I'm a Twitter quitter— why I have to break up with my favourite social network

Branding, Communications, Digital, Ruth Callaghan, Social Media

Ruth Callaghan 3 Nov 2022
4 mins
Close up of smartphone screen with twitter logo

It’s over. I mean, it’s probably over. I mean … it’s over but I’m not quite over it yet.

My name is Ruth Callaghan and I’m addicted to Twitter. I’m here today to tell you I have to quit.

No, it’s not the incredible time-sucking nature of the social network although I’m embarrassingly glad that I only get a weekly summary of time spent, not the accumulated months and years dedicated to the platform since I joined in December 2012.

(Is it wrong to admit I recently clocked up 17.5 hours in a single week? Don’t judge me.)

I’m not about to quit just because Trump wants to stage a return.

My last hiatus on the platform ran for about three months, starting the evening Trump won the 2016 election.

Twitter was vile for months leading up to his election and even worse in the immediate aftermath, but since then I’ve learned to block and report bad actors, I run a plug-in that tells me if I’m arguing with a bot, and I’ve become much more selective about what I read and ignore.

And it’s not even Tweets From Elon Musk that will jettison me into space.

I mean, the man’s a bit of a numpty. A very rich, very childish, very insecure numpty.

But he’s been razzing up his bros on Twitter for years telling everyone what he would do when he finally got hold of it, so none of his noise comes as a surprise.

Sidenote here: it can be hard to explain Twitter drama to non-users, but let’s put this simply.

Elon announced he would buy a stock that was already overvalued, then tried to get out of it, then finally bought it for more than it is possibly worth, then sacked all the people who know how to run it, then discovered he would have to pay them tens of millions in severance, then decided he would try to sack them a different way and … like I said, a bit of a numpty.

That was just last week. Since then, he’s launched a series of thought bubbles for monetisation.

These range from $20 $8 to verify so-called ‘blue tick’ users — previously free and limited to people with a large following or who are recognised as celebrities — to allowing adult content options with pay-to-watch video.

So far, the ideas have landed … poorly.

But as I say, there’s a certain schadenfreude in watching a very rich man have a temper tantrum when he is not universally celebrated as a genius. So despite the fact that his memes say far more about him than about his opponents, it won’t be Elon who prompts me to quit.

No. What will make me a Twitter quitter is the same thing that has bound me to the blue bird from the beginning — the people you meet in the neighbourhood.

Again, it’s hard to explain to Facebookers or LinkedInners, but Tweeps are hugely funny and warm, and my favourites are ordinary people who don’t have a blue tick but happen to care deeply about their slice of reality.

I have archaeology twitter, a mix of diggers and mudlarkers and academics, who get together around hashtags like #HillfortsWednesday.

I am riveted by the antics of two dogs and a bunch of sheep on a South Australian family farm, checking in several times a day to see what’s cooking or whether the lambs are at the creek.

I learn about tyres on Russian tanks from former US army mechanics and military strategy from retired Australian major-generals and trade policy from a Ukrainian-born Australian now living in Geneva. Twitter has given me unmatched access to experts everywhere. Whatever my question or obsession, there has been a Twitter neighbourhood ­­­­­made for me.

But that’s changing.

In the days after the Muskovite invasion, my neighbours have been feeling unsettled.

My Twitter feed, instead of sheep and hillforts and the latest news on the battle front in Lyman, features more accounts from people under attack from trolls.

Some have always attracted personal and egregious attacks. Now, they are under siege from an angry mob emboldened by Elon’s approach to what he calls free speech and what others call an unremitting torrent of racism, misogyny, antisemitism and homophobic slurs.

Twitter itself reports “a surge in hateful conduct” in the past week and it is being felt not only by those who have experienced it directly but by those who fear this is just the beginning. According to reports, a team of just 15 people — 15 —  is now left to moderate and protect a platform that at its peak has 350,000 tweets every minute.

Alongside reports of an exodus in users are other stories of people attracted the platform for the first time, eager to exercise the chance to say whatever they like without consequence.

It’s already changing the culture. Some of my favourite accounts have gone quiet. Some have closed and left, presumably back to the real world.

The people I like are leaving, so I’ll join them — although there’s no clear alternative yet in sight.

I’m now down for the beta trial of former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s yet-to-be-launched Bluesky platform, and I’ll be trying out Mastodon, a six-year-old network that grew by nearly 200,000 users on Elon’s ascension to Twitter and which last saw a surge like that in the wake of Trump.

I might invest a bit more in Instagram and Pinterest. I might read some news on a website rather than in a tweet. I might read a few more books and even get in the occasional walk with all my additional time.

And — probably — I might ghost along in this toxic relationship for a little longer, removing myself from the fray but keeping half an eye on what takes place.

It’s been a decade and going cold turkey will be hard.

But the decision has been made: I have to quit Twitter even if it won’t be easy to do.

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Ruth Callaghan More from author

Ruth uses two decades of experience as a media strategist, communications adviser and journalist to develop, deliver and distribute messages that cut through.

She specialises in providing strategic digital and content services for clients, using the principles of newsworthy and engaging content to tell compelling stories. She is a skilled media trainer and works with professionals both within and outside the communications industry to develop their digital, writing and media skills.

Ruth’s work in this field has included developing digital and inbound marketing strategies for clients, including use of lead generation software, content marketing and social media. She works with emerging technologies including virtual reality in campaigns and continues to write for publications including the Australian Financial Review.

When not distracted by the next shiny digital tool, Ruth likes to holiday in cooler climates with her family or hang out with her stubborn Scottish Terrier Maisie.

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