What have I done?

In my attempts to reduce doomscrolling in this triple tsunami of pandemic, recession, and election, I began subscribing to Twitter accounts in my RSS reader using Feedbin.

The idea was, hey, it’s really easy to choose just a few accounts. I want to actually see what these, say 50 people say, and make sure I don’t miss things. But I can read these 50 outside of the algorithm, in a place that’s harder to mash the retweet with comment button, in a place that won’t encourage me to post and jump into The Discourse 1.

Two fucking hundred unread. 36 accounts, one day, two fucking hundred unread. Dread.

What have I done?

I didn’t want 200 things to read from across the day in chronological order. This feels like doomscrolling in a new place. Why are you all tweeting so much? Why can’t I get rid of some of these accounts without a feeling of remorse?

So I did two things that helped make me feel sane. First, on many days, I just Mark All as Read and clear it out. It doesn’t matter if I’ve read these posts are not. No one is checking. There’s no penalty to opting out if it feels pointless, or overwhelming, or uninterested.

The second thing was more interesting. I thought a bit about how I organized my own webpage, chronological by day. I did this because I wanted my own stream of thoughts to be read in order. I want my first post of the day to be read first, and my last post to be read last. This is a personal blog, and the narrative on here is my life and there’s no reason why looking at my blog that my life should be running in some bizarre reverse order.

So I sorted and read the Tweets I subscribed to the same way. Rather than putting each of the accounts in a Twitter folder and attempting to recreate a chronological feed, I instead pretended that each Twitter account was a blog, and I read those blogs in chronological order, person by person. And you know what? Their lives had narrative too. Reading their posts in order, together, and each account I followed this way had a narrative. It was not this mixed up jumbled feed of different thoughts and ideas and topics and voices coming at me all at once, whether reverse chronological or algorithmically sorted. Instead, I was reading what people were writing.

And it turns out done like this, 200 posts can be churned through in tens of minutes. That includes me clicking over and reading full articles or blog posts that are linked to, one of the main reason I follow these accounts anyway.

What’s overwhelming and terrible about Twitter, what I contribute to that I hate so much, is the Twitter conversation. There are only a few true conversations each day worth following and paying attention to in my feed. Most of the time, what’s actually quite nice about Twitter is that it’s where people write microblogs. It’s the ideas they’re thinking about, stories they’re telling, and great articles I would otherwise miss that they’re sharing throughout the day.

I knew it back when Facebook introduced the News Feed, but I forgot about it over the last 14 years or so– the feed is the problem, not the posts and not the people.

  1. Have I hated a term as much as The Discourse in recent memory? No. I have not. ↩︎