Why did you leave Twitter?

The most frequently asked question of me in the past 3 months is the title of this post. I’ve gotten about a dozen phonecalls, a heck of a lot of private messages, instant messages, facebook mails, emails (remember them?) and even LinkedIn messages asking me why I wasn’t using Twitter. Some even seemed hurt, the same reaction some gave me when I went off drink for a year.

There were all sorts of bets happening when I headed to Cuba towards the end of October about whether I could stay offline for the 12 days I’d be away for. No hassle at all, though my text bill was massive.

When I returned from the holiday, I logged into Twitter and saw countless amounts of bullshit. There were hapless spammers getting everyone to hashtag Twitter messages about where they were from, wannabe experts on business and social media talking themselves up and retweeting praise about themselves and then the usual keyboard cowboys passive aggressively doing the whole “certain people” stuff. So I logged off for another few days. Nothing you can contribute to those conversations except “Shut up”.

Photo owned by sean_oliver (cc)

The slugtards blogged how I was too busy with work to use Twitter but that, like everything else they do and say was wrong. I deleted and removed some folks on Twitter and added more over the time and a much larger cull is needed before I start using it properly again. I still used it to have private conversations with people over the past few weeks. A few thousand messages since October, Twitter tells me. I’ve been using it as an information source too. Hands down, Twitter is more useful for gathering quality information than the 350+ news feeds I sub to with Bloglines. Human filters work. I was still reading Twitter on a daily basis and favouriting anything I found useful. You can see them here. Some people even subbed to the RSS feed of it. Bless.

Privacy is dead when Twitter is about
Oddly, even when not using Twitter in public, you will still feature in public. Anything you do elsewhere gets mentioned on Twitter by people and this includes media stuff, public talks, blog posts, Facebook status updates and even where you check into on Foursquare. It’s interesting for me that it shows you just cannot be private anymore. Unless the only people you know are not connected to anything or anyone online. Foursquare is a very small and closed network to me yet my activities are shared on Twitter by others and so to the public. When I met people on the street, there were Twitter messages about it. On a daily basis I was part of the Twitter space without being there. Very odd and something to consider.

And more. Most of the social media jesters put up numbers on their blog entries (while declaring it ain’t a numbers game) about how influential they are based on the number of times their posts were Tweeted about. The thing with Twitter is that it’s spambot heaven. Mention social media in a blog post and it gets tweeted and retweeted without you doing a thing. The 25 years blog post got 30 tweets from bots alone. Twitter is the web copied but with viraled content, morphing and evolving into a mess.

Flaming Marshmallows
Photo owned by jronaldlee (cc)

Did I miss Twitter?
And did I miss being on Twitter and conversing? Not really no. Every now and then I wanted to contribute something useful and ended up doing it via private message or emailing the person with the message instead. Or I wanted to tell some muppet to shut up. There was more of that alright. It was interesting to be there though and to be just an observer as all this data flew past. Once you take part, the data changes and corrupts the conversation you observe. It also showed that your opinion doesn’t actually matter in the greater scheme of things. Questions I could have answered would get answered anyway, when some eejit needed to be told he was clueless there was someone else to do that too. This is good and this is bad. It means that if someone in your group leaves or can’t contribute anymore then the group can still function. Distributed power etc. It’s bad for those that feel that they have to be a needed part of a community and need to define who they are in life. You’re not even a number on Twitter…

A friend (who also uses Twitter) believes that there’s a massive groupthink going on in Twitter. This is possibly true. It’s like being at an Ard Fheis at times. Reality gets parked as everyone claps each other. Maybe because sending out an opinion is easy, it’s sent to people who are interested in your opinion and it’s generally without consequence and so these factors combined makes you think somehow that your opinon is divine. There’s plenty of people too on Twitter who say absolutely nasty stuff on it that they wouldn’t have the balls to say in another setting. And they’ll get clapped for it. I’m an optimist about tech and social tech so I think that kind of stuff will all sort itself out in time. It’s still new and developing.

I’ve been back on Twitter since Jan 1st and using it as a plaything but it’s amazing that saying nothing for a while gets so much attention in a system that’s always about lots of conversing.

20 Responses to “Why did you leave Twitter?”

  1. searchbrat says:

    You are spot on with twitter being full of spam bots. Google deciding twitter updates should replace organic listings didn’t help. Spammers can now auto ping out 140 messages with keyword and appear above an organic listing from an authority site. Although they are not taking into consideration the fact those tweets are not going to appear for long or be clicked on much, give people a window and they will try to jump out it.
    I have a couple of twitter accounts setup to auto ping peoples content out, who in turn auto ping some of mine out. Not used for anything else other than getting stuff indexed. One of those bots has 120 followers from auto follow bots …

  2. Nellboy says:

    Funny, I’ve always found twitter to be of limited use personally. Never really got much value from it. Although I can see the potential, I suppose I’m using it incorrectly. I’ve just found too many tweets from intelligent people of the following nature: ‘The view over the grand canyon is f**king amazing’ – or ‘ahhh nothing like a morning coffee’ – REALLY? – tell me something I DON’T know that will actually be of some use to me professionally!!!

    I’ve personally found the many blogs I subscribe to to be of much higher value and content.

  3. […] that at the moment- To be that out there. I’ve enjoyed being private this year. Then I read this article by Damien Mulley […]

  4. Ruairi says:

    I think my head would hurt if I thought about Twitter as much as you have I see it as a place to talk crap, get inspiration, and have a laugh.

    I have stopped using it for business (except for using the RSS technology as a news feed for my website). I don’t run my business on the basis of in the moment reactions and thoughts. A business is built up over years, a Tweet is an instant thing. The two are not compatible I feel.

  5. Marc says:

    Interesting to see the groupthink angle come up. It’s been something I’ve been curious about for a long time, but there’s a very awkward part of me that wonders just what the collective thinking power of Twitter is when there are so many little tiffs between users πŸ˜‰

    For my own part, I’m a little too enthralled by the medium to really get to the message, but that’s a personal issue I’ll have to deal with at some stage…

  6. M Buckley says:

    Twitter makes a great reading list. Also handy for keeping up with friendly posters encountered in chat rooms.

    Just one downside. Those who think they are protected by blocking their tweets could run into legal problems.
    I have blogged about the dangers of posting slanderous or libellous material, even in private, that could be a problem if the posts were to come into the public sphere.

    Younger posters often think that “private” means “untouchable”.
    If I wanted to bad-mouth others, Twitter would not be my first port of call…

  7. Liam Burke says:

    While viewing over old facebook messages recently I found a really nice one from you enquiring about my twitter silence over 2 years back. Twitter was a different place back then, it was a place leaning towards conversations for the first time, while I was against the @user at first, I began to grow to love it, it brought people closer together, we had some fun conversations and games. There was a real sense of community, I followed maybe 220 people, when I came back I felt it was changing before my eyes, hashtags and retweets were the main talking point and in my opinion the majority where used by cowboys and it just became noise.

    So many more Irish people had joined in the meantime and I conversed with and followed them, my numbers incresed to over 390 at one stage and working offline for 8.5 hours each day meant there was no way to keep track of the main talking points and catching up took the enjoyment factor away, in November I questioned my enjoyment of twitter again and came to the conclusion that to enjoy twitter I had to unfollow the noise and just settle on a select few to follow, now the number is down to 115 and I must say twitter feels like a new place again, I have o2 sending some peoples tweets to my phone and can easily reply to them via sms or mobile web.

    Each person can make twitter suit their needs, following celebrities, friends, designers, spam tweets, companies etc, the place is big enough for this and all users can exist together and never cross paths. It’s also great to get an incite to how people use it and what they get from it.

  8. McAWilliams says:

    So why exactly did you leave?

    Nah very good points made, it has lost a lot of what made it great when I first joined some 2 and half years ago, I hope one day I will also find my mojo agin, maybe a 3 month break is what I need too? hmmm

  9. Kevin says:

    Twitter is going through a change. It’s not an innocent little community anymore. Some of it still exists for sure, but a lot of that community now sell themselves through the system as “experts” in “social media” because they’ve got 2500 followers. This is what’s wrong with it.

    I’ve managed to keep my little twitter community reigned-in so I haven’t had a lot of spammy crap fly my way in 2009. But it’s coming. You can’t say anything without triggering some spam bot & now users are selling their accounts as ad space.

    I said 2010 will see twitter die and something else rise up from the ashes, just like everything else (it took myspace turning into a spammy wasteland for facebook to rise, etc.). The new twitter will solve the issues twitter has now, and if done right can really help maintain real connections and a real community.

  10. Maurice says:

    I’m a recent enough convert to the world of twitter. I am happy following the 45 odd people that I do follow. I may cull some of these, I may not. I like poking about in it and I find it a useful source of information. I also like the personalities. I like the idea of firing a statement into the ether and seeing what you get back. It can be fun.

    I can also see the downsides of course and I think it’s necessary to prune every so often – I do it with my YouTube subscriptions and the blogs I follow. Things change over time and certain things interest me at different times so of course I will change how I use twitter too. At the moment I’m enjoying it. I can even see uses for it for work.

  11. Ian Healy says:

    A high text bill? Mine were free…. Who’s pushing buttons NOW, Mulley? πŸ˜‰

  12. Oh look, I made you respond!

  13. Darragh says:

    You weren’t the only one being asked about why YOU left twitter πŸ˜‰

    It’s fascinating that people feel you have some sort of duty to them because you interact or engage with them, or that because you do something regularly, you have a responsibility to do it every day. I guess you start to fit into people’s daily routines and people like routine.

    I reckon you got as much kudos in your absence as you did by tweeting. I just hope it doesn’t start loads of copycat absences.

    It also showed that your opinion doesn’t actually matter in the greater scheme of things.

    True that. Makes for great fun.

  14. Padraig McKeon says:

    I assumed that your absence was actually an experiment to benchmark the significance / relevance / value of Twitter, in the same way that trying out a new platform would . It may not have started out that way (or maybe it did) but could be said to have given you some good observations / intelligence in that respect.

  15. Sean Oliver says:

    There is no leaving twitter. Its like the mob.

  16. […] previously talked though about not having any privacy in public when I was off Twitter. Despite not being on it, people reported where I was seen, what I was wearing, they talked about […]

  17. James says:

    Found your site by accident as I was looking at who was using some of my photos (the marshmallow torch is me). Surprised and gratified to find a post on my new favorite band, the Freelance Whales. Guess I gotta add you to my feed reader, eh? πŸ˜‰

  18. Thanks for leaving the comment James, much appreciated! Hoping Freelance Whales eventually come to this side of the Atlantic too.

  19. […] Clearly, I’m not the only one feeling this way. In October 2009, the Irish Twitter community was devasted when it appeared that the much loved (and hated) Damien Mulley was no longer using Twitter. How could this be? they asked… One of the most respected online marketing experts in the country had simply given up on Twitter and disappeared into oblivion. It didn’t help of course when he didn’t post on his blog for weeks either. But the reality was, that this wasn’t really the case as he explains on his blog (read here). […]

  20. […] that at the moment- To be that out there. I’ve enjoyed being private this year. Then I read this article by Damien Mulley […]