There was a window of about three years when Twitter genuinely seemed like an incredible, transformative force in my life. I’d connected with a number of people via Facebook, but that kind of thing always felt a bit ephemeral and distanced – Twitter was instantaneous, and immersive, like dunking your head in a bucket of conversation. It was addictive and compulsive, and between 2009–2012 it was wonderful. I made friends, I had unexpected conversations, and it genuinely felt like social media was making my life better.
Of course, things change. I had a rough patch in 2012, and social media played into that a little. It’s also sometimes rough when you’re trying to be a writer, and you’re following a lot of the writing/publishing world on Twitter, and every moment seems to deliver another example of someone doing better than you – getting a book deal, finishing a book, making lots of friends. Twitter started feeling more like being at a very crowded party where there’s plenty of conversations happening, but very few are actually happening to you.
Plus, the landscape of social media has changed a lot in the last few years. There are certain points where I’ll have things that I could say on social media, but I don’t because I don’t want the potential hassle. I’ve seen a lot of toxicity and weirdness, and most of the time I’ve ended up thinking that I simply don’t want it – I’d far rather be a little quieter and less controversial, and not be shouting my every opinion from the rooftops.
I trimmed down the list of people that I followed. Then I trimmed it some more. There were still points where it would make me unhappy – whether it was clicking on a depressing article being circulated on Facebook, or witnessing whatever outrage was being complained about on Twitter. And then, about two months ago, I reached a point where I said, “I’m taking a break.” I wasn’t going to make a big thing. I was just taking a break from Twitter and Facebook, and seeing how long I wanted to stay away.
It’s two months, and I’m not heading back yet. I’ve occasionally had a very quick check-in, especially over the last week – it’s rather like peering through a door at a room that you know is haunted by violent poltergeists – and I haven’t seen anything that’s made me want to go back. Especially in the wake of the EU Referendum, social media is just somewhere I don’t want to be right now. And that’s okay.
To the few genuine friends/acquaintances I’ve made on Twitter and Facebook – it’s nothing personal. This is just something I’ve got to do for my mental well-being. I’ll probably be back on them eventually – but right now, I’ve got enough to worry about in the world. Staying away from Twitter and Facebook is making my mental headspace just a little bit clearer, and making me happier. And right now, that’s all that matters.