I started drafting this newsletter before news broke of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. I could write an entire essay about how Parag Agrawal’s apparent strategy – adding Elon to the board so he’s banned from buying more than 14.9 of Twitter’s common stock – will backfire spectacularly, but I can do it in a sentence…
You don’t stop the big bad wolf from blowing your house down by inviting him inside.
So, yeah, Twitter is f*cked. Elon’s in charge now, egged on by his Tesla-crypto-douchbro fans. It’s gonna be gross. Trump will be back soon enough, and probably all those banned the alt-righters too. No wonder the nazis were cheering the news.
Obviously, I’m out. I hard-deleted my verified account on Tuesday morning and also the 2FA so I can’t reactivate it during the grace period even if I wanted to. I’m a recovering addict, and I know when something is dangerously unhealthy.
Truth is, though, I was out even before the Elon news.
Covid + Ukraine + Jan 6th + looming midterms + crypto have made social media the worst it has even been. I have a book to write and a hundred other swirling projects but, by the end of last year, could barely write a paragraph of the manuscript without refreshing my feed. I tried to unfollow everyone and uninstalled the app from my phone, but Twitter kept emailing me – inviting me to participate in NFT fights between journalists and Andreessen Horowitz brociopaths.
So I challenged myself to a month without the madness. No Twitter, but also no news apps generally. We get the print editions of the NY Times, LA Times, the Journal, the FT, and the Desert Sun delivered to the house every day so it wasn’t like I was missing out on actual news: Just the filler and hype between the headlines. And of course all that delicious trauma.
How was it? Well, it took me a full six hours to hear about the Will Smith Oscar slap vs six seconds for everyone else. I had to wait until 6am every morning to find out the latest covid rates or the death toll in Ukraine.
For this terrible sacrifice of immediacy, I regained HOURS of my day. I was able to finish all the work I had to do each day, and still had time to hang out with Sarah and the kids and read and go on a 20 mile bike ride. Seriously, we’re talking EONS of time recovered.
Better yet, even in that one month-long break, I regained my ability to think. To read and write entire chapters, not just paragraphs. Which meant, between audiobooks on the bike ride and hardcopy books in the backyard every afternoon, I decimated my “to be read” pile. I launched an online course. Turned our garage into a gym. Swam.
Literally the only actual downside is that I missed hearing from all my Internet book friends – the authors, publishers, agents et al who made Twitter bearable. Now I have to email them, or text, which is just weird.
Still, the takeover of Twitter by the misogynist-anti-vax-racist-workplace-exploding-cars dope was like a message from the universe: A thumb up from the Internet gods, telling me I was getting out at exactly the right time. I honestly don’t know what happens to social media from here on: If our best hope is Tiktok then we might as well all hurl ourselves into the sun.
Hey ho, not my problem.
From now on, it’s just books and this newsletter. And perhaps a podcast. I keep teasing a podcast and now, thanks to Elon, I actually have the time.
Maybe I could call it Internet Book Friends?