A confession: I used to do Twitter, but I don’t do Twitter anymore.
I didn’t want to do Twitter. Ever.
I have lived a full and, for the most part, good life without having to share a moment of that full, and for the most part, good life on Twitter or any other social media platform.
These days, I am a Twitter unicorn.
Still, about nine years ago, an editor in Ottawa I wrote for encouraged me to join Twitter because a few journalists – his friends – asked, on Twitter, why I was not on Twitter.
He was eager to have me “push” my stuff on Twitter so I could generate “more traffic” and “hits” for my weekly column back then.
More “hits” meant “more traffic.” “More traffic” usually translated into more “followers” on Twitter. Attracting more “followers” was going to make him, me and my “followers” happy that I was on Twitter.
I did not need or want to find happiness on Twitter. The prospect of having “followers” was strange and off-putting. I didn’t want or need anyone to “follow” me online. Read me: yes, please. Follow me: no thanks.
Anyway, reluctantly, I agreed to set up an account and “push” my missives on Twitter.
Hey, I might have been rewarded with a blue check mark. Validation. Status. Clout. Twitter can transform you from a nobody into a somebody – instantly.
Twitter can also help you build your “brand”. Maybe someday you can leverage your “brand” to make money. Lots of big-name journalists do it. Good for them, I suppose. Goodness knows, with so many jobs going poof, journalists need other ways to make a living. I was not interested in turning myself into a brand.
At first, I thought Twitter was harmless. I wrote a column. I “pushed” the column on Twitter. Soon, people began to “follow” me. Over time, I netted more “followers” – some of whom wrote kind and thoughtful tweets about me and my column. Others did not.
Slowly, I began to get sucked into the disfiguring vortex of Twitter. If you are on Twitter, you probably know what I am referring to. It is that place and state of mind that you can descend into on Twitter – consciously or subconsciously.
It is not a happy place, at all. It is a surly, mean, often ugly place and space where you write and do things that you may or may not regret having written or done. Perhaps not in the moment, but later on, when, if you are lucky, you take time to think and reflect upon what you have written or become on Twitter.
Like so many others on Twitter, you lash out, you strike back, you turn nasty, you aim to prick people deeply.
They reply in sad, equal measure. Some use their real names, others hide behind a nom de guerre.
You begin to attract even more “followers” who enjoy it when you lash out, strike back, and are nasty to or aim to prick a common foe.
They applaud and urge you on. They “like” and “retweet” your tweets. It is fuel. So, you tweet and tweet until, one day, you look up and see that you have spent hours inside the vortex. So much wasted time. You could have spent that time doing something much more valuable and rewarding like reading a book or enjoying a moment of stillness.
Then, you understand that, in a way, you have become addicted to this ephemeral thing called Twitter. It is an unhealthy, destructive addiction. You cannot wean yourself off. You quit. Cold Turkey. You are done with Twitter. Your tweets and “followers” disappear into the ether like a dusty gust of wind.