to make it less toxic and less consuming. I had a real life to live in the real world. Doing it had to become more important than documenting it.
I like where I have landed on social media usage. I like that I no longer feel the need to post every day. I like that now I post only what I like. I like that I encounter less venom.
I don't know if Twitter will survive the Musk era, and the turmoil at the company does not concern me.
What I wanted to share with you was that you don't need Twitter -- or any social media -- nearly as much as you think you do. In fact, your life would likely feel much fuller if you too went on a strict Twitter diet.
The New York Times