Should I rejoin Twitter?

In about 4 days my Twitter account will be deleted forever if I don’t login to the system. The widely reported failures afflicting the service as Musk guts the organisation mean I should probably log in before that if I want to ensure I have access. I was pretty sure I wanted to leave the hell site for good given the rewards I get from it (a vague sense of intellectual community, the opportunity to share provisional ideas and the capacity to promote my work) are things I can get elsewhere at a fraction of the mental energy which Twitter consumes. As someone who was in a meaningful sense addicted to the service – something which I think is true of many academics but is rarely talked about – it was difficult for me to post just one tweet. The act of engaging with the service always felt like it pulled me back in, leaving me thinking about the platform even after I had stepped away and stopped using it. This podcast captures something of my own experience in Inger Mewburn’s description of coming to realise the effect that Twitter micro-celebrity (the people who, almost by definition, disproportionately influence the debate about Twitter’s future) had on my psyche:

Starting new things – what are the pain points? On the reg

Inger's had Covid Bingo, where she scored almost every symptom in the book. Meanwhile Jason has been been out there, having a life, which involves a story about the physics of gumboots. It makes sense in context, we promise.Inger snippety doodah-ded our catch up a bit, but it's still kind of long, so if you want to skip it, go straight to (24:02) when we open Mailbag. We have our first message from Mastodon and Jason got recognised in the street. Thanks to @bron@aus.social, who wrote a nice pocket review of our Text Expander book. There's a discussion guide for for this week's topic: transitions (which starts at 30:15:09). We talk about the pain points of starting or starting again (which ended up being a topic suggested by PETA the pirate, who left a review – thanks Peta!). We go to many places in this discussion, from Monkey cortex sizes to Obsidian MOCs, university branded sweat shirts and horrible colleagues. Inger also reveals why you never use an apostrophe 's' when you write about The Australian National University (yes, it's really in the style guide).In our reading session (1:28:26) we talk about some books we've read and a little bit about generative AI, but decided to hold over a fuller discussion to next time. In our two minute tips section (1:37:34), Jason reminds us about the value of starting projects with 'Who, What, Where, Why and How' and Inger needs Jason's help with making check lists to deal with Covid brain fog…Things we mentioned on the show:Academic Assholes and the circle of nicenessWhat not to wear: the academic edition The Curated closetWhy so slow: the advancement of womenSecrets to winning at office politicsObject Secure by Nick LaveryBulldozed by Nikki SavaAnyList appCheckvist appMastodon app 'Toot!'Max QDAObsidianTalk to us on Mastodon @thesiswhisperer@aus.social and @jasondowns@ravenation.club (if you follow both of us you will see us chatting between episodes and can join our conversation).Leave a message http://www.speakpipe.com/thesiswhisperer You can support the pod by buying our Text Expander guide for academics from the Thesis Whisperer website.Thanks to Riverside.fm for supporting the show. We recommend Riverside for all your podcasting and remote recording needs: enter ONTHEREG for a 15% discount or use this link.
  1. Starting new things – what are the pain points?
  2. Twitter is a hot mess – do we have to start Tootin' on the Masty now?
  3. Where Jason and Inger go WAY too deep on Obsidian
  4. Building a second brain (for writing)
  5. The 80/20 principle: is this book bullshit?

What made this difficult for a long time was the sense that Twitter brought something to my intellectual life which I would otherwise miss. However it occurred to me recently that the impulse to share ideas via Twitter might actually foreclose other avenues through which those ideas could be developed, as well as bring collateral costs which might impact the development of your thinking elsewhere. The promotional opportunities Twitter offers are still available to me to a certain extent through the group accounts I manage, as well as LinkedIn and my blogs. It’s hard for me to see why I should remain on the service. The point Cal Newport makes in Digital Minimalism seems obviously true to me in retrospect, summarised from my notes:

We tend to only focus on the value which digital tools bring us and not recognise the losses which come with them. For example if you spend ten hours on Twitter per week the limited benefits it returns (e.g. new connections, exposure to interesting ideas) are likely outweighed by this time. He suggests going to an interesting talk every month and chatting to three people when there.

If I’m honest I came to regret it the first time I deleted my Twitter account but that was because (a) there was a global pandemic a few months later which left me legally confined to my house (b) once I pursued a traditional academic career the social capital @mark_carrigan brought with me would have been much more useful to me than it was as a freelancer and post-doc. When I rejoined in November 2021, a couple of months into my first lectureship, I told myself it was a reflective judgement made for reasons of career planning. But if I’m honest it was just as much because I missed being seen and heard online. However no longer being the most followed person in my discipline created an experience of Twitter which I couldn’t then replicate, leaving me with a strange disjunct between my embodied expectations and the reality of using it. It’s an odd experience which I haven’t really enjoyed, with instrumental considerations tangled up with affective ones, neither of which I was particularly comfortable with.

If it makes me uncomfortable and I don’t think it’s as useful as imagined, at least once you consider the opportunity costs involved, it raises the question of why would I continue to use it?

I was struck that Inger doesn’t plan to actually delete her account which makes it something like a soft retirement from the platform. I think I will let mine lapse just because I can’t bring myself to log back into it and revive it because of everything Twitter now represents to me. The fact that Twitter might be dead within a week makes that decision easier than it would otherwise be.

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