(Thoughts on refreshing more than my newsfeed). I’ve also shared this post to Substack.
I’ve joined Mastodon although I’m finding it slow and glitchy. I’m gently learning how to find people I want to interact with there but I’m also using this ‘wondering what is going on and what will happen at Twitter’ time to pause, to be more conscious of the hours I spend on social media, especially Twitter which has long been my favourite, and to reflect on what I do on Twitter, what I use it for and what it offers me. I’ve felt too distracted by social media for some time so perhaps this is an opportunity to take a break.
I first started tweeting in 2009 and connected with people interested in poetry – poets, publishers, magazines, and so on. I was looking for ways to get better at writing poetry and looking for recommendations of things to read and new publications. My family of two small children, and a husband who worked in London during the week, had moved out of London to a small town. I was pretty housebound in the evenings so I valued the interesting online connections Twitter helped me to create. I found links to useful articles and online courses (I found ModPo which I still think is amazing and one of the best literature courses I’ve ever done in my life). Over time, I also wanted to connect with people interested in all the kinds of things I’m interested in, lots of culture, the arts in general, music, visual arts, the environment, left-of-centre politics, film, theatre, books, parenting, cooking, small town living etc etc etc. I grew a circle of new friends, some who I soon met in real life and some who I started to communicate with, and continue to chat with, across other internet platforms.
To begin with, Twitter seemed to be mostly about chatting, joking, sharing points of view, opinions, information about things you were reading, seeing, listening to and thinking about. It was something like what happens in real life when you first meet a person you might have shared interests with. At some point, Twitter seemed to be become more about selling stuff. ‘Writers’ who had never followed me before suddenly appeared and, quickly after following me, sent me a link to buy their new book, or a link to a workshop they were running, or an event they were reading at to which I needed to buy a ticket. So it was clear that they hadn’t followed me because they were interested in me, and certainly not in reading my writing, but because they’d identified me as a person they could sell something to. The friends I’d made when I first started out were still in the room but it felt as if they were being crowded out.
So I suppose the initial glowingly warm feelings I first experienced have chilled somewhat since my early social media days. As time has gone on – both of my children are now post-university – I’ve been less stuck at home, more able to travel to live events and to be able to meet people in real life who’ve fulfilled my natural need for human interaction. It’s rare now that I make new friends online – in fact I can’t remember when that last happened.
And now there’s this whole thing with Twitter’s new ownership… I’ve joined Mastodon but it is slow and glitchy so there’s no point in constantly refreshing my feed to see if there’s any breaking news story, or new publication, or new poem published, or new twitter spat to spy on. Rather than becoming annoyed or feeling I’m missing out, I’m aware that what I would really benefit from now, perhaps what I would have benefitted from for years, is less stimulation from the juicy snippets that Twitter streams into my brain. All the news stories are still in the world, I will still be able to read them every day and it doesn’t matter if I’m not the first to know about it because a journalist I follow has broken the story on Twitter. Mastodon is there as a kind of safety net. I’m still on Twitter but I no longer feel I’m missing out when I’m not there.