I left Twitter over seven years ago.
I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this, or if anyone will care, but Twitter meant a lot to me and I feel like it’s worth writing something about my absence. It isn’t a very interesting story – more of an update than anything else.
I should point out that I didn’t mean to leave; I just thought I’d give myself the week off, and it’s turned into a very long week (my final tweet: “Twitter is no place for a human being.” wasn’t meant as a savage indictment of Twitter. It was just a slightly irritated tweet at the end of an evening).
I kept meaning to return, but as time passed, my life and Twitter headed in different directions. And when I’d peek in on Twitter, I’d see furious arguments and counter arguments about issues so microscopic that no-one I knew cared about them; whole memes and subcultures would rise and collapse in a day. It was dizzying. And the more time I spent away from Twitter the less appealing it became to have an opinion on every subject under the sun, and the more weird it felt to be some kind of Supporting Character in Twitter’s ongoing soap opera. I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that random strangers thought they knew me. I needed to spend more time being Greg and less time being themanwhofellasleep.
Part of the reason I stayed off Twitter was the disparity between my online life and my real life. On Twitter, I had 25,000 followers and could spend the day hob-nobbing with celebrities, but I was also a jobbing freelance copywriter barely making any money. And it became too easy to fill the long gaps between paid work by sitting around in my pants all day on Twitter. (In a parallel universe where I stayed on Twitter, maybe today I’d have a hundred thousand followers but regularly eat cold beans out of a shoe. I do like beans.)
So, what have I been up to in the meantime? I fled north London and moved in with my girlfriend in Walthamstow (yes, it’s about as close to north London as you can get whilst not actually being in an N postcode). I finally got a 9-5 job – as a copywriter in a creative agency; I have accustomed myself to a daily commute and making smalltalk in the kitchen. The job is fine, but I miss writing funny things.
It’s not all been easy. In 2015 my father and his wife were killed in a car crash in his hometown of Buenos Aires. That was hard, and I’m still dealing with it (or not dealing with it. I can’t tell). I could write hundreds of blog posts about it and probably not cover it all. It is a constantly shifting absence. On a happier note, I’m now a dad to a lovely three-year-old girl, which is as brilliant and exhausting as everyone says. In short, my life bears almost no resemblance to the life I had seven years ago.
The traditional narrative when someone leaves a social network is that they talk about how much better they feel. How their digital detox made them realise how much of real life they were missing. I don’t think that’s true for me. Or rather, it would be a gross oversimplification. In the absence of Twitter, I’ve spent much more time on Facebook, where I never quite know who I am supposed to be, and on Instagram, where I am spectacularly boring. My life is still a clutter of online personas – I’m just sticking to other social networks and keeping a more private profile.
Of course, it’s tempting to return, but when I look in on Twitter these days, it’s mostly horrible, and I don’t think my skin would be thick enough for it. I’m not going to say it’s bad for everyone – I know millions of people thrive there, but I’m not convinced it would do me any good.
Do I miss Twitter? Sometimes. I do think that I was very good at it (you are free to disagree). I’ve never found anything else in life I took to so naturally. My brain is better in short bursts than I am over long distances, and Twitter was perfect for that. My ego certainly misses Twitter; it’s very nice to spend the day bathing in the glow of retweets and praise. I miss being at the centre of things.
But In the last year or so, I’ve started writing for pleasure again; little micro-stories on my public Facebook page. Some are better than others, but there are one or two of them I’m really pleased with. At some point, I’m going to try to find some kind of hook or angle that wraps them together, and I’ll see if I can turn them into a book of very short stories. I’m still scrabbling around trying to work out what I want to say; I’m trying to be less dependent on humour and seeing what else will emerge.
I have no idea if I’ll ever return to Twitter. Maybe Twitter will change; maybe I will. I’d like to think this isn’t the end. But if it is, I’m proud of what I did with it.