Even though we’ve established that Twitter is a cesspool overrun with Nazis and bots and people with very strong opinions about McDonalds dipping sauces, here’s how difficult it actually is to quit: in 2016 I did Hajj, the religious pilgrimage many people spend their entire lives saving up for. Even after deleting the app from my phone and committing myself to a once-in-a-lifetime religious experience, I still couldn’t stop tweeting (even though I had announced — via tweet! — that I was going to spend less time online).
As an attention-loving freelance journalist whose work is frequently commissioned by people who find me through Twitter, it’s been impossible for me to quit the app altogether, no matter how crazy it’s driven me. But by the end of 2017, I was feeling burnt out. I grew to hate knowing which one of my harmless peers frequently put a period before @-ing realDonaldTrump; I didn’t have the energy to decode a subtweet; and I certainly didn’t want to witness anymore weird self-righteous bullying. While searching for a solution that would help me keep the things I love about Twitter (as a freelance writer, I see the platform as a type of workspace) while eliminating those I hate (finding myself emotionally invested in things that don’t matter), it suddenly dawned on me: the worst thing about Twitter is actually everyone else. I was going to mute everyone, rendering all opinions but my own effectively invisible.
Alone in my brother’s basement one afternoon, I messaged my friend to tell her I was going to do it, then began the slow and painstaking process of manually muting over 1,000 people. Giddy with power, I silenced every single friend, editor, frenemy, pity follow, person I only allowed on my timeline because of their good looking avi — everyone. Taking it a step further, I also changed my notifications to people I follow only, meaning I truly do not know if anyone is mentioning me in any type of tweet. In a final move, just to be able to see what my friends and certain journalists were up to, I created a small private list to check no more than once or twice a day.
Now when I log on to Twitter, no bad news or maddeningly ignorant @ reply can assail me unless I actively seek it out. Because I really only use it for tweeting or DM-ing, I’m never logged on for more than 20 minutes at a time, and I no longer feel tethered to the website with the same sense of urgency.
The best part is that I genuinely have no idea what’s going on. Before I muted everyone, I would talk to my friends who didn’t use Twitter about petty spats or subtweets I’d witnessed, only for them to look at me like I was an alien. Now, when my Twitter-using friends tell me about some extremely viral piece, I feel confused and out of my depth. Because these outrages are so numerous and transient, I’ve found it’s easy to just let them pass by; even people who actively participate in ritual draggings seem to barely remember what they were outraged about 24 hours prior. I honestly have no idea who Bari Weiss is or why I should hate her; I found out about the yoga pants fracas days afterwards.
The only drawback is that, at my core, I am a messy bitch who lives for drama, so it does also kind of suck to be so out of the loop. If there’s any good beef, it has to be handed to me on platter by a friend hours later, the digital equivalent of waiting for a carrier pigeon to deliver your messages. Recently, my friend decided to give up on trying to even explain a longstanding drama between two writers who’d been subtweeting each other because I simply couldn’t get it.
It’s been just over two months since I began muting everyone, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Aside from the fact that I’m too lazy to go back and manually un-mute everyone, I’m also less stressed out and full of rage for complete strangers. Who knew that the whole time I was making myself angry about, I was only 1,000 mutes away from sheer bliss.