Digital Destruction (Goodbye, Twitter.)

Published Friday, March 31, 2023 by Bryan

I spent March deleting fourteen years of internet history. Six thousand, three hundred seventy-eight tweets and retweets, gone. I opened, read, and deleted each one.1

There was some good stuff there. Funny exchanges. Life and project milestones. Lessons learned and shared. It was a shame to torch it all.

It's not truly gone for me, of course. I still have my archive, and I took screenshots of some particularly good moments besides. But it is gone from the web. And to me that's both sad, and also the point of the exercise.

Because I'm sad that a place that did once feel like open communication has turned into yet another pay-to-play, fawn-over-celebrities, engagement-via-enragement cesspool. I like to think I spent my time there trying to make it something else, but it seems like at best all I'm doing is hiding a gem that makes it seem like another N minutes of doom scrolling was worth it.

I made the decision to delete after my own doom scroll one night near the end of February. I've moved all of my digital-social interaction to Mastodon over the past four months, but I still checked Twitter once in a while to see what had changed. Over that time, what changed was that I saw more and more content in my feed from people I purposely did not follow. During that final scroll, I realized that none of the accounts in my feed were people I followed, and it was all doom.2

If I had comments enabled on this blog, I'm sure someone would tell me that it's my own fault for not properly curating my feed. Block, mute, unfollow, etc. But ... I did all that. "The algorithm" still thinks that I'm more likely to stick around if it shows me what it showed me. That's the goal of the algorithm - keep me there scrolling, so it can show me another ad.

The algorithm got it wrong. It got it so wrong that I refuse to offer it content to attempt to keep others scrolling either.

The positive angle of this activity is that it has also reminded me to use this blog more often. I read through tweets to make sure there wasn't some bit of reference there that would be lost forever. I should never have worried about that, because I should have spent effort archiving important references here, on the place where I make the decisions about what's displayed. Add this blog's RSS feed to your reader if you'd like to see how well I follow through on that.

ActivityPub/Fediverse is going to be a component of my future internet presence as well. Mastodon is where that's happening for now. I'm going to try explicitly treating that as more ephemeral - perhaps even enabling auto-deletion of posts after some amount of time. It has its flaws, but I think I like the direction of its goals enough to dig deeper.


[1] Or rather, I opened each one. I read and deleted the ones that the UI would allow me to read and delete. Retweets of suspended accounts, or of accounts you don't follow and have since protected their tweets, cannot be read or deleted. Also 2009-10 retweets can't be unretweeted. Maybe interaction is possible via the bare API instead of the UI, but I've expended enough energy there for now.

[2] I'm not delusional - there's a lot of doom in the world right now. I see the news of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, mass shootings, pandemic spread, economic imbalance, racism, fascism, and the rest in my Mastodon feed as well. So far, though, it has been far more well-reasoned discussion of issues than it has been rage and doom. That final tweet scroll was all biting quips and disaster porn.

Categories: Miscellaneous Rant