This is a long, personal post.
tl;dr: I’m leaving Twitter.
You can find me in the Fediverse as @email@example.com.
In the beginning
I started using Twitter because of ZendCon 2007.
Cal Evans had the idea that if folks attending the conference were to tweet about it, those who were unable to attend would get an idea of what the conference was about, get links to slides if speakers posted them, and more; it would both feed FOMO, and respond to it.
(It also became an unofficial way for many of us to organize non-conference events during the evenings.)
Once the conference was done, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
There was a bit of engagement, but not a ton.
Hash tags, replies, retweets, quote tweets — none of these existed yet.
Hell, even direct messages were just a specially formatted tweet, and heaven forbid you get the initial character sequence wrong!
We started creating conventions, many of which later became codified into Twitter itself.
Over the next year or two, I found it became my “virtual watercooler.”
Being somebody who worked remotely, from home, I didn’t have office conversations.
A few of my colleagues and collaborators were on IRC, but back then, that was about it.
If I wanted to talk to a larger group, or somebody not in my regular channels… Twitter became that place.
I made friends.
I got job offers.
I learned about places to visit on my travels.
When abroad, I could coordinate meet-ups with friends.
When I realized folks couldn’t spell my handle, I reached out on Twitter to see if I knew somebody at Twitter, or if somebody had a friend at Twitter, to see if I could change my handle, as somebody was squatting on “mwop”.
A friend of a friend made it happen — and I made a new friend in the process.
That was the honeymoon period, it seems.
The start of the fall
Sometime in the early 2010s, I began seeing the ugly side of Twitter.
You know the folks, the ones who slide into your mentions or DMs when you post an opinion, the ones who ask for receipts and links or push whatabout-isms nonstop until you give in or stop replying (which they also take as victory).
The ones who treat your lived experience as invalid, because it does not match theirs.
The ones who cannot even imagine a valid experience outside their own.
The ones who would not even allow another person’s beliefs, body, heritage, circumstances to exist if they had their way.
Before muting and blocking existed on Twitter, the service was quickly becoming somewhere I did not want to engage.
Somewhere I only felt comfortable posting non-revealing content about things like my open source projects, or retweeting work-related content.
(I haven’t posted anything about my family in years.)
When Twitter allowed you to limit DMs to people you mutually followed, that helped a bit.
But even then, I’d get folks in my mentions arguing or trolling; I cannot tell you how many times I was told the projects I worked on were crap, should die in a fire, that I should be embarrassed to even share them, that I should quit and get a different job, preferably in a different field.
And this is only a fraction of what I see in the replies to women, people of color, LGBTQ+, people with accessibility issues — where the very act of existing as who they are is evidently an egregious offence.
It’s easy to see why so many leave the service, even though it can be hugely powerful at connecting you to others in your chosen community.
With muting and blocking, the service became more bearable, but only barely.
I’d still get the tweets, replies, and quote tweets, but now the first time somebody spewed vitriol at me, it would be their last.
But I still had to see them at least once.
And then 2016 came along.
I am a liberal.
My wife and I laugh at the assertion that you become more conservative with age.
If anything, we’ve become more liberal.
And the run-up to the 2016 US elections broke us.
On Twitter, I was seeing either tons of right-wing hate spewed by folks, or reactions from others to that hate.
The few times I addressed it were horrible; the amount of vitriol in my mentions shocked me.
Some people have the energy and mental reserves to fight back.
I’m not one of those; I internalize the attack, and it replays in my mind over and over.
It tears me apart.
So following the election, I started pulling back.
I created a couple lists that I’d check daily, mostly those of authors or artists I like and admire.
This created a little oasis for me, and made things somewhat manageable.
But here’s the thing: we are all political.
Living in a society means we engage with politics.
And this meant that, even following creators, I was still seeing politics; the po
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