You know, the first inkling I had that I was good at Twitter — which was also my first inkling that Twitter was a thing one could be good at — was when I would tweet “So, here’s the thing.” and people would start retweeting and liking it before I even made another tweet in the thread, before they could have any earthly idea what I was about to start talking about.
I started doing topical threads on Twitter out of a recognition that engaging with individual people through replies was not always (or often) super fruitful. If someone was spreading bad information or being belligerent, arguing with them directly rarely had any positive effect. If someone was asking a sincere question, replying to them might help that person, but few others would see it… which often led to more people sincerely asking the same question.
I decided that if I found myself with something to say that was worth saying, I would say it in the main feed, usually @-ing nobody. Just put the information out there, for the benefit of anybody who cared to listen to it.
And when I did this, my engagement skyrocketed. I started to gain followers rapidly. I had enough people reading my content and engaging with it that I was able to monetize Twitter through crowdfunding. My tweets were in demand, they went viral far beyond the normal reach for an account of my size… which was constantly growing.
I think this is the best way to use Twitter, the healthiest and most productive.
It’s not necessarily the easiest, or the most psychologically rewarding in the short term. Direct engagement with other people… dunking, slamming, burning people who are spreading hate or exposing their willful ignorance… gives so much more of a rush for so much less effort. It feels like you’re really doing something, while actually demanding very little of you.
It’s so much easier that I’ve found myself doing it more and more in the past couple of months, while I was reeling from my mother’s death and recovering from illness.
Meanwhile, the infrastructure of Twitter has changed considerably. Once upon a time, your replies to other people didn’t show up in the general feed of people who follow you. Then, I think they added a thing where you would see replies if you were following both people involved.
Now, I guess as part of Twitter leadership’s plan to help encourage conversation, if I reply to someone like Ben Shapiro or Jordan Peterson or Kellyanne Conway, not only will my tweet show up in my followers’ feeds, but so will the one I’m replying to.
For all these reasons and more, I’ve made the decision to refocus my Twitter account away from that kind of engagement and back onto my own original work. I’m not going to ignore the forces of evil at work on social media; I’m just not going to keep jabbing at them pointlessly.
At this point, I have neither the interest nor need to keep proving I’m clever. It’s time to go back to demonstrating wisdom. It’s less fun in the short term, but healthier and more productive in the long run.
I wrote the bulk of this blog post last night and since then… well, it’s been a bit of a struggle. Already today I’ve found myself looking at tweets buried in the replies on viral tweets that seemed to cry out for a rebuttal. But what would be the point? It’s just not a good use of time or energy, two things which I have in limited supply.