or: a long term relationship
I’ve been with twitter for quite a bit of time- as our four year anniversary approaches and my follower count hovers around 600, I’ve been putting some relatively serious thought into the effects that this outlet has on my creative life. I cold-turkey quit twitter for Lent, and during that time and the few months afterwards I found that I wrote more just for myself than I ever really had- I finished two short stories and a handful of essays. I wrote a little bit every day, and I felt great about it. I’ve always had ideas about cool things that I would like to write about, but I never really did anything with them up until that point. Of course, my streak occurring near my twitter hiatus doesn’t necessarily mean that the two were in any way related- but I have a few thoughts as to why they might have been.
the fav hustle
Any half-conscious twitter user is familiar with the concept of the fav- nevermind that they’re technically “likes” now- they’ll always be favorites in my heart. It’s a simple click or tap that the reader of a tweet can perform to send the writer a notification that they enjoyed that particular scrap of content. It’s rewarding, it’s fun, and I find receiving them truly addictive. It’s instant gratification that not only indicates to me that something that I wrote affected a person in a way that compelled them to do an action that they didn’t have to do, it’s also a status symbol- my tweet got 9 favs, and everyone can see that it did. It’s a little sign on someone’s timeline that says that John is Good Enough To Get Nine Favs. All this, just from 140 characters- the reward vs work ratio is colossal, especially when compared to the measly satisfaction of having completed a story after two months of daily work and then letting it collect virtual dust on my hard drive.
So when my little peabrain is presented with the choice of thinking about new things to tweet or thinking about new full length stories to write down, I consistently choose what’s going to give me the most pleasure- the tweets. And every time I get more positive feedback on twitter, I become less likely to choose to write long things in the future. It’s a vicious cycle that I think is really bad for my personal creative development. So I feel like this begs the question: is tweeting inherently worse than writing long(er) things? I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on that question as well, and I generally think that the answer is yeah, it is worse. I think that when a creative outlet offers a freeform medium for self-expression paired with the kind of emphasis on quantifiable feedback that twitter does, it creates a conflict of interest for the user- either genuinely express themselves, or create things that they know are most likely to provide the most little heart-shaped dopamine hits. I’ve started to become acutely aware of this dichotomy, and it’s affected the way I feel about my thoughts. I’ll tweet how I genuinely feel about something, and I’ll watch the little piece of my mind hang out in the zero-fav hellscape until I delete it and feel bad about myself and then tweet something like this:
girl do u take insulin because you've got a serious case of FLYabetes hahahaha amirite haha— john (@drdikeman) June 18, 2016
The problem is, there’s no reason that I should expect anyone else to approve of an actual genuine piece of myself- but I do, because twitter is a game that I’ve begun to feel like my worth as a creator is decided by. Writing long-form stories and essays and publishing them on places like Medium or on this blog removes the feedback element, and leaves me free to express myself completely free from the worry that none of my followers will enjoy it enough to hit the like button.
so quit twitter, nerd.
Yeah, well- it’s not really that simple. I use twitter to connect with new people, to promote things that I believe in, and to keep up with friends. Deleting my account would leave me at a bit of a disadvantage in the modern world. I’m not entirely sure what the solution to the problems that I’ve described are. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a script that will automatically delete my tweets a short time after I tweet them- but that’s functionally the same as having no account at all, it seems like. I can’t help but feel like I’m making excuses for myself, which may or may not be fair. I think that twitter is bad for me, but I won’t quit. I will, however, try to use it less and actually write more- and hopefully in the process, I’ll train myself to not rely on other people’s fingertips for self-esteem and creative fulfillment.