Why I Deactivated my Twitter Account
In the early months of 2007, I was doing a lot of ghost writing for some rather well-known internet marketers, all based in the US. A colleague had been writing for a guy called Jack Dorsey, who had started this thing a few months back called twitter. She was telling everyone it was going to be the next big thing, and I wanted to see why.
Here I was in little New Zealand, living on a farm with three preschoolers. How could I resist jumping on and having a look at this “crowd text messaging service” as I understood it to be? So I created an account. Much to my disappointment (what did I expect?), it seemed to be a smallish collection of Americans, with little relationship to who I was, and where I was. So after a few months, I jumped back off.
I’m not sure what happened of that account, but several years later, I rejoined. I built up a small following of around 300 people, mainly New Zealanders, around the time my book Eighty Eight Dates came out.
Those were heady twitter days. We all forged strong online connections, some stronger than others. We went to “tweet ups” and connected in person. I had huge levels of response to my promotions – I still remember blogging a giveaway, and it going out to 65 thousand people from my 335, in just 25 minutes. What a rush!
Twitter was a connection point when I was a single parent. It kept me company, enlarged my social circle. I never felt alone – even if I was up at 2am. I was the hashtag queen, I love starting and using memes, I connected with politicians, media, business leaders. I was UNSTOPPABLE.
It was good for work too – I connected with future clients, and some of the ongoing business relationships I have now, came from my connections on twitter.
It was not without its issues. I struggled with how to manage a painful breakup with someone else on twitter – and in my heartbroken state it drove me to the brink of craziness. I felt so wronged.
There is something wrong with the ability these days to be able to not quite cut the connections you must when a relationship is over, and public break-ups can cause you to see, all too easily, the side taking tweets, the angry words of another, and the desire to right what you believe is a false story, or false accusations. It is not a place for fairness. It is not a healthy place. It it’s all too easy to read the words you should never see, and I really struggled with that. I have regret around how I allowed my wounds to become open to public discussion.
Now, of course, I look back on that and barely recognise myself. For which I am endlessly thankful.
I reckon twitter has taught me a huge amount about human behaviour and patterns. People often prefer to talk behind someone, than in front of them, to shut down people who think differently to us, and to rage rather than hear. We BLOCK dissenters, we don’t seek first to understand, and we rage against, instead of walking alongside. We, as a collective group, don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply.
I found many people love drama more than reason, and will often believe the worst, before exploring the truth of it for themselves.
High users of twitter also often forget that it is a small community that is not as important as we would hope it is. The views on twitter are not, as a whole, the same as in the wider public. People often mention they feel unsafe in mentioning an opinion that differs from the crowd. It is not a place to express how you feel if it goes against the culture of the wider group.
For me, I found a new strength and a pile of wisdom around letting go, around disengaging with people who do not seek to learn but seek instead to proselytise, and around surrounding myself with people who were interested in more open communication, and around healthy interactions. And this has been good.
And through it all I tweeted. By Christmas 2012 I was (with close competition from twitter’s Kiwi Queen mother @wendywings – truly a magically kind soul who most tweeters have had some interaction with), NZ’s top tweeter, having tweeted in excess of 100k times.
Boxing Day I took a look at where my energy was and where I wanted it to be, and I stepped away from twitter. And the world didn’t combust, and no one really noticed and I loved finding myself in face to face and more physical interactions than a short message typed out on the screen
I returned to twitter with more of a balanced view. Some days I tweeted, some I didn’t. I only tweeted happiness, and good and joy. I discarded interactions with people who preferred drama, and tweeting their pain. And I realised the platform we use is only as good as how we use it – so I began to only interact with people who had good boundaries, who were able to maintain healthy personal and business relationships.
Twitter has been good for me in the past. I think we get a fast window of where we are at – we attract the people who are at similar places in our lives, we are challenged by people who see things in a different way, and we learn to step away, get some fresh air and breathe when we need to.
I myself have forged long-term personal and business friendships through my connections with twitter.
But recently, again, I’ve been looking at my energy levels, my values, and where I want to be as a person.
My spirit craves face to face communication. I realised that I would often read the tweets of a friend as my form of communicating and connecting – a quick response back, or a “favourite” was my way to connect.
It’s not enough for me anymore.
I love the authenticity that comes out of face to face friendships. I like building my business relationships with people without reading their streams of consciousness when I am not with them. I consider the temptation to tweet about a client, or a person, without considering the person they are.
My work, of course, is in creating and implementing marketing strategy for clients – and I’m always on about the ROI and the target market.
My target market may be on twitter, but I don’t need to talk to them on there. I can find them in their workplace, or where there is less noise.
So, a few weeks back, I thought I’d just leave twitter. I deactivated my account, and I left.
The world did not cave in. And I feel lighter, less distracted and even (though I felt pretty good before) happier.
I think everyone should be free to use social media how they wish – and this is in no way a comment on other people and how they use it (because we are all different), but I think I like no longer being in the collective heads of people anymore. I like just picking up a phone, or making a time to meet and catching up with people without reacting to them on a tweet stream.
And let’s face it – I’m still using linked in, facebook and instagram – so I’m not social media free!
I feel I’ve righted something in inside myself.
And it is good.
(though as a marketer I do think… BUT IT WAS 5000 PEOPLE!)
In the end for me, it was an easy call. No more tweets for me for a while. (never say never!).
Rachel Goodchild is managing director of Identify,
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