011 - Twitter be gone

I successfully withdrew from Facebook, but thought I could "control" Twitter. Turns out that the algorithm is stronger than me, and I have to go cold turkey.

Twitter is very bad for me. I can waste hours 'doom-scrolling', jumping into threads, and generally getting fairly angry at the following topics: Politics, COVID19, Crytocurrencies1 and Brexit2. Apart from being a colossal waste of time, it's obviously not a good idea to intentionally do things that make one angry all the time.

So the main problem is actually Twitter itself. It's designed to keep you on the site, or app, by constantly tweaking our trigger, behavior, reward system; those little hits of dopamine keep us engaged, reading and responding to tweets and constantly checking for feedback. However, when those topics make one angry, is it becoming an addiction? Maybe.

I quit Facebook over four and a half years ago, on 1st January 2017. I did this because almost every post I read on Facebook was a moral outrage post which revolved around popularism politics; the creation of wedge issues to create a social distance between groups and entrench tribalism rather than dialogue. We're supposed to be more similar than we are different, but popularism is a form of bike-shedding to get people to focus on trivialities rather than the things that really matter. I gave up Facebook because it just made me angry and depressed that there was nothing I could really do to affect the level of corruption and unfairness that the government of the day was consistently doing, and much of the country (their voters) actually seemed to be cheering them on.

Wind forward 4 years and an even worse bunch of charlatans (from the same party) are in 'charge' and are bilking the public accounts for everything they can get their grubby little hands on. And my Twitter feed is full of people who are aghast at what is going on, are powerless to do anything about it, and there is no end in sight, particularly as a majority of the voting public (in terms of FPTP) are still cheering them on. It's depressing and makes me angry. See a pattern here?

I kept Twitter when I ditched Facebook because I thought that I'd be able to curate my feed so that it would only, or at least mostly, contain the things that I was interested in. But, sadly, there's a correlation with the people I follow of the topics that I'm interested in (technology) and the topics that make me angry (politics, et al.). And it's not really possible to disassociate them. And I'm the same. I also tweet, and re-tweet, politics, technology, the cryptocurrency-farces, and all the other social inequalities and inequities that make me so angry.

In some ways I miss G+, but that was, inevitably, killed by Google. At least you really could split up your interests and just see the things that interested you in the moment, rather than being washed with the fire-hose of Twitter's algorithm.

I'm left with the inescapable conclusion: in order to avoid the time sink that Twitter is designed to be, the only winning move is not to play.

But then the question becomes: "How do you interact with other people (online) if you don't use Facebook or Twitter?" And that is an interesting question without (for me) a clear answer.

I think the main problem with Twitter is the design. It's not designed for users. It's designed for Twitter, and that design is about engagement. It's free to use and that invariably means that we are the product, not the customer. This obviously presents a problem. I actually had another post about that way back in 2011.

Another problem that I have with Twitter, apart from the time-sink/doom-scrolling, is that everything is jumbled together; there's no organisation. Just a stream of random tweets by people you follow organised in a time-line.

Finally adverts. I hate adverts and do everything I can to avoid them, yet that's very difficult to do on Twitter. It's a constant reminder that I'm being manipulated. That data is being collected and then used to profile me to serve ads to try and influence my purchasing behaviour. To persuade me to buy things I either don't need, or are above a value I actually want to pay. It's insidious and I admit that I hate it. I hate targetted ads. I generally don't particularly mind contextual ads, although I try to avoid them too.

So that's it then. I'm effectively powerless to avoid the downsides of Twitter whilst on Twitter, so the only real solution is to not use it.

I'm publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting https://100daystooffload.com

  1. e.g. pyramid scams like Bitcoin that are an environmental disaster and purely a way for grifters to transfer money from poorly educated "investors" to scammers.↩︎

  2. Brexit is essentially politics, and really bad politics. Another scheme dreamt up to transfer public money to rich people.↩︎