Should I stay or should I go?
I quit Twitter a couple of years back. I’d been on it since 2011 and had built a decent-sized community of web developers, accessibility advocates, political progressives, and a healthy mix of friends and previous co-workers. Conferences and professional events were fun, as it made for a nice list of new follows and let me reach out to celebrate peoples’ work when I was much, much too nervous to speak with them in person.
Like many other things in life, the taint of Trump, wafting up from down South, made Twitter utterly unbearable. Mind you, the platform has been a hive of scum and villainy for years prior - but MAGA really opened the floodgates of people believing (correctly, as it would mostly seem) that they’d no longer be judged for their awful, bigoted views.
2016-2018 was a bad stretch for doom scrolling. It impacted my family life, my sleep, my level of irritation and radicalization — really, it was just generally awful all around. So, I left. I deleted my Twitter account and ditched all the community I had been building for years. I also deleted Instagram and locked down privacy and sharing on Facebook.
Flash forward to mid 2020, and I’m tuning in for #ID24, the annual free online inclusive design conference. Every single speaker would put up their Twitter handle at the end of a talk and nudge the conversation into that sphere. For the first major time since leaving, I really, really missed the positives of Twitter.
So, reluctantly, I signed back up and regained my old @belwerks handle pretty easily. I immediately started following and engaging with everyone in attendance or speaking at the conference. Many of them were people I’d previously followed and/or interacted with on the platform. It was nice.
One key difference this time around has been the establishment of some ground rules. I won’t follow companies, political figures, celebrities, or really any other avenues of blatant marketing and promotion. I will also never log into Twitter on my phone again. Or laptop. It stays on my iMac desktop, where I have to go to my study and fire it up on purpose. Same with Facebook.
I quickly built up a nice, positive feed of accessibility advocates and inclusive designers. Coincidentally, this also wound up with a progressive-minded feed, as far as political opinions go. Funny how that works, eh? It’s almost like compassion and empathy correlates with a particular side of the political spectrum…
It’s still impossible to avoid politics altogether - as I care deeply about human progress, equality, and justice, as well as investigative and ethical journalism. I still have doom scrolling moments - especially during the recent insurrection attempt - but it’s easier to step away when it isn’t on my phone or any other portable device. I recommend the same for everyone else.
In light of all this, you might notice a Twitter icon in my social links and a “keep the discussion going” shout-out at the bottom of every post now. I likely won’t respond right away (or at all, if you’re a dick about it), but I’m hoping it’s a good way to keep up the positive, communal aspects of this often-heinous platform.