When old social media feels like it’s dragging you down

Published on 1 February 2021 in , ,

Thirteen years ago, in February 2008 I joined Twitter. Since then, Twitter tells me that I have amassed around 55k tweets. If everyone of them was 140 characters (the original Twitter character limit of course), that would be 7.7m characters.

I suspect that 55k number also includes retweets, so the actual figure could be a lot lower than that. But also Twitter increased the character limit to 280 characters, so it could be more. I could – it is true – download all my Tweets and find out. But then this post would get bogged down in pointless statistics, and that’s not what it’s about.

No. It’s about something else.

I’d like to say I forget why I joined. That would be a lie. I joined because someone at work mentioned it and back then I was all about the socials. Social media was the Next Big Thing™. Job interviews – even for rather mundane jobs in all things internet – stopped asking what your favourite website was, and why. Now it was all about your favourite social media site. And why. At one time I thought about pivoting my career towards it all. So Twitter was an obvious thing to join.

But mostly it was because I knew loads of other people who were joining up. And it looked fun.

This isn’t a post about how Twitter is now a cesspool of awfulness. Lots of people have written about that. There’s things written about that pretty much every day.

No. It’s about something else.

It’s about those 55k tweets. Because they’re beginning to feel like a millstone round my neck. Like I want to delete them all. Over the last few months, I’d repeatedly toyed with the idea of killing off every single one of them. Not deleting my account – merely deleting the old content.

Why should this be? After all, I have a blog that I started in 2002. My very first website started in 1997. There’s probably some content from 1997 still online. This doesn’t feel like a millstone. It feels fine.

And I’m also someone who is passionate about not deleting things. That the web shouldn’t be broken. Content shouldn’t shouldn’t disappear.

So why Tweets? Well, it’s their nature. This is ultra-short form content. It is of the moment. It is essentially valueless. Few people, if any, are going to go back to my throwaway comments from 2014. What would the point?

That’s the crux of the matter. Those 55k tweets are beginning to feel like clutter. They’re hanging around for no good reason. They have no value, no purpose, other than to sit around on a server somewhere taking up space. What value do they have?

Yes you could argue what’s the point? Virtual clutter is different to its physical equivalent. The stuff in your house, on your desk, in your shed, whatever, that gets in the way. At best makes things look less tidy. At worst makes you less productive. But the virtual stuff, well that’s sitting in a data centre somewhere with someone else’s valueless stuff. It doesn’t do any harm.

Yet still I toy with deleting it all.

I don’t know if I ever will. It’s that feeling in you where you’re clearing out a room in your house, and you pick something up. You look at it. You think that you don’t need it. But you don’t want to part with it for no apparent reason. So you put it back where it was.

One day I may look at my Tweets and finally go the other way. Kill the lot. Destroy them all. Burn them with fire. There’s no particularly good reason not to. The internet isn’t going to be full of holes if I do. But I am not there yet. I am still holding on to them.

One day the temptation to finally be rid may be far too strong. It would probably be a good day for me. The day that I am finally ready to remove this pointless, virtual millstone that’s hanging from my neck.