More-or-less disorganised thoughts on the difficulty of leaving Twitter

I’ve heard that Twitter is “hard to quit”.

But, no. I’m going to hard-disagree with that. Twitter is easy to quit. Lock your account, just stop posting, and after a while you simply forget it’s there.

It is, in fact, remarkably easy.

Listen to your elders, kids. The ones who burned through dozens of news groups in the 90s and VB forums in the 00s. They’ll tell you that the quitting part isn’t that hard. You can leave communities and websites behind. In fact, you’ve probably done it while in possession of a Facebook or Twitter account — you’ve just left a sub-community behind, a Facebook Group slowed to nothing, you started to forget to check in with your favourite hashtag as it began to bore you, that sort of thing. You almost certainly left something already, but the base of the URL just happened to stay the same.

I think we need to be honest about why it might feel hard to quit a big website like Twitter.

What’s hard to quit is that little dopamine rush you get when your notifications go haywire because your clout-chasing finally paid off and you got yourself a hit tweet.

What’s hard to quit is the FOMO from not continually refreshing a feed, because you accidentally re-wired your life to get news at random intervals from strangers who are clout-chasing for hit tweets instead of a healthier and, frankly, saner method for staying informed.

Does that sound smug and self-superior on my part? Yeah, probably.

Sure, communities are hard to leave behind if you’re forced to do so early, before they fizzle out with a natural end. But consider Twitter, you’re going to be in one of two situations.


A) You’ve got a small account, with few follows and followers. You’ve met and replied to and post at the key people you like to talk to. That’s easy to pick up again elsewhere. If you actually care about others, you’ll find another platform. If it’s community that you’ll miss, it takes no time at all to rebuild it elsewhere.


B) You’ve got a much bigger account, at least in terms of follower number. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions even. I’ve seen these people say that it’s the community that they’ll miss.

But… let’s be brutal, and frank, and honest, here. If you’re in that second category, are you really in a community of tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people? Do you really know the names of those 150k followers? Be real, here; you’re not. If you’re experiencing Twitter at that scale, you were at the centre of, and on the receiving end of, multiple parasocial relationships. You were getting that buzz from the endless on-tap attention that such a following grants you. You’re the person who could post a poop emoji and get a hundred likes in minutes. For you, it was never a two-way street of communal interaction, because the influence and power are so lobsided in your favour.

And, yes, it really is the case that on Twitter, followers equal power. That site can ruin lives the instant someone with 1M followers quote-tweets a regular person to say they’re wrong. Follower counts are leveraged to win arguments by sheer weight of numbers, in chasing that ratio and winning by numbers going up — and even the “good guys” do this. Some people get the hit of dopamine from the hit tweet sending notifications constantly, but the flip side is the dread that the little bell is going to show you, at best, just some offensive slurs.

The splash damage from that culture is very real, and not imaginary because the website is somehow virtual. It’s an extension of, or part of, the Real World, not a separate entity that is somehow free of consequence for the meat and blood humans typing those words.

For some people, yes, the high follower count has been a vital part of their job. Authors, artists, anyone who used it to simply broadcast their work and gain an audience. Fair enough. It’s not right that those people are going to have their livelihoods threatened because some dick with money to burn decided to fire all the staff, alienate advertisers, and ban accounts at the request of literal fascist trolls. But, also, if you were sensible, you shouldn’t have bought into one specific URL only and should have a diversified presence to fall back on. After all, Twitter was not your job, it was just one tool, of many possible tools, to help with it.

Everyone else…? Just get the fuck over yourself.


Go on, derp away...

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