Make Twitter less toxic by correcting your notifications
Essentials Week highlights unexpected objects that improve our daily life a little.
I am in a love-hate relationship with Twitter.
I love the online friendships I have made through K-pop fans, Gossip Girl memes, and the woes of the media industry. And I hate that everything I learned about NFT was done against my will because a crypto person tweeted it in the ether and it has now been retweeted on my timeline. In a spirit of truth I feel extremely validated through retweets, likes and positive responses. I am a Virgo. I run only on coffee and validation of others.
But, ultimately, I hate how addicted I am to this app. My iPhone tells me that I currently spend over 15 hours a week on Twitter, or just a little over two hours a day – and that doesn’t account for all the hours I’ve spent on my desk throughout. the working day.
I’m not alone in my usual chronic need to stay online. The average person spends two hours and 24 minutes a day on social media apps, and for older Gen Zers, it’s closer to 3 hours.
I joined Twitter in February 2009, when I was in second year in college. From the archives, I mainly tweeted about pop culture, sleepless nights at the library, and… salads. As my work as an entertainment journalist became more and more tied to my online personality, even giving me a coveted blue checkmark, Twitter started to become a necessity; it was an essential marketing tool allowing young people to cross corporate barriers and make themselves heard in real time. In 2012, Twitter was a revolution.
I told you my old tweets were harmless and embarrassing.
Credit: Twitter / crystalbell
Almost 10 years later, it looks more like an uplifting tale.
Make no mistake: Twitter can still open doors for marginalized writers and creatives, and it can foster a true sense of community and belonging. Yet it has also become a space where racism and violence escalate. This disproportionately affects women, especially black women, who are 84% more likely to be abused on the app, according to a study by Amnesty International and Element AI.
I cannot speak for all Twitter users. Everyone’s experience on the app is different. I hit a breaking point in February when the online harassment got so bad that I made my account private and re-evaluated my entire approach to Twitter.
As an online woman who writes primarily about music and fandom, I’ve known the wrath of passionate fan bases. Unfortunately, it’s part of the job. There have been times when this criticism can lead to real and constructive speech. But as Twitter becomes more and more militarized by stans, these cases have become rare. After all, it’s difficult to search through hundreds of examples of threats and abuse to find the people who want to give you their useful feedback. Even engaging with these tweets leads to more harassment. It has become too much. And it made me too sad in the midst of a pandemic that had already destroyed my confidence and self-esteem. Every time I opened the app it was like opening a new wound. And the worst part was that I knowingly inflicted pain on myself.
So, on the recommendation of a friend, I finally changed my app settings. I closed my DMs. I cut out hundreds of words, names, hashtags, and accounts – 716 in total, in multiple languages - like a possessed woman. I’ve limited my notifications to only see responses from the people I follow. (If I haven’t followed you already, I literally can’t see a single thing you tweet at me. I’ve never experienced such peace online.)
It took me less than an hour to make a drastic and positive impact on my time on Twitter.
I know it sounds obvious. Because it is. That’s what these settings are for, to personalize your online experience. But for years, I figured that in order to do my job well, I needed to be as online as possible – always accommodating others, responding to their DMs, and engaging with the talk of the day wittily. How would others know that I’m good at what I do unless they see this? Unless I have a follow-up and a presence that can validate my authority?
Just by changing my notification settings, I am less engrossed in what people are saying online and more present in my own life.
But the less I engaged with people on Twitter, the more I started to enjoy it again. And what’s strange is that it completely changed my relationship with the app and with tweeting in general. I’m still on Twitter every day, but now I don’t check my notifications – and I no longer have the twisted, twisted impulse of searching for my name on the app to see what people are saying about me. (Whatever you do, don’t do that. However, this is how I learned that some Stan accounts refer to me as “that girl with the crystal balls” in the online spaces, which I find amusing.)
Most importantly, I don’t feel anxious anymore if I haven’t tweeted all day. Yes, I spend two hours a day on Twitter (to be honest I’m a digital culture editor so I have to be a bit online), but would you believe me if I told you it was worse before? Just by changing my notification settings, I am less engrossed in what people are saying online and more present in my own life.
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It is not a perfect solution. Sometimes I will satisfy the urge to watch, even briefly. When one of my recent tweets got rated by a fandom, I had no idea it was happening until an angry fan emailed me demanding that I delete the old tweet from several years. It was surreal to realize that for once I was being bullied and didn’t even know it. I lived in blissful ignorance. Sure, I then spent 20 minutes going through tweets, but the fear I felt – the pit in my stomach that would eat away at all my remaining self-esteem – was nowhere to be found. For the first time in my professional online life, I was able to expire.
I know Twitter is not the perfect forum for empathy. At the end of the day, we’re all just pixels on a screen. I used to think that the only validation I could get was from other people, like people who replied to me, liked my tweet, or even retweeted something I wrote. But my online experience is so much better now that I have learned to validate myself.