Backing Away from Twitter in Measured Steps

Posted on 3 minute read

My relationship with Twitter crossed a new line yesterday. As I posted on Mastodon (one, two):

Have just deleted the Twitter app on mobile. Felt the need to ramp down stress this week, and the current owner’s meltdown is unnecessary drama. There are still a few people there that I like to read, but I’ll be doing that far less often now.

I have regret in deleting the app. I found value there, and felt that the trade-off of attention and advertising versus the benefits of personal connections and trading ideas was a net positive.

As has happened several times to me in my 53 years, I’m astonished at how fast a valued and valuable community can be destroyed.

The toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance and power is a sad combination.

The past eight weeks on Twitter have been emotionally tiring, and I wondered why. On reflection, mourning seems like the most appropriate label for the emotion I’m feeling. I had invested time and effort into cultivating a network of friends and acquaintances. Now it is being destroyed; that network was a guest in someone else’s kingdom.

It feels like a reciprocal behavior back-and-forth: Musk makes a snap dictatorial decision, I step away a little farther. The first move came on October 27 when I stopped engaging with others on Twitter and logged on less often—that corresponded with the announcement that Musk had closed the deal to buy Twitter. At the same time, I picked up my activity on Mastodon (…following more people and engaging more in that community. (My Mastodon account on had been idle since 2018 except for automated postings from my knowledge management tools.)

The second shift came on November 22 when Twitter started rejecting links in posts that came out of my knowledge management tools. I have a series of scripts that I use to save references to web pages that I find notable, and the scripts also post those references to Twitter and Mastodon. For unknown reasons, a Twitter post with a link to The Markup (or the Hypothesis proxy) started failing, so I turned off the automated posting to Twitter and wrote a sign-off message.

Now comes the third reciprocal reaction: Musk suspends and un-suspends journalists, then starts rejecting posts with links that are “free promotion of certain social media platforms…” (quote from deleted TwitterSupport tweets). And I delete the app from my mobile device.

Deleting the app is my commitment to visit the site less often. I regret it has come to that. Once a community is destroyed, it can’t be brought back. Not to the same cohesion it had before…it will be different, and there will be a longing nostalgia for what once was. (Maybe that can be good? Probably not, given Twitter’s current trajectory.)

I’m already missing the Twitter notifications that I had set up: the local office of the National Weather Service, the messages from the town and the regional highway patrol, and some favorite accounts: The Oatmeal, XKCD, Have-I-Been-Pwnd, others. Some have made the jump to the fediverse; most have not.

One thing I’m grateful for is that I avoided the habit of using Twitter as a “social login” tool on other websites. Using the Twitter login to make accounts on other sites is undoubtedly a low-friction way for websites to onboard users. Now those users risk being stranded if they leave Twitter (or Twitter leaves them—I wonder what happens to suspended Twitter users when they try to use the Twitter login to sign into other websites?).

I started a new category here on DLTJ called “Online Culture”. I’m reading more about digital communities and the norms they establish. There has been a lot written about techniques and tools to foster a healthy, robust community. It is a fascinating field of study, and one that becomes more important if we want respectful social spaces on the internet.