Much like alcohol, bacon, and porn, Twitter is something you should really only enjoy in moderation. It's a valuable and terrifyingly efficient tool: Spread news or share personal thoughts, react to a TV show, raise a movement, or topple a career in only 140 characters. Just ask Justine Sacco, a PR professional whose off-color Tweet about traveling to South Africa ruined her life when an editor at Gawker saw it and retweeted. "Of all the things I could have been in society's collective consciousness, it never struck me that I'd end up a brutal nadir," Sacco told Jon Ronson in his book So You've Been Publicly Shamed.
So why, with limitless space online and innumerable ways of communicating via the Internet, are we using the the often dangerous, arbitrarily narrow platform? Well, because like alcohol, bacon, and porn, we're addicted to things that aren't necessarily good for us. Before you log in or tap that app on your smartphone again to get a social media fix, here are a few reasons to quit Twitter this year.
It Wastes Your Time
Twitter seems like a streamlined version of Facebook. You get news, links, maybe a joke, and then you're off to enjoy a day free of baby pictures and Upworthy posts. But odds are even if you're not rebutting a friend-of-a-friend's political views, you're spending way too much time hashtagging and retweeting. The average user spends 17 minutes a day on Twitter, which if you've been on it for five years equates to roughly 21.5 full days scrolling. If you're a power user, increase that number by a factor of five (at least) and then think about the other things you could be spending your time doing.
It's a Dangerous Distraction
Roughly 30 percent of users who Tweet while driving admit to doing it "all the time," and roughly 17 percent "safely" snap and post photos from behind the wheel, often of themselves, according to an AT&T survey. While few fatalities have been directly linked to Tweeting, the action bears little difference to texting while driving, which caused 1.3 million accidents in 2012. More recently, two students and a teacher were killed last December when a Tennessee school bus driver (also a fan of driving selfies) slammed into another bus while allegedly messaging a prostitute. Just, please, put down your phones.
It Can Ruin Your Career
The laundry list of people suspended or fired for Tweeting is too long to publish in full, but it includes the aforementioned Ms. Sacco, former Grantland chief Bill Simmons, Isagenix intern Erika Escalante, who was fired for a racist picture she posted from a cotton field, and San Jose cop Phillip White, who said he would use his "law appointed right and duty" to kill people if threatened by Black Lives Matter protesters. MMQB editor Andy Benoit joked on Twitter with a colleague about his distaste for women's sports and ended up the topic of a Really!?! with Seth and Amy segment on Late Night. "Everyone just get off Twitter," concluded Amy Poehler. Agreed. And let's not forget that Anthony Weiner's fiasco started when he incorrectly posted a DM. You may not think you're that guy, but neither did they.
A 2012 study by University of Chicago researchers found that Twitter may be more difficult to quit than alcohol or cigarettes. The data is thin, but in the middle of writing this, I've probably stopped to check Twitter 35–40 times. There's always something new and fresh to view — another hit: a new link to read, a new picture or meme, new notifications, new book, Netflix, and podcast recommendations. "Twitter is the one thing I'm addicted to," Julianne Moore recently told Town & Country. "I never sit quietly anymore." Three years after Men's Health editor Larry Carlat became addicted to the platform, he wrote in the New York Times about committing "Twittercide" after losing his job (twice), his marriage, and the respect of his son.
Everyone on Twitter is a Troll
Twitter can be used to unite the masses and spread information faster than any other platform in recorded history. But it's mostly used to tell people how much they suck (also: death threats). Actors, politicians, athletes, women gamers, brands, you, your mother, and your kids: Everyone sucks, except, apparently, the people who spend their days posting about how much people suck. "Emma Stone looks like she smells like cat piss," once wrote @cle_84 for no reason at all. Don't give in. The insanity is only enjoyed when celebrities read their favorite Mean Tweets on Jimmy Kimmel, and even then it's not totally worth it.
It's an Echo Chamber
When a small group of people agree on a topic and no one with an opposing opinion takes part in the conversation (either accidentally or on purpose), the group creates a closed system where the central viewpoint is repeatedly echoed until it becomes fact among the participants. And while it should be easy to find different viewpoints among the more than 300 million active Tweeters, humans like to have their views reinforced, and are able to pick the people they follow, block, or censor. Internet echo chambers don't just make people ignorant and dismissive, but can promote dangerous and untrue beliefs, like the "fact" that vaccinations cause autism. Or that Adam Sandler movies are still good.
It's Super Fast, and Super Unreliable
As quickly as you can spread news on Twitter, you can just as quickly and easily spread rumors. When Amber McCuller's brother Blake committed suicide in May 2012, random people posted their hypotheses for his reasons on Twitter. And since the family wasn't ready to be interviewed, the news organizations just went with whatever they read first. Suddenly Blake was a bullied gay high schooler despite there being no evidence to back any of it up. "It's hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters," author John Franzen once said. "It's the ultimate irresponsible medium."
140 Characters Isn't Enough To Say Anything of Value
Even the best poets and punchline comedians are limited by Twitter's arbitrary character count, so we've bastardized the English language just to fit a couple more words, one more thought, one extra link into our posts. At its best, Twitter is a news aggregator that helps you stay connected. At worst, it's a narcissist's autobiography told in blips too small to matter — and yes, that probably includes you. After all, the average lifespan of a Tweet is only 24 minutes long, and in the end, no one will ever post anything better than this.
If you're serious about quitting Twitter today, here's how.