I wrote in late 2019 about why I was deleting my personal Twitter account. This extract from Casey Newton’s newsletter perfectly captures my experience without the academic jargon I was leaning on to articulate it. My experience was that you either bleed time and energy into this dynamic or you feel like an asshole for ignoring people who misunderstand you:
Nowhere has this all been more true than on Twitter, Earth’s public chat room. Bringing together hundreds of millions of people into a text-based daily competition for attention has resulted in that familiar litany of problematic content: misinformation, influence operations, scams, harassment and abuse. Like its peers, Twitter removes a lot of that stuff. But what remains can be just as annoying or hurtful: the Reply Guy, the sea lion, and maybe worst of all, the quote-tweet dunker, who shows up in your timeline just to clown on you because your 280-character post failed to account for all forms of lived human experience.
The result is too often a social network that, to a user with even a moderately large following, feels booby-trapped. Whether you say the right thing or the wrong thing, it will inevitably get misconstrued by someone, and suddenly you’ve wasted an afternoon explaining yourself to people seemingly determined to misunderstand you.
I found the result utterly wearying, magnified by the status inconsistency of having I think the largest Twitter following in British sociology while nonetheless being a precariously employed postdoctoral researcher. Plus the well documented pressure to sustain your engagement if you’ve come to see your following as in some way important. Using a project account to sometimes engage has been a completely different experience because I don’t feel a personal investment in the interactions, leaving me feeling free to dip in and out as well as mute people liberally.