The Great Purge

I was an early adopter of Facebook, where I had a habit of posting long commentaries that were an early version of this blog. Once I started blogging though, Facebook moved into more of a personal realm, where I kept in touch with friends and family and figured out when and where my 20 year high school reunion was going to be. My blog has it’s own Facebook page, which if you’re reading this, you may follow. Facebook has always been and continues to be the top distribution platform for

Twitter, on the other hand, was a bit of a mystery to me at first. I couldn’t fit any coherent thoughts into 140 characters. No one read or seemed to care about anything I said there either. The hierarchy of the “blue check” for verified users enabled some class sorting that I thought skewed consumption unnaturally. For a few years, I didn’t really get the value.

Over time though, I realized what Twitter was; and what it wasn’t. Twitter was a way to consume information. Though it was a two sided network, the format and norms had more friction for sharing, which meant that the content was curated more effectively. Over the last few years, Twitter has been my primary source to understand what’s going on in the world. That’s what Twitter is.

What it’s not, for most of us, is a way to get the word out.

The bar for effectively distributing information via Twitter likely is north of hundreds of thousands of followers. Which makes Twitter, for the overwhelming majority of users, a one sided network. It’s more like TV than Facebook.

I’m no different than most. I have a decent Twitter following, nowhere near what it takes to be an effective distribution channel though. So, that’s not why I use it. For me, Twitter is mostly receive.

Over the past few weeks though, I’ve embarked on a bit of a journey. A purge, is maybe a better description. I’ve always prided myself on doing the work to consider all sides of a story. I was very intentional about following people I didn’t agree with or frankly, didn’t like. I was concerned about turning my Twitter feed into an echo chamber.

What I’ve realized though, that most of the people I didn’t find appealing weren’t appealing because I disagreed with them. They weren’t appealing because they weren’t interesting. After a few years, my feed was filled with un-interesting information of little or no value. So, a few weeks ago, I got to work on thinning the herd.

It’s been cathartic.

Here are the 10 thoughts I had while I did it:

1-No famous trolls. Trolls are easy to spot. Famous people behaving like trolls, less so. If all one does is share people one disagrees with, with an angry comment to evoke a response, one is not adding to the discussion. One is a troll, famous or not.

2-Snark alone is not value. I like a snarky comment just as much as the next guy, but it’s a multiplier, not foundation. Snark with no substance is still no substance.

3-Don’t tell me anything anyone said on cable news. Besides real time coverage of dynamic disasters or tragedies, cable news outlets have nearly nothing important to say and a whole lot of time not to say it. I don’t care.

4-If all of one’s posts are designed to point out what -ism something is, then I can likely figure it out on my own without help and I’ve got to move on.  It’s not that I don’t believe we’ve got racism sexism, terrorism, fascism, communism (other-ism?) problems in this country. I do. But there are slow news days where my entire feed is why the President or someone the president doesn’t like is one or all of them. I get it. I need a little more with my morning coffee though.

5-Do be a smart parity account. There’s a Nixon account that’s fantastic and a God account that’s less so but has 40,000 followers and only follows Justin Bieber.

6-Do talk about arts and sports. Share a poem or something crazy that happened in the Warriors game last night.

7-Do share read lists. Books are the lowest cost, highest value entertainment on the planet. If someone smart shares me a read list with 20 books on it, I’ve got four months worth of entertainment for the cost of two steak dinners ready to go. I’ve got an archive of read lists on Evernote that could last me until the next ice-age.

8-Robots, AI, chess and superheroes. Please. I’m a terrible chess player but I can’t stop reading about it.

9-Share academic papers. After non-fiction books, Academic papers are how I get most of my information. If you read them and share them, you’re on the team.

10-Lastly, and this was a littler harder to sort but perhaps the most impactful, don’t be an ass hole. The anonymity of social media allows us to cross norms we would never think of in person without getting our teeth knocked out. But that doesn’t mean I have to tolerate it when unfollowing is a click away. The fantastic writer George Saunders once told me that he had a principle when writing about real people, that he would never write anything mean spirited and that he was entirely comfortable that he could get his point across within the bounds of that principle. It’s something I’ve strived to accomplish It’s possible, even on Twitter.

There…that’s 10. What else?

Categories: Culture

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3 replies »

  1. I’ve been struggling with whether I should delete or mute people who consistently post one-sided political comments. Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump posts are vast with seemingly sketchy sources. I find little to no value in posts of that nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When Twitter launched, I didn’t understand the value and didn’t begin using it until the ties to SMS went away. Then for a few years I Tweeted, gathered information, etc. – until I read Matt LaBash’s piece, “The Twidiocracy,” about five years ago. It put all the embarrassing reasons I was really using Twitter right up in my face, and stripped away some of the pretensions. After reading that story that I deleted my account. I did recently check out Biz Stone’s book, “Things a Little Bird Told Me,” which was a great rags-to-riches entrepreneurial story, but it didn’t inspire me to start Tweeting again. Every now and then I’ll browse some people’s feeds and it’s really disheartening – I feel like the tone and attitudes that prevail have become so ugly compared to what I saw when I was a regular user years ago.


  3. I was one of last of my friends/family to get a cell phone but finally realized it’s a great camera. I got a Facebook account in 2016 rarely use it. Twitter? No thanks. I do read this blog and appreciate the thoughtful commentary on every subject.


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