I did the unthinkable the other day. I deactivated my Twitter account.
Truth be told, I had been spending far too much time on something with far too little redeeming value to my life. It was getting me into trouble in my marriage and it was fucking my head up too. Twitter gives me a 30 day grace period to change my mind before I lose my account permanently and I will use the time to reflect on things and decide if I want to log back in and reclaim my online identity again or let it all just fade into the electronic ether.
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can be very addicting in a strange way, especially if like me, you are using them to try to fill an empty hole in your life. What started as a way to promote this blog (don’t worry, I no longer hold any aspirations of this amounting to anything other than my incoherent ramblings) Twitter became something else to me. An identity, a place to feel less lonely, to post my thoughts in bite sized 140 character segments.
For a while it felt good, and my following grew. I became emboldened and my ego swelled with my follower count. I learned how and how not to play the Twitter game. Yes, that’s right, just like everywhere in life there are codes of conduct and rules to the road. If you play nice in the sandbox you gain stature and wield more power in the Twittersphere. If you go your own direction you get smacked and lose your sheen.
Operant Conditioning is alive and well on Twitter in the form of “favs” and “retweets”. Favs are when somebody likes what you tweeted and gives you a little gold star. Retweets are when they actually take your tweet and put it on their timeline, thus exposing their followers to your words and this can gain you additional followers from outside your immediate circle. Retweets can be powerful if gaining follows is your game. You learn early on as a Twitter guppy that one of the quickest ways to get a larger account to notice you and possibly follow you back is to retweet their material.
The point of this post is not really to go into the intricate details of Twitter etiquette however but to explore what meaning it held to me and why I spent so much time doing it eventually. I have been battling demons over the past few years and depression crept into my life and took hold of me. I felt empty at times, lonely often, and I used Twitter to try to fill a void. It failed miserably.
Others with a less compulsive personality and with less addictive tendencies find Twitter to be an entertaining diversion and there are many talented and amazing twerps out there. I call them Twitterati and I followed many of them, and over time have come to think highly of their intellect and mastery of the format. At times I longed to be considered in their class and to be put in the upper echelon of Twitter users.
Unfortunately I don’t have the mental makeup to deal with what that entails. It takes a certain type of individual to play top class Twitter. I am far too frail, flawed, and thin skinned to be a Twitterati. That is not to say that I sucked at the game, I was decent. I had fans, followers. I brought a certain flair to my posts and was a bit different than some. Over time my style changed a bit but I was not the worst or the best. I was decent.
But what price did I pay for my mere mediocrity? After all, spending hours at something you are not paid for when you are unemployed is not the best idea. It certainly did not help my marriage, or my self image, or my mental state. Spending hours in a virtual reality is not a great idea if you are suffering from depression. I fully realize this. That does not mean that it is easy to pull the plug. Far from it. There is a tug from Twitter that is maddening and even after only mere days I find myself longing for the attention, to bathe myself in the stars and the retweets and the ego of it all.
That Twitter has that effect on me makes me even more cautious about going back. There is something not right here. Before I can even consider logging back in I need to think long and hard about my reasons. After all, if you are a recovering heroin addict, do you just casually take another pop to the vein because it feels good?