Getting off twitter
Getting off twitter
I’m not a rockstar. I’m not a public intellectual. I’m not a “minor Internet niche celebrity.” The chances of me disappearing from twitter and it being noticed by Society are not great. If I disappeared from real life too, only a handful of people would notice. It’s not momentous to other people, nor should it be.
But it is momentous to me. Because I’m very isolated and I don’t have real life friends. In the sense that I go out to coffee or to parties. I have my family and my daughter but I’m one of those terrified poor souls that COVID has harrowed into my house like an agoraphobic. I’m not healthy in that way, and for better or worse (probably worse), my company and my social life is people on twitter. Pretty sad, sure. Lonely. But that’s just how it is right now. I would like to back in time to when I was partying and going out with people. I wasn’t sober then, and substances helped me to relax around people. I’ve never been skilled at having friends and maintaining a social life, and being divorced and having multiple breakdowns has not turned me into a well-adjusted friendly guy people want to have around. Except online, and even that is questionable.
I feel like it’s time to get away from twitter, at least for a while. Get away from the sluice of bad personalities, bad takes, horrifying apocalyptic doom in the news, artistic sour grapes, literary envy, competition, salmon struggling to get upriver in publishing…and focus on my own writing and art. And try to be more mentally healthy.
But it’s hard because I really feel fulfilled, mostly, by interaction with my friends online, seeing what people are doing, feeling good about seeing people achieve their goals, inspired, anxious to share what I’m working on, wanting to take part in conversation and exchange of ideas. I miss this input from people. I like seeing all of you on there. It can get unhealthy and warped. It has gotten that way at times. It’s gotten disillusioning and at times I lack the mental fortitude to deal with it all in ways that are beneficial to my emotional psyche.
It’s unfortunate that I need twitter in many ways to have a writing career and get my stuff out there. Getting off twitter would damage that and that’s really difficult to accept. Again, I was not a literary sensation but I feel like I was getting somewhere, at least by my small measurement. I was making some connections and moving my game piece down the board in a constructive way. But I was a slave to what Adam Johnson and I have come to call “pellets,” the rewards that are given to rats and rabbits and gerbils in cages at the science lab where animals are experimented on. I had a few poems come out in a journal and got a few likes and retweets? Those are pellets that made me feel rewarded for a little while until the emptiness and hungry void took over again. The conditioning that goes on for writers on twitter is hard to escape or put into healthy context. Some of you have probably found ways to do it. I can’t really do it anymore. Or I need to have a hiatus to regain strength.
It’s a kind of mutated extroversion that thinks itself popular on social media and that this is a replacement for real world interactions. Or that this is a good gauge of self-esteem.
If I get off twitter there will be moments when poems, cartoons, fiction of mine come out and I won’t be there to see it or anybody’s reaction to it. In my current ego-state that seems inconceivable and like torture.
Another note, which is less congenial to make, is that I have this profound ambivalence about being friends with people, or acquaintances, or swimming in the same broth of twitter, and feeling morally good about it. At heart I am a closet puritan. I’m a softboi sensitive guy who believes in heaven and hell and thinks at some final moment we will be judged for what we say, do, write, create. I think lots of people on twitter are hysterically funny and have fascinating personalities. I also go through periods when I just think people, popular people, under the guise of being artists, are just evil. This gets into aesthetic theories which I wouldn’t blame you for skimming over. I think there are artists on twitter, who are doing something complicated and beautiful and (often) very morally challenging—and there are people playing in a sewer. They’re throwing shit around and going, “Look at me! I’m making ART!” And it’s like, no you’re not, you’re playing in shit. And it’s damaging the fabric of reality. And the line between the two groups is in my view simultaneously very subtle and very clear and specific. Or I am coming to see the line more clearly but am trapped in not being able to philosophically articulate my personal vision of the line to others. Or too cowardly to, for fear of upsetting the literary powers that be that exist in “our scene.” I have my own idea of art and beauty and value that I want to stick to. It would be the height of obnoxious weakness and cowardice to admit that it is this aesthetic “breaching of the line,” this betrayal of art, that is contributing to my disillusion and desire to get away but it’s part of the truth. I have a sequence of thoughts that goes like this: that person is making art that’s not fresh and not unique; they suck; lots of people are giving them praise and money and fame; they don’t deserve it, the praising ones are deaf to what beauty is; what are you going to do about it; you could rail against them (you won’t); or you could just focus on your own art and your own obscure fate, and hope someone notices or links up with what you are trying to communicate, illuminate, get across. I’m not going to get rich off any of this. I’m not going to win awards. I’m probably not going to get love or companionship. At times I even feel like I’m going to hell for what I write (it’s hard to explain, it’s theological and personal and would almost certainly be thought of as stupid and mentally ill). But my hope is that somebody understands what I do and a little frisson of intellectual or spiritual pleasure is set off in their cerebral cortex and I made somebody happy, even in an odd backwards way.
I need to rethink it all, what does it mean. I need to read more. I need to purify something in myself that has become polluted by social media, and the pollution is very much self-inflicted. I need to finish some of the scrap yard of projects I have laying around, I need to manage time in a way that seems impossible with rushing off to twitter literally every twenty seconds to see if that little blue dot of notification is lit up and giving me pellets. I need to pray. I need to find someone to fall in love with that I can touch and talk to, before it’s too late.