Flipping the bird: quitting Twitter and getting my attention back

I joined Twitter 10 years ago and today, I wilfully pressed the deactivate button.

Poof! @_davidhall was dead as a dodo. #GoodBye was the cold parting tweet it presented me with. It had promptly flipped me the bird.

Twitter was part of my daily ritual. Wake, shower, Twitter. Drive, park, Twitter. Cook, eat, Twitter. Then a quick tweet in the bathroom. You get the picture.

I had already freed myself from the shackles of Facebook’s insidious behaviour engineering and the full annoyance of fluffy Instagram influencers. Twitter was my only active connection to the land of exciting happenings, the best of all possible worlds.

I used it to keep up with current events, express my opinions and laugh at the rude things that tweeted. So why deactivate and walk away from all this golden promise?

1. The need to be liked

In order to receive small hits of dopamine, my desire to be retweeted by complete strangers became all-encompassing. This continual chasing after rewards was frustrating and really not important. I never set out to be a junky, and now I felt like one.

I would feel aggrieved over some New Yorker whining about getting the incorrect number of loyalty stamps at Starbucks.

2. Functional distraction

My working memory was being filled to the brim with useless crap. Irrelevant stories and clickbait were turning my attention away from more important concerns in my life. I found it too easy to be distracted by a bulging red Twitter notification, so I eventually turned notifications off on all my apps. Yet, that feeling I was missing something truly life changing still lingered on.

In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley put it best when he said ‘in regard to propaganda the early advocates of uni­versal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’

3. I was becoming angry over nothing

My anger would flare up over any hint of a slight and injustice however small from complete strangers. I’m not talking about human rights violations but feeling aggrieved over some New Yorker whining about getting the incorrect number of loyalty stamps at Starbucks. ‘Absolutely disgusting. Behead the manager’ I would tweet with my head held aloft. What was happening to me? It was getting ridiculous.

I was pursuing low-level goals as if they were valuable.

4. Jumping on the bandwagon

The mob rules. Yes, let’s kick the crap out of anyone for making a stupid but rectifiable mistake. Let’s barge in on their account with the full infantry and stick it to them.

Sick of Trump’s hucksters distracting us with vacuous attention mongering? Of course you are. But what about the endless threads from his opponents, repeating the same statements ad nauseam? It’s all just pouring down the platitudinous sinkhole.

5. Obscuring my goals

Philosopher James Williams says social media is very effective in creating a misalignment ‘between the goals we set ourselves and the goals our technologies direct us towards’. I was pursuing low-level goals as if they were valuable, obsessing over the minutiae of cleverly worded tweets instead of looking at the bigger picture. Unconsciously, Twitter was taking up time that was better used for reflecting on my goals and dreams.

Will I become a digital hermit?

Who knows how it will go down. I may resemble an anachronism soon, especially since I’m part of the product world that created Twitter. Have I made a huge mistake? How will I get these ramblings out to my followers and my peers now I’m dead? I still have 30 days to reactivate my account.

Update: early 2020

I will confess that I recently reactivated my account when I realised how much news and information I got from people who I was genuinely interested in. So far I have resisted commenting or weighing in on discussions with all guns blazing. So far, I still feel free.

Originally published at on March 19, 2019.

Product designer