By now, you’ve probably heard the news: I, Heather Wilhelm — a writer who has been labeled a “national treasure” on at least two occasions by two separate people, and no, they were not members of my family, and no, I do not think they were being facetious — have officially departed from Twitter.
Perhaps you heard the wails of despair when I left. It caused quite a sensation in the journalism world, my quitting Twitter. Loud shrieks of digitized mourning churned through the Internet tubes. Esteemed members of the media, I am told, could hardly type through their tears. Earnest emails from former followers flooded my inbox, begging me to come back before it was too late.
Just kidding! Here is what actually happens when you quit Twitter: Nobody cares.
Okay, fine, I’ll amend that a bit: A small group of your loved ones might care, especially if you have spent any time in the past year compulsively checking to read six different versions of the same half-incorrect headline on your screen at once, or to see whether some random anonymous Internet individual — or even worse, a famous person! — is gleefully whipping up a bloodthirsty Twitter mob to publicly shame you on any given day.
But other than that, nobody really gives a hoot when you quit Twitter. This is ironic, I know, given the sheer number of dramatic online articles written — cough, cough, ahem — about quitting Twitter. But bear with me. Here’s the good news: Once you get through the classic Twitter post-quitting withdrawal period, other people still may not give a rip, but you will care. In fact, I predict you will be downright ecstatic. I know, because I’ve done it, and the results have been glorious.
The first step to Twitter freedom is simple: Delete the Twitter app from your phone. For the second step — and for some of you, this might sound terrifying, so get ready — you must deactivate your account. I know, I know: Horrifying! Extreme! But trust me, this second step is important, and here’s why: Deactivating your account is the only way to truly save yourself from pulling the infamous “Twitter is Terrible, It’s Destroying Civilization, I Quit, Ha Ha, Just Joking, Oh Hey, What a Surprise, I’m Back on Twitter Two Hours Later” routine.
According to official national statistics (also known as the statistics concocted this very moment inside my own head), the dubious “Fake Twitter Quit” has been attempted by almost every member of the working media currently living in these United States.
Remember when that guy wrote a whole piece for The New York Times about how he unplugged from social media, when he was actually merrily tweeting the whole time? If your account is deactivated, you cannot do this! You also cannot backslide when you’re bored in line at the taco truck! You also cannot check into Twitter for “just a minute or two,” only to find yourself three hours later in an empty alley on the outskirts of Skid Row deeply engaged in a strangely impassioned debate with two Internet strangers over the best way to remove eggs from the carton or whether the toilet paper roll should unspool from the bottom or the top or whether Harrison Ford is too old to still play Indiana Jones. (HE’S NOT, YOU MONSTERS.)
After a one-to-two-week withdrawal period, you have a choice: You can either let your account drift toward oblivion — I believe you have twenty to thirty days before everything dissolves, floating away like dandelion seeds on a Jimmy Buffett-style banana wind, and maybe even longer if you have a verified account, but who knows, these things change all the time, so don’t blame me if something goes awry — or you may reactivate your account.
There are a few reasons you might want to reactivate your account, even though they are probably not very good reasons. My reason was that I was afraid some smart aleck might take over my identity and start tweeting crazily offensive things about how culottes are truly back or how Harrison Ford is too old to play Indiana Jones. Total deactivation is probably best, for the record. Here is the key point: Since reactivation, I have not logged back in.
You can use the following foolproof test to see if you are ready for the somewhat dangerous option of post-departure account reactivation: 1. A crazy news story breaks. (These days, this happens approximately every 22 minutes.) 2. You think to yourself, “Man, I bet Twitter is going BANANAS right about now, churning with speculation and hot takes and panic and infighting, with everyone getting at least 77 percent of the key details wrong!” 3. You have zero desire to log in to Twitter.
So anyway, I’m about two weeks into my Twitter-free life, and boy, is it great. Remember the movie “Office Space,” where our hero Peter Gibbons gets a botched hypnotism and ends up so relaxed that he starts sleeping through his boss’s weekend calls and blatantly playing Tetris at work and watching kung fu marathons with Jennifer Aniston and gutting a whole fish at his desk? Well, that’s not me, but I’m a heck of a lot closer than I was before!
Let me count the ways life is better in a post-Twitter world:
You’re free from the hive mind. I recently re-read “A Wrinkle in Time,” and I’m not going to lie, you could find worse stand-ins for the churning, conformist IT than Twitter dot com. I’m serious! It completely warps reality!
Twitter somehow gets very smart people to focus obsessively on news stories that will mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things in two weeks, or possibly even two days. It fosters intricate debates about topics that normal people would find completely absurd. Because it is highly addictive and trains your brain to crave new information every minute, Twitter is also the kingdom of irrelevant minutae. On Twitter, groupthink thrives.
Back in my Twitterized days, I recall explaining to someone that being on Twitter was practically a job requirement for media people, much like a Bloomberg machine is essential to someone who works in finance. “Heather,” my friend said, “Bloomberg machines help people make actual money, and they cost $25,000 a year. Twitter just wastes a colossal amount of time. And I know it doesn’t make you any money.” Ha ha! Touche!
When a news story breaks, you are often better off waiting an hour or so for the actual details rather than breathlessly scrolling through relentless tiny incremental updates, some of which are factually incorrect. Also, when a news story breaks, Google often posts some of the top tweets on the topic on its search page, so you can have your cake and eat it too!
When you leave Twitter, you free yourself from the awkward and baffling spectacle of watching intelligent people waste their entire day arguing with random Internet users with slightly scary usernames. This used to blow my mind with great frequency. Arguing with people on Twitter never ends well. Never! Almost every Twitter argument is 100 percent pointless, with the exception of arguments that are actually not arguments, but long extended jokes. Those are okay.
You’re free from TFOGD (The Fear of Getting Dragged). If you are on Twitter, you likely know one of its chief hazards: Someone could be publicly dragging you at any moment. Even if you aren’t logged in, you know, deep down, that might be talking about you RIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT. “Check your phone,” Twitter intones, buzzing away. “Check your phone now! I don’t care if it’s right in the middle of your mom’s 95th birthday party! Someone might be yelling at you! Or hey! SOMEONE MIGHT HAVE RETWEETED YOUR PREVIOUSLY UNAPPRECIATED JOKE.”
Friends, this is no way to live. Limit your haters to the people who actually take the time to email you.
You no longer have to tweet out articles only to have someone read only the headline and freak out because they assume the article says the opposite of what it actually does. This happens all the time.
There are better things to do. Remember I mentioned being bored in line at the taco truck? Here are some things you can do in that situation which do not involve checking Twitter:
- Text your mother/father/grandma/etc.
- Text your friends
- Listen to a podcast
- Cook up some fun weekend plans
- Think about the meaning of life
- Read the freaking taco menu
- Perform squats, stretches, or lunges for greater strength, tone, and endurance
There … I think that’s enough for one day. Have I thoroughly convinced you to leave Twitter? Good! I didn’t think so. Well, at least I gave it a shot, and I, for one, am enjoying my Twitter-free life. Perhaps I shall even allow myself to post this article as a farewell tweet.
JUST JOKING. Kind of. Maybe you should just tweet it out instead.