Ever since the launch of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter just two years later, nothing has ever been the same. Through social media we’ve been able to connect with old and new friends alike, share our voices and opinions for all the world to see, and discover new ways to communicate and interact with each other all from behind a computer screen.
It’s also drastically changed how we view, consume, and experience sports and pop culture. Logging into Twitter has become as pivotal to an entertainment experience as turning on your television to watch it. From hashtags and memes to trending topics and kickstarters, social media has become a driver for entertainment, activism, and everything that falls in between.
We’ve seen beefs between celebrities get started over tweets. We’ve delighted in tender moments shared via Instagram posts. We’ve heard musicians blow up over night because of a Soundcloud song. We’ve connected with friends from the past and in entirely different countries through Facebook. All of these things were merely beginning to exist a decade ago.
Join us as we look at how social media has impacted our world – from its greatest moments and events, to what its future holds. This is Social Media Week.
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POINT: Twitter is great.
COUNTERPOINT: Twitter is awful.
Both of these things are true, and I have spent a good portion of the last six years of my life trying to reconcile that fact. Twitter is a microcosm of the internet in full, which itself is a microcosm of the human condition. The internet was bad enough; you shouldn’t be able to know what every person in the world has to say about any particular topic. It’s not normal.
At least for the first decade on the internet, you had to work a little bit. You had to find specific message boards, seek out niche sites and wait out dial-up speeds with what would today would be considered the patience of a Zen master.
Picture the internet as a normal star in the sky, an expansive object creating light and heat. All stars eventually explode in a supernova, represented in this analogy as the advent of social media. Now think of Twitter as a neutron star, the dense bit that remains after a star explodes. It’s smaller but much more compact, and eventually grows cold, unforgiving and ultimately useless. This is how I picture this website more often than not.
It has all the major components of the internet as whole, just crammed together in a tiny space that isn’t meant to hold that many people and their opinions. At least not in the natural order of things. Twitter changes the human condition. We’re not supposed to be mad about what some random dude 800 miles away does or thinks. For hundreds of thousand of years we didn’t care, and there was no way to know about it. And that was good!
Now, we can stumble onto viewpoints we hate without even trying, from any topic from basketball to politics to food preparation. If you hate yourself as much as I do, you will occasionally seek out those bad opinions, for no discernible reason at all. This is a common thing now! But that doesn’t mean it’s normal. Smarter, better adjusted folks than me probably know how to utilize this site properly, but I firmly believe every single user gets Mad Online(™) through Twitter on a regular basis.
That’s why I recommend you just hit the self-destruct button and take a break.
Since 2013, I’ve taken a Twitter hiatus every summer. I don’t have a consistent system, and I vary my excommunication year to year. Usually I deactivate my account for a month or two. I have another account that only follows reputable NBA accounts, that I’ll check every so often for the big news. (That’s right, I had a burner account before it was cool.) My general intention is that I can’t tweet, and at the very least I severely limit the amount of other tweets I see.
I have to tell you: these precious few weeks are some of the most blissful of the year.
I couldn’t tell you a single thing I have done in all that time I saved by not checking Twitter. I probably (definitely) got mad at stuff through other internet sources and in real life in that time. But it didn’t consume me. And I couldn’t go back to the same source of my anger multiple times per day, unprompted. I found other stuff to do. Turns out it’s not that difficult. It’s freeing, knowing you can’t indulge on your worst impulses.
I come to Twitter for three things: sports, jokes and sports jokes. Over the course of the year, I forget that. I get caught up in other random stuff I shouldn’t care about. Once my hiatus starts, I realize I don’t miss any of the other crap I see on a daily basis, terrible opinions or completely pointless life updates from people I’m not sure why I follow. After a week or two, I don’t even miss the good stuff, the sports, jokes or sports jokes.
And that’s the secret: you aren’t supposed to know most of the things you see on Twitter, even the stuff you enjoy. If you don’t know it’s out there, you can’t miss it. Even if you would enjoy it. Simplifying your life, for however brief a period of time, has lasting effects.
Even if you don’t debase yourself with your Twitter habits repeatedly like sorry ol’ me, I still recommend a break from time to time. It serves as a recalibration, a hard reset back to your original intentions for the site. Most importantly, you remember it’s much healthier to focus on things you enjoy rather than things you hate. Twitter tends to blur the line between those two. A hiatus makes that line clear for you once again.