And what will I miss? Her cruelty, her unfaithfulness
Her fun, her love, her kiss, part company

The Go-Betweens, Part Company

Dear Twitter

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? You never made me feel as nonplussed, ashamed, angry or insignificant as Facebook, but I am supremely glad you are no longer in my life. When we first met (when was that, 2010, 2011? You used to have that useful little reminder under my biog note…I’m going with 2010), when I first started blogging, you appeared to me as the proverbial sweet shop. I could not believe how much connection and fun and opinions and excitement and free stuff I found through you. I truly had a blast. And I am grateful. I have met some seriously lovely people and amazing writers because of you. Thank you.

The thing is, to continue with my clichéd sweet shop analogy for a moment, living on a sugar high all the time started doing things to my (I almost said brain) mind. I became obsessed. I remember listening on the radio to one of those very funny comedian-writers for whom Twitter seems to have been invented and he said he practically lived there, and that was the moment, oh, I don’t know, just two or three years after we started hanging out together (?), that I thought maybe I might be just a wee bit addicted to needing to know the latest thing that poet or politician X or Y had farted or had for their breakfast that morning.

If I am honest, I ignored those early warning signs and carried on tweeting and retweeting (‘building my brand’ -do people still say that?) and having a jolly good time. Gosh, some of your people are funny. Beautiful lyrical language, right off the bat. (I think Anne Lamott said that. You see, though I have not been on you for -what is it, three (?) months now (?), I still have that urge when I think of something -a juicy quote by a favourite writer, say- to tweet it so that I can show the world how clever I am and align myself with their genius, a bit like all those parents on Facebook showing off about their children’s A levels or their granola or whatever. For someone with a very short attention span you were distraction heaven.) Calm, forensic political exposition of lies in threads that seemed dreamily years away from my own inability to string a coherent argument together. Or just brilliant one liners. I do think some people were born for it, like my daughter and my goddaughter.  The young. They cracked me up every time. Catherine Fox. Amazing. I could go on.

I remember the giggles. I remember the poems. (I did get trolled, once. But I knew it was going to happen so it didn’t bother me.) The poets. The discovery of great work that would otherwise have been invisible to me. I followed a million people (it was north of twelve hundred by the end) and guess what, lots of people followed me back. I loved it. I even remember some of my tweets. I tweeted once about police helicopters above my house when all I was doing was eating crisps in my kitchen. That got several likes, oh yes, I can tell you. I was smashing it. Except

the thing is, gradually

I think what you were doing (beautifully, entertainingly, always with that beautiful brief sugar rush)

is smashing me.

I forgot about the long hours I used to spend reading poetry (or anything, a long article in a journal for example) and ditto the long hours I would spend writing. Or walking. Or daydreaming. Basically all the things I need to do, in solitude, that really feed me deep down and give me a sense of who I am and why I am here. You made me forget that space even existed. You got me addicted to distraction.

I tried giving you up a few times, sabbaticals, summer holidays, that kind of thing, but I always came back for more. I followed a poetry festival that I was not invited to on you once, every minute of it filled with envy and petty spite that I was not there while others took my place. You see what you did. You started out as a ball but gradually you broke my heart.

And then Brexit happened. And then Trump. And then I knew, really deep down, in the private soul-space you had long ago colonised with your shouting, witty cleverness, that I needed to quit. I tried quitting again. And again. And again I came back. I knew something was wrong when I muted about 300 people without unfollowing them because I was afraid they would unfollow and think less of me, most of them poets I really admire but had somehow become exhausted by. I knew something was wrong when I even set up an extra lurker account so I could concentrate on the 50 or so people I knew I was interested in without all the chaff.

And then Brexit carried on happening. And Trump. And I just couldn’t do it any more. I put up a message, pinned I think is the word, about you affecting my mental health, sometime in the new year I think it was, and from that moment on I knew I had to leave.

And so I left. I wasn’t even planning on doing it. One day, just like that. Best thing I ever did. (After leaving FB.)

And what of life after Twitter? Am I happier? (How long have you got?) Do I get more done? (Ditto.) Mostly what I notice now is noticing things more. Writing things down in my notebook more. (Writing more generally.) Having deeper conversations more often with more people. Spending much less time worrying about what X or Y said recently about P or S or K. It’s brilliant. I have read books (I have reread books!). I have even subscribed to a journal famous for its long articles. (One thing I will say: I have some new books coming out and the urge to tweet about them is so strong I have nearly rejoined you six or seven times. And I miss being able to tweet when an old post from the archives has become popular. But no.) I realise it is going to be a long, long process (I nearly said journey) getting my mind back to pre-you levels of concentration and connection with others. I am glad you were in my life. But I am so much more happy without you.

As ever with best wishes

Anthony (formerly @awilsonpoet)