The Four-Day Twitter Week
In my introduction to today's Mama Bear newsletter (subscribe!), I wrote about my new strategy of managing Twitter.
Given the number of Pando readers who I know share our concerns over what Jack Dorsey et al have allowed Twitter to become, I wanted to share it with Pando readers too...
No matter what side you take on the battle over #WomenBoycottTwitter debate, I enjoyed a day off the toxic swamp of “UGHHHH, I GUESS I SHOULD KNOW HOW AWFUL THE WORLD IS BUT NOW I NEED WINE AND ICE CREAM….”
I am usually pretty good at controlling my addiction to social media. I am happy just blocking Nazis, doing a laughing emoticon in a quote tweet when a man says something insanely sexist, or sometimes just RT’ing it without comment and letting my 100k-plus followers dismantle him.
And when that fails, I’m pretty good at just walking away. Twitter is like a noisy room. It doesn’t represent the whole world — rather, it’s a concentration of it. You can just leave the room, shut the door, and go on with your afternoon.
So I was surprised at how much of a habit Twitter had become when I tried not to use it for a day. How many times my fingers automatically went back to Twitter every moment I had any downtime, without thinking. It was more habit than addiction. Because once I remembered I wasn’t doing Twitter, it was easy enough to close. I didn’t feel like I was missing out. But out of sheer muscle memory, I must have re-opened it 30 times.
Sometimes I feel like one of the last people on earth who still gets more value out of Twitter than rage. I don’t want to quit it for good. (Although if I wasn’t a journalist, I probably would.) But clearly, this isn’t normal.
So here’s my idea: A Four-Day Twitter Week from now on. I’ll “boycott” Twitter every Friday, not because of one single instance of abuse or uneven implementation of its Terms of Service or anything else. But because I need a regular Tweet-tox for a product that will never change and simply is as toxic as it is.
Friday is as good a day as any, because I have the weekend to catch up on any meaningful news that breaks. It’s a day I struggle with productivity anyway, and one less distraction can’t hurt.
There’s another benefit too: I try to be on my phone as little as possible during the weekends, especially when I’m with my kids. I’m very sensitive to how it makes them feel like I’m not engaged in what regular quality time we get. I have a hunch that going cold-Turkey for 24 hours before the weekend will make that habit easier to break. (I found I was on it far less this past weekend.)
After the election, I made a similar decision with cable news. I’d already cut out CNN completely when it hired Corey Lewandowski in the name of “balance,” and I cut my MSNBC diet to just one hour of Rachel Maddow. That’s it! I went from five or so hours of cable news a day to one, and was far happier and every bit as informed, given we also subscribe to a bunch of newspapers and magazines. Very little else was actually news on those channels. Just paid surrogates giving absurd talking points and meaningless experts and lawmakers “weighing in” with little new to say.
As Paul wrote on Pando last week, no boycotts are going to convince Twitter’s management to do better...
These are not the behaviors of an organization that has any desire to change, or even the slightest glimmer of self-awareness. These are not the policies or practices of an organization that gives a single shit about the victims of bullying or abuse. Rather, these are the excuses and blatherings of a brace of wealthy white dudes who just want women and people of color to leave them the hell alone.
Look at the stock price: There’s little value they are getting by allowing hate and Nazis to run riot over their site. This isn’t about money. If it were, a boycott might work. They are just cowards who don’t want to take on that fight, because they know how ugly that will be.
So I’m not doing this to send a message to Twitter, I’m doing it for me. The question isn’t living in a world without rage, because the world is legitimately enraging right now. It’s cutting out gratuitous rage, designed to make other people money at the expense of your sanity.