Twitter didn’t give me the flu or bronchitis, but it made me sick. Unhealthy. Ill-feeling. And it could have been any social media platform that did it, I just happened to have chosen Twitter.
For years I avoided creating any sort of social media account. I complained to companies the old-fashioned way: calling or emailing customer service. I didn’t need to know what people I wasn’t in touch with in real life were doing.
As someone who was married and not dating, there simply wasn’t the requirement to be on any kind of social media. With two kids, I spent my (little) free time watching TV or texting with a few friends. I would proudly state, “I don’t even have Facebook” when people discussed it.
Then in January 2018, I decided to open a Twitter account, mostly to rant about things, as I had done a few years prior on a blog. Not big-issue political rants or anything, more “Why isn’t the first car on an advanced green turning?? YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY, MAN” type stuff.
I had conveniently blocked from memory the reason I had stopped blogging about all my anger-inducing experiences: I had felt like it was poisoning me. To always be posting something negative, it builds over time. As much as I liked expressing my anger, I didn’t like the feeling it created.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2018 and I have a Twitter account. All fine and dandy for a bit: I build a little network of like-minded parent Twitter accounts, we follow the same accounts, and it’s fun to see people living the same type of kid-related drama as I was.
Then I realize that with Twitter, I have access to breaking news way faster than say, my husband (a complete non-social media user). So that’s fun. Then I realize I have easy access to celebrities—wow! Now I can communicate directly with them! And businesses! To celebrate or chastise them! Fun! Then I’m excited when I gain followers. Cool! But some are random accounts who I don’t ever see post anything, or weird corporations. Okay… still fun?
Then I interact a few times with some celebrities. That goes to my head quickly—now I assume every tweet I send will result in some retweet or like by them. But no, it doesn’t. “Well, that’s crappy,” I think on more than one occasion, when I obsessively check my account to see if they liked what I wrote.
I see parenting-related tweets by other users who gain hundreds or thousands of likes for some inane comment, and I think “But that’s not even funny or very observant.” I develop a never-ending circle of thought in my head, consumed by potential tweets.
I start to feel what many people before me have felt: the highs and lows of social media. When it’s good, it’s good—your self-esteem is high, you’re feeling well liked, and well received. And when it’s low, it sucks.
“Why didn’t anyone agree with what I said?” I would question. “How come my tweets don’t garner that much attention?” It started to become too much. I was turning into someone I had never thought I would be: feeling validated by the number of likes I got.
Soon, it became obsessive. I was checking when I woke up (my phone having never been beside me at night), considering checking in the middle of the night when I woke up, checking while driving (something I had shamed people for doing previously), being logged in all day while at work. It was all day every day. I had become consumed.
And it wasn’t lucrative; I had 200-ish followers and maybe 20 I actually interacted with. It had quickly turned from something “neat” into something destructive. Everything I was living I was thinking could be a potential tweet. Which meant in turn, while I was physically there, I wasn’t really present in my actual life.
Along with parenting woes, I used Twitter to talk about my sobriety. I found it to be an awesome support network for the ups and downs and also to help others.
Over the past year of sobriety, I, like many others in the same situation, have connected much more with myself, learning who I am more in the past year than ever in my whole life. I recognize when I am feeling sad, toxic, anger, jealous. I feel everything now. And so when I started to feel weird with Twitter, I didn’t ignore it. I looked at what was happening.
And I realized it: as I now know, I have an addictive personality. I had become addicted and consumed by Twitter. It was now controlling my day. From wake up, to work, to driving, to watching TV, I was one tap away from seeing “what’s happening.” With strangers. And not actually paying attention to what I was living.
Instead of living what was happening, I was typing it, sharing it, obsessing over who saw it and interacted with me. Instead of alcohol, I was now consumed by Twitter.
So last week, I promised myself I would stop tweeting, stop checking it, and back away. Unfortunately you can’t hide your account. Either you have it and you just don’t use it, or you deactivate.
This weekend I looked at it here and there to see if I had any likes or DMs. To get a sense of what I was missing. I had a few likes from some tweets posted last week, oddly enough a number of new followers (even after doing nothing for days, which is so bizarre)—nothing earth shattering. I didn’t scroll through at all, and I didn’t engage with anyone.
And I realized: Nothing in my life actually changes if I am “connected.” In fact, I realized that being “connected” actually made me feel more isolated than ever. I was relying on something very independent to feel part of something. When in reality, it was very secluded.
I found it serves as a distraction and delivers information that just makes me angry or depressed. And there’s already enough of that in life. I am quite happy to go back to using reality TV to unwind and let my sister being my sounding board for my road rage.
I will give it another day or so and I will deactivate it completely. And luckily, goodbyes are not necessary. A nice clean break. I will miss some elements of it, but I know myself enough to know I cannot keep it. Like trying to moderate alcohol, it’s too much of a slippery slope.