I created my Twitter account around 2008, and my Facebook one shortly after that. Twitter was useful for posting random thoughts and Facebook to keep in contact with old acquaintances (friends is too strong a word; if you need Facebook to be in contact with them, they probably aren't) and discuss news articles, though I had a blog at the time (this one, under a previous incarnation) and I'd rather do it there.

It was fun for a while, as it is always fun to explore new systems, but I started noticing a disturbing trend. Twitter got the attention of Spanish law enforcement and one got the feeling that it wasn't as free anymore (as if it ever was), and, more importantly, it also happened that it started centralizing all activities regarding link-sharing, and even discussing, via the not-always-so-comfortable-to-read tweetstorm. Similarly, Facebook expanded its presence. Though it started, at least for me, as a way of having conversations in small circles, I noticed most of them started happening there. Blogs I followed, some of them with years of history, stopped posting. My own blog crashed and I didn't bother to take it back (what was the point?). These two systems became the de facto media for news sharing and discussion (or comsumption, or information experience, or whatever cool people say nowadays.)

Fast-forward a few years. I start feeling the fatigue. Endless minutes, hours, pass by just mindlessly scrolling down my timeline in full zombie-mode, checking another not-so-random assorted list, group, trying to find something interesting. There surely must be something appealing down here, five hours ago. Last time I checked --before this coffee went cold-- there wasn't, but now there is, I'm sure. Twitter tribes from this side of the spectrum mocking Twitter tribes at the other side (you choose the spectrum and the side, it's pretty much all the same). Facebook banning, again, a hint of a shade of a nipple, reminds us that this new public square has very private rules.

At a given moment, I couldn't but stop and think what was I doing there, as it was obvious I wasn't enjoying it. I am in contact with friends and family using other media. For news-related stuff, I use a RSS reader and I prefer more calm discussion, even if that means long articles or comments that need (gasp) several minutes to be digested. Twitter, for its lack of space, and Facebook, for its lack of time, discourage these behaviors; they create too much noise in exchange for too little signal. Try posting something insightful on Twitter and you get one of these messy tweetstorms I mentioned before. Do the same thing on Facebook and, by the time you're done, everybody has moved on to a different topic. You can still do it, of course, it's just not the place for it. So why was I spending endless hours there?

Could it be the fear of missing out? There sure are amazing conversations happening right now in some obscure IRC channel, but I don't feel like I should be there just in case (which would also be impossible). Twitter is great for receiving and endless stream of headlines, which is a sure way to be constantly misinformed. Shouldn't I just concentrate on reading about what I find interesting, instead of just glancing at what other people care to feed me? That definitely sounded like a good idea. In that sense, Twitter (and, on a minor scale, Facebook) are like fast food: it may taste good, can be convenient if you're in a rush and you always want it bigger (faster), but ultimately, after gorging on it for extended periods, you feel exhausted and undernourished. Good information, as good meals, require some preparation.

Incidentally, I think this is one of the features that makes the traditional media love Twitter: you can have endless debates about little or nothing at all; there's barely any content, all that remains is baseless interpretation. It's the ideal hook.

I've read many times that, when the service is free1, you are the product. In this case (and in the case of Google, for instance), we, the users, are the staple being fed to the advertisers at the other side of the spot. Perfectly classified and labeled for very precise targeting (though not everybody is equally capable of doing it right). But in this case we are not only digital Soylent Green: we are also in charge of a) bringing flesh blood to the system and b) keeping the existing flock entertained by posting fresh content regularly. Indeed, Twitter commented this in the latest SEC filling (page 41):

If our users do not continue to contribute content or their contributions are not valuable to other users, we may experience a decline in the number of users accessing our products and services and user engagement, which could result in the loss of advertisers, platform partners and revenue

Or, translated: please, don't stop working for free for us. It's bad for the business. You have to be the fuel and the engine or this does not work.

So I decided to pull the plug.

At the time of writing these lines, it's been several weeks since I last logged in on either Twitter or Facebook. I logged out in all of my devices (including the phone, the most threatening of them all), and at work I even blocked both domains on uBlock Origin. Incidentally, this helped me realize how many times during the day I just mindlessly opened a new browser tab and typed tw<ENTER> or fac<ENTER>. Have you realized both domains begin with letters one can type just with the left hand? Just saying.

It's not only that I am out. Building upon this example, I coded a small set of scripts to delete all my Twitter history; right now, at any given time, only my latest 10 tweets are alive. I have stopped sharing articles on both social networks entirely. As the last remnant of weakness, I created an ifttt recipe that automatically shares new articles published on this blog (and its Spanish version; I am writing much more now in both of them) on both Twitter and Facebook. That might soon go, too, but it's one of the few cases in which I can think of them as working for me and not the other way around.

The only thing really stopping me from deleting both accounts is that, as a data scientist2 there are certain projects I have in mind that need access to them. I might however decide to kill my main accounts and create a couple of dummy ones used solely for the purpose of having access to their APIs in a read-only, hidden, non-public way, as long as it is them that serve my purposes and not the other way around.

It might not be long until that day comes. I am starting to realize I will not miss much.

Update (2017-01-01): they're gone, and it's fine.

  1. In monetary terms. You get something in return, the problem resides in assessing whether that is enough reward for everything you have to give in exchange. For me it wasn't paying off. 

  2. It says so on my paycheck.