Sometime earlier this year, I quietly locked my main Twitter account, the one I've had since 2009 and always kept public, and nobody noticed. It's not like anyone's missing much: I post very rarely these days, usually to retweet cool things that Soft Chaos has been up to. Social media in general feels like so much more work than it did when I was younger, and has become so much less usable and way more hostile, to the point that the thought of having to keep up with any of it makes me so tired. And no, it's not just because of a particular billionaire buying out and mismanaging a particular platform; for me, it's been much deeper and much more gradual than that. Migrate to Mastodon? Didn't we already do that like 6 years ago? Sure, alternatives to corporate social media sound cool at first, but eventually, they all end up feeling like just another website to check and keep track of until I can't justify bothering anymore.
I remember when I used to enjoy posting my thoughts and feelings online, especially on Twitter, where the then-140 character limit felt like a fun challenge in constrained writing. It felt good when people seemed to like what I had to say, and found me funny and relatable. Sometimes, I even made real friends. But after a while, I don't know when exactly, I started to feel like the persona I'd been encouraged to develop online wasn't who I really wanted to be as a human being. I felt incentivized to be publicly angry at everything, and while there is for sure a lot going on in the world that is important to get angry about, writing sarcastic tweets did little other than make me more irritable.
There was also the growing, looming fear of going viral and becoming too popular. At first, I thought virality would be good for me and my "personal brand" (ugh) and would get more people to play my games. But then, I witnessed friends and online acquaintances getting their lives ruined by mass harassment campaigns, which quickly convinced me that "there's no such thing as bad publicity" was a lie. And in the wake of one such harassment campaign, I did in fact compose a tweet that went viral, and it wasn't even all that good. It didn't make more people pay attention to any of the work I was actually proud of, or improve my material conditions in any meaningful way. All it did was flood my mentions with complete strangers who wanted to tell me why I was wrong and stupid, and while it was only a tiny fraction of what I saw others experience, it was unpleasant enough that I didn't want to go through anything like that ever again.
That happened years ago, and my relationship with social media has steadily declined ever since. Twitter went from being fun to being a professional obligation, until it became apparent that it wasn't even beneficial for that either anymore. Other platforms started turning into Snapchats and TikToks, their user experiences becoming so fast and so confusing to me that I couldn't keep up and started complaining about being too old for the internet. In the end, I just gradually stopped posting as frequently, and stopped reading as much, too. It just wasn't making me happy, and now more than ever, I want to spend more of my life focusing on things that do.
I recently finished reading the book "How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy" by Jenny Odell, and it spoke to my exhausted, burnt out soul. There's a lot that goes into discussing what I find so troubling about social media and why (spoiler alert: it's late-stage capitalism!) but also a lot of inspiration for where and how we can direct our attention instead. I was particularly moved by the story of Old Survivor, the last remaining old growth redwood tree in Oakland, which still stands after many centuries because it was "useless": too small and weirdly-shaped to be cut down and used as lumber along with its taller, straighter neighbours.
I admit I've been feeling somewhat useless myself, lately. I often get the sense that my career as a game designer peaked sometime between 2014 and 2015, and it's been a downhill slide into obscurity ever since. I don't see this as necessarily a bad thing, though, so much as a sign that the more I have learned about what it takes to be "successful" as a creative person in a capitalist context, the less I want anything to do with it. Maybe being less of a public figure, and resisting the need to be on social media all the time, is actually helping me survive, too.