I quit Twitter almost two years ago. It was a place where I had made so many friends and learned so much from them, but by December 2021 it just wasn’t the same. Maybe it was the algorithm, maybe it was who I followed, maybe it was a sign of the times, but I found my feed had turned into little more than snark, anger, and desperation. Of course I had voiced all of those same sentiments on the platform over the years, but by late 2021, seeing it all reflected back was taking a toll on me.
When I first joined the platform in 2013, it was an invaluable place to be alerted to new publications, new initiatives, new conferences. Someone would post a link to an article and say “I think this is interesting,” and other people would read the article and reply with “If you think that’s interesting, you should really check out this other thing.” And nine times out of ten, that other thing WAS interesting!
It seems silly to consider it now, but many of those interactions between a few librarians on Twitter contributed to creating conference presentations, then full-on conferences, as well as books and journal articles and then, eventually, full journals.
By late 2021, though, I found that most of the links being shared were for the purposes of ridicule. “Look at this terrible take” tweets sparked far more engagement than anything that expressed interest or curiosity. I tried muting and unfollowing, but it didn’t work. It almost seemed like my feed just kept getting worse? A never ending cycle of piling on, then moving on.
So I decided to take a month off, and that ended up turning into a few months. Pretty quickly I realized that spending so much time on Twitter had allowed its unique mix of urgency and outrage to infect other parts of my life. I would walk into settings thinking to myself “Who’s going to be wrong today?!” or “Where’s the fire?!” As that mentality subsided, I was ashamed that I had contributed to it for so long. I also wanted to reach out to my friends and say “Remember when this was better? Let’s be better!” which is, of course, a terrible look. I am in no position to tell others how to live their lives, and if other people were still finding value in the platform, even if it was just a venue for venting, I was happy for them. It just wasn’t for me anymore.
Once the sale was finalized in April 2022, I decided to download my data and delete my account. Should I ever get nostalgic, I can go traipsing through the Twitter chats of yesteryear, though in the ensuing eighteen months I haven’t done it. When I occasionally went back to the site itself to see what The Discourse was, it often took only a moment or two to be reminded of why I left it.
Deleting was also part of my broader disengagement from the profession. Before 2019, I was attending three to five conferences a year, spending a couple hours a day refreshing my timeline, and reading pretty much anything related to library instruction that came my way. I was presenting a lot, writing a lot, and working a lot, right up until I hit the wall. I recognize that a lot of my (in)actions over the last few years were largely a function of burnout and dissatisfaction with my previous library, though of course the pandemic didn’t help. It has been reassuring that now, as I’m settling into my new role, I’m finding that it is still possible for me to find enough focus to read an article or listen to a presentation. It’s been encouraging to speak with new colleagues, to learn about their research areas, to make connections. I find that I have more energy, and more enthusiasm, than I’ve had in a while. It’s reminded me of an earlier time in my career.
I’m sharing this because after several hard years, I’m in a much better place, and I’ve missed my friends in the profession. I’ve missed learning. I’ve missed engaging. I email with people, I text with people, I Zoom with people, but I miss the larger community that Twitter and conferences provided. I rejoined LinkedIn this past spring, but the vibe over there is… weird. It’s like everyone’s on a job interview all the time? So as of last week I’m trying out Bluesky, which seems to have a nice balance of conversation and shitposting without so much of the snark and rage that pushed me off of Twitter. Additionally, I registered to attend the ACRL/NY Symposium in December, which will be my first in-person conference since 2019. It’s a small, one-day affair with just a few sessions, but I’m hopeful I’ll see a few old friends and learn some new things.
Even as I write this, I’m wondering how this reconnection is going to work. At this point I’m not looking to construct my identity around my profession, but I would still like to be involved with it. That means that I’m facing lots of questions about how to move forward. Do I really want to give up my evenings and weekends to finish a manuscript? Do I really want to miss life events because I’m traveling to a conference? These are questions that a younger version of me didn’t consider, I just plowed ahead in the name of “professional development.” That approach to my career certainly brought with it material rewards, but there were also costs, and I’d like to find a balance that works for me in the longer term.
I also have to say that, in the little bit that I’ve already reengaged, it’s been rather uncanny to return to activities that used to fill so much of my time, such as opening a social media feed or filling out a travel request form. It’s familiar but… all very different. And of course the world’s different, and I’m different, so it makes sense. But there are other parts that seem like they haven’t changed at all, which is somehow even more unnerving?
Anyway, if you’re still in the profession, dear reader, maybe we’ll see each other around sometime soon. And if not in-person, perhaps we can at least laugh at each other’s memes, promote interesting research, and hopefully not let our main means of communication get wiped out by some bozo billionaire.