Well, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t take a break from Twitter voluntarily. Back in the beginning of April, I was suspended on all of my existing accounts because Twitter is an asshole and I didn’t know what to do. I knew that making new accounts to circumvent the ban would just ruin any chance I might have with getting my main account back, so I just waited patiently for Twitter Support to get back to me.
But it was clear by the end of the month that they weren’t going to give up easy, so I took up the offer of taking control of an old account of a friend’s and got back on Twitter before April ended.
Throughout the next three months, I was terrified of Twitter spotting me for suspension evasion and banning the account, or locking me out and asking for a phone number to verify that I’m human, so I used Twitter sparsely and never accessed it without a VPN on. Since I am stingy with my money, I didn’t pay for a VPN and I got a free one. I’m only looking to change my IP so I wasn’t really concerned for any privacy issues, so a free VPN was enough for my purpose.
But even the act of turning on the VPN and then logging in on Twitter is very bothersome for me. I was used to the comfort and ease of just tapping on a mobile app and start scrolling, but the extra step of opening the VPN app, opening a new tab, and then typing the URL was just too much for me.
I didn’t log on often and I even went two weeks or more without going on Twitter at times.
Then, for the sake of communicating with my Twitter pals again, I decided to risk it and get a working VPN for my phone and re-download Twitter for mobile.
Let me tell you, the shock of having to go back to being fully active on Twitter after two months of relative inactivity made me realize a few things.
I Spent Too Much Time On Twitter
The first thing that I realized is that I spent too much of my time on Twitter back when I can still access it freely. Even my phone notifications consisted of mostly Twitter notifications, which only led me back to the app even when I didn’t need to log on. Then comes the infinite scrolling of my timeline.
I don’t realize how much time I spend just mindlessly scrolling through an endless stream of useless content until I wasn’t allowed to. I leave the app every time with a feeling of exhaustion and surprise that so much time has passed.
Most of the time, I didn’t even spend it doing something productive. I just scrolled and liked. I wasn’t interacting with someone genuinely, which is the whole purpose of the app.
Read more: It’s not you. Phones are designed to be addicting. Vox’s video on how phones are designed to be addicting. Long story short, it’s the infinite scrolling, the notifications, and the colors. Designers trick your brain into thinking there’s human interaction with their notifications. They use bright and warm colors in their app icon to catch your eyes, and it’s why the notification bubble is red. The infinite scrolling keeps you on their site longer because your brain relies on the content to stop, rather than voluntary reaction. So, picking up your phone for a few minutes might lead you to scrolling for an hour instead. It’s not just you; they designed it that way.
It became obvious that I used Twitter as a type of distraction from my own problems. I thought my mental health got worse when I wasn’t allowed to get on Twitter, but I suppose it was always like that. It is only because I wasn’t allowed to distract myself that I was forced to face my issues head-on. This bums me the fuck out, but it made me realize that I shouldn’t use social media as a crutch to escape my problems with.
Although it’s scary to face my fears, but it should be all dealt with instead of ignored. Being away from Twitter helped me realize that.
Twitter Doesn’t Help My Mental Health
On the topic of mental health, I wrote about why I left stan Twitter a while ago. The reason I listed there is pretty much the same here. Twitter drains you, mentally.
Vox released a video that kind of explains why every social media is a dumpster fire. Long story short: it’s because algorithms cater to your (political) views and spoon-feed you similar views, but it also means there’s a lot of fake news running rampant. There’s a lot of emotions going on and since my Twitter has recently been dipped into the hot pool of politics, I understand that completely.
It’s exhausting seeing depressing news every day, without the ability to directly do anything about it. I watch real-time updates and articles pop up on my timeline about how there are new arrested kids, or that they found another body and the cops say the death is not suspicious. Clips after clips of police brutality – verbal and physical abuse, intolerable behavior from our law enforcement.
It’s hard to swallow some times. After my short break from protest-reporting, I tried to get back to it. I didn’t realize how tiring it is. I had to log out after an hour.
I also got harassed by the other side sometimes. Not a lot, only when I leave comments in opposing side’s tweets, and I do welcome those views sometimes because I love to troll trolls, but that takes a toll on you, too. It doesn’t matter if you want to admit it or not. It took a toll on me in an invisible way and I only relaxed when I wasn’t on Twitter.
All of this is enough for me to realize that I should stop using social media too much. I did miss my Twitter friends terribly during my Twitter quarantine, but as I pointed out in my reasons on why I left stan Twitter, the situation here is pretty much the same: life goes on. With the hyper-fast pace that Twitter operates on, not everyone really cares or notices that you are gone. The void that you leave is immediately filled or even goes unnoticed.
It’s disheartening but it’s also reassuring to know that people won’t really miss you, and you can leave with no strings attached. If they really cared and valued your friendship, they would approach you to ask you for other ways to contact you.
I don’t know if I made meaningful friends during my short time as a protest-reporter on Twitter, but I do have a few of them on more than just Twitter. So, if anything, I broadened my understanding and horizons, and some of my aspirations changed and matured.
Now, it’s time for me to move on.
Besides, it’s not that bad just being a local. Tweeting sporadically about the weirdest and most mundane things is actually quite nice and relaxing.