On leaving social media… and coming back

About 6 weeks ago, I decided to delete all of my social media accounts (except I deleted my Facebook account years ago, because I think it’s creepy, and Mark Zuckerberg hates his users. I also deleted LinkedIn before this, because for my profession there are better ways to connect; like github. But I did delete my, Twitter, Reddit, and Google Plus accounts.

Every social network has its ups and down, and I could probably write a post about what I dislike about each of them, but ultimately, it came down to this: I thought I was wasting too much time. That is definitely an oversimplification – there are also privacy and ownership concerns, and it was an attempt at digital minimalism, but really it was just taking up too much of my time. I compulsively check Twitter. I’ve literally checked it, closed the app, and then immediately reopened it and checked it again, because something shiny distracted me for three seconds and I forgot that I had just checked it.

I thought my problem was Twitter, when really it was just a focus problem. Even after discovering that, I didn’t reactivate my account right away. Ultimately, though, what brought me back was what I liked about Twitter to begin with: the people.

Most of my close friends and a bunch of my family are on Twitter. Since I don’t use Facebook, and I am terrible at regular communication through email or phone calls, Twitter is where I go to keep in touch. Also, although I strongly discourage Twitter as an RSS replacement, it’s still a really great way to find interesting stuff on the internet that I may not have found otherwise. Sure, Reddit is great for that, but Reddit works because you pick the stuff you want to see. Through retweets, and following a diverse group of people, I see stuff through Twitter that would have never shown up in the RSS feeds I read, or my Reddit account (when I still had one).

I haven’t resolved the focus problem, but Twitter didn’t cause that; it just brought it to light. When I was off Twitter, I was still easily distracted – I just wasn’t distracted by Twitter.

It’s worth noting that I deleted more accounts than just Twitter, but the focus of this post is Twitter. That’s because I didn’t reactivate my account at all, and I only reactivated my Google Plus account because it’s practically impossible to be anywhere in the Google ecosystem now without having a Google Plus account (which, in my opinion, is a great reason to hate Google Plus, and to abandon Google outright).

I’m a big fan of trying to get rid of stuff I think is important, in order to see how important it really is. This extends to Stuff (as I’ve blogged about before), and also relationships; devices; services; and, in this experiment, social networks. There’s a quote that I love, which is commonly attributed to Winston Churchill, that has come up a lot recently in my life. It’s about politics, but it easily translates into many other facets of life. “Democracy is the worst form of government; except for all the others.” Replace a couple of words, and you get a pretty good idea of what I think about Twitter: “Twitter is the worst form of social networking; except for all the others.”

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