Tools that Want to Be Our Masters

I still use Twitter on a daily basis, but I can’t remember the last time I tweeted something that wasn’t a link to either something I said or something I wrote.

Twitter was an incredible tool for me personally and professionally. I found the person I wanted to work for, found some of my best friends in the world, and used it to create an audience that has given me way more than I’ve given to them.

Building an audience was fun, exciting, and rewarding. But having an audience is a totally different ball of wax. A ball of wax that for me was filled with anxiety.

I don’t know where the tipping point was, but I passed it a couple of years ago. I never made an announcement about why I’m leaving Twitter, and I’ve never written anything or said much about why I made the decision to leave. I just don’t think it’s that interesting, and I’m not narcissistic enough to think anybody cares or notices that I’m gone.

I was thinking about this while reading Mario Gabriele, who also mostly left Twitter. What he wrote as part of his reflection on 100,000 substack subscribers, which is well-earned, resonated with me, and so I wanted to share it with you.

Quiet quitting Twitter

Simple advice for my former self: spend as little time as possible on Twitter. Although the platform was helpful in building distribution in The Generalist’s early days and a valuable source of serendipity, I increasingly find it an empty, aggravating pursuit.

In last year’s annual review, I shared my plan to spend much less time on social media; ten months of mostly abstaining has proven an unadulterated positive. Though I’ll still share Generalist articles via my account and occasionally post something else, I no longer visit the site to browse or interact. On a weekly basis, I’ve cut down my time on site from several hours to less than an hour. Most weeks, time on site could be measured in seconds.

It’s always difficult to measure the absence of something. How many annoyances have I avoided by staying off social media? How much posturing have I side-stepped? How much snark? I can’t quantify these things, but I have noticed improved focus and emotional equanimity.

I no longer find myself typing in “tw” by default when I open my browser, or hungering to check my notifications. While writing a piece, I don’t duck out for a brief dopamine boost, which can quickly turn into a prolonged dopamine wallow. Walking in a park with sighing trees and a squirrel scrabbling amongst the branches, I don’t find myself returning to some snippy remark from a random account. In subtle ways, I think I’ve managed to rewire my brain for the better.

At a foundational level, staying off Twitter has taught me something about how I see the world and generate original ideas. At various points in the last crypto cycle and the current AI boom, Twitter has served as the place to watch the revolution unfold. It has hosted remarkable new demos, conversations, and breakthroughs in close to real time. What I’ve realized is that I am not particularly good or very interested in following progress at this altitude. I’m not skilled enough to quickly assess which revelations are real and which aren’t, which is about to remake an industry, and which is little more than a mirage. To be clear, I think some people genuinely are good at this. But there are others of us who come up with our best thoughts after reflection, by looking at the past, by trying to trace the shape of things. For that group, being “plugged in” offers less value – you invite much greater noise and little signal.

If this resonates with you and you’re considering a similar step, I strongly recommend it. Though Twitter and other social media platforms have their uses, fundamentally, they are tools that want to be our masters. They will take as much time as they can from you and leave you somehow miserable yet ravenous for more. If you can’t avoid these platforms completely, I’d suggest trying out a tool like News Feed Eradicator, which strips out a major source of noise.


Those bits I highlighted are really why I left Twitter. I found myself laying in bed with my boys and thinking about some shitty comment that some stranger hurled at me. Or worse, I would be laying in their bed, scrolling through my mentions, and see something that bothered me. It was during one of these moments that I decided to leave. I didn’t want my kids to experience anything less than 100% of the joy that I wanted to shower on them. And I couldn’t do that if I was still in the arena, trying new things.

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