I went off Twitter for just over a week, and then quietly returned, and since then, have been taking several steps to make Twitter my space again. Because this is increasingly a problem, especially for women, who, like me, are Loud on the Internet, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned about making my space positive again:
- I quietly culled my following list. Not because I disliked people, but prior to my leaving, I was following almost 1200 people, and that was too many. It left me overwhelmed and exposed. I culled that list down to 673 which still feels like a lot. If this is the moment when you realize that I unfollowed you, please don’t take it personally. We can still interact! If you take it personally, though, then yes, the unfollowing was personal. See how that works?
- I mute phrases. If a trend is bothering me in my TL, I mute it. Sometimes this is just annoyance. Sometimes it’s triggering. Sometimes it’s because I know I can’t NOT get involved and I don’t have time or energy right now for that. Currently muted, in case you want to know what comes across my TL so often that I had to erase it: GOP, Trump, Nazi, Nazis, Holocaust, rape, sexual assault. It’s not that I’m not interested in the GOP race, or talking about the Holocaust, or sexual assault/rape, it’s that I can only talk about that on my own time, when I’m prepared and ready and have all my spoons. I can’t be blindsided with this. It throws me through a loop and it sends me into a place that isn’t always productive or safe.
- I mute people. If our first interaction on Twitter is you being negative, explaining me to me (you’d be SHOCKED how often people explain my own tweets or jokes to me), or criticizing something that wasn’t up for debate, then you’re muted. Enjoy shouting into the void, friends! If I tell you I cannot discuss something and you insist, I mute you. I set a boundary, you crossed it, I mute.
- I block myself from Twitter not infrequently using a free app called SelfControl. For those of us who have none. Sure, I can still go on on my phone and sometimes I do, but generally, I spend so much time at my computer that turning that on forces me to do work or step away and do something else. I’m also monitoring my social media time by using Rescue Time, which logs your time on different activities and creates date and charts of your habits. It’s a little embarrassing, but quietly shames me into spending less time online (though I flopped this holiday) and more time doing work.
- I am trying not to check Twitter right when I wake up, or right before I go to sleep. This is a hard habit to break, but I think it’s important. Digital interface is still interfacing and for someone who is anxious and introverted, it’s exhausting. To start with hours of interface then work, and then ending with interfacing means I’m spending too much of my day Being Katherine Locke. And while I’m open about a lot of things on the internet, I am aware (and trying to be increasingly aware) that I’m in a public sphere and that I’m trying to build a writing career. I’m Katherine Locke here. I need time when I’m just me.
- I sought professional help back in September. I’ve battled depression and anxiety on my own, but the combination of this year and the weight of these issues at this time meant that I couldn’t tell if it was me, or if it was Twitter, and I was struggling too much to keep me from affecting Twitter, Twitter from affecting me. It’s helped. And if you need help, I encourage you to seek it out.
Your online space is yours. You are yours. No matter who you are, or what you do. You have the power and the right to shape your online experience and to do what you need to do to be safe and secure. You are not obligated to engage with everyone. You are not obligated to give everyone the same amount of space. You are not obligated to be here for anyone if you can’t be. You do not have to show up for every justified raging event. You do not have to talk about serious things, and you do not have to talk about cats and puppies. You are in charge of your online spaces. You have the right to protect yourself, both online and offline. You are important. Your voice is valued.
I say this as much to you as I do to myself. The internet is still changing. It’s still young and the way we use it and adapt to it and shape it in our lives changes on a regular basis. We must constantly be checking in with ourselves to assess whether our current personal online rules and boundaries are helping or hindering our online experience, and then adjusting them accordingly.