I have no new or original ideas to share about Twitter, nor about Elon Musk’s acquisition of it, but I enthusiastically recommend a couple of posts that came across my inbox this week.
I’ll just highlight a few portions from each one and offer brief commentary.
Many people don’t want to quit because they worry: without my Twitter account, who will listen to me? In what way will I matter to the world beyond my apartment, my office, my family? I believe these hesitations reveal something totally unrelated to Twitter. I don’t have words for it, exactly, but if you find yourself fretting in this way, I will gently suggest that it’s worth questing a bit inside yourself to discover what you’re really worried about.
I remember when I wrestled with these demons a little over a year ago when I made the decision to withdraw from Twitter. Without question, it was the social media platform that had brought me the most benefits—perceived and actual—as a writer, thinker, advocate, meaning maker, seeker of personal significance, and craver of human connection. I’m not going to deny experiencing loss as a result of abandoning Twitter because that would be dishonest. There was genuine loss. There always is. But I’m happy to report one year later that what I’ve gained has far outweighed what I’ve lost. In fact, it doesn’t even remotely compare.
That brings me to this section by Sacasas:
Twitter is the only social media platform I use, and I’ve long characterized my use of it as a devil’s bargain. The platform has benefitted me in certain ways, but this has come at a cost. The benefits and costs are what you would expect. I’ve made good connections through the platform, my writing has garnered a bit more of an audience, and I’ve encountered the good work of others. On the other hand, I’ve given it too much of my time and energy, and I’m pretty sure my thinking and my writing have, on the whole, suffered as a consequence. Assuming I’m right in my self-assessment, that’s too high of a price, is it not? The problem, as I’ve suggested before, is that the machine requires too much virtue to operate, and, frankly, I’m not always up to the task.
It requires too much virtue to operate. Indeed, who could possibly be up to the task?
I was a prolific “Tweeter” at one point, able to tweet long threads on any number of subjects that would seize my attention in the moment. Because of this, when I transitioned to a newsletter as my primary form of public engagement, I assumed that I would be publishing plenty of content—just in a different format. Well, I was wrong. Transitioning to a new format turns out to have been the beginning of a process of emotional, spiritual, relational, and neurological rewiring. This is not true of everyone who has made an equivalent transition, but it was true of me: I could not simply write newsletters the way that I had tweeted. I needed first to transform into a different kind of thinker and being; and to do that, I had to metamorphosize from whatever it was that being so active on the platform for years had warped me into.
Sacasas describes the formative power of the platform here, quoting from an earlier work:
I can feel Twitter working on me as I’ve begun to use it more frequently of late and allowed myself to tweet as well as read. I can feel it working on me in much the same way that, in Tolkien’s world, the wearers of the Ring can feel it working on them. It leaves one feeling weary, thin, exposed, morally compromised, divided, etc., while deeply distorting one’s view of reality. And, as far as I’m concerned, in this case there are no Tom Bombadils among us immune to the Ring’s power.
The act of leaving does not immediately reverse its effects, but it does create the space required to undo them. And surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for the soul to begin experiencing the benefits of separation. Sloan describes that here:
The speed with which Twitter recedes in your mind will shock you. Like a demon from a folktale, the kind that only gains power when you invite it into your home, the platform melts like mist when that invitation is rescinded.
Anyway, do take the time to check out those two posts in full. They’re well worth your time.