This week I:
- Wrote an explainer of the rationalist/postrat Twitter community for LessWrongers and encouraged them to join it
- Hit 10,000 Twitter followers
- …and marked the occasion by taking a break from tweeting
Your Twitter experience is a combination of content consumption and content creation. People see few downsides to just posting as long as you don’t get cancelled or harass anyone, while the stuff you consume is what everyone is cautioned about. Everyone talks about timelines filled with rage and misinformation and bluechecks. But the posting isn’t separate from the doomscrolling, and it’s often the worse part of the experience.
Today I opened Twitter for 15 minutes, caught up on the French election and the war in Ukraine with insightful takes curated by my excellent ingroup follow list, laughed at some great jokes, and watched one video of animals being bros. Then I read the worst take on men and dating I’ve seen in a decade, and I spent a part of this decade doing spiritual research on incel forums.
Normally I’d spend 15 minutes composing a snarky quote-tweet of that radioactive take, then spend the next four hours dealing with people calling me an idiot, people expressing their disgust with the fact I’m dating at all and have takes on it, and different groups of people who didn’t get my point in different ways having a flame war in my comments.
Instead I just closed the app and went on with my day.
When I had 500 followers, posting on Twitter was great. 500 people are a big and varied enough group to get plenty of engagement, but they all basically “speak my language” — understand when I’m joking or serious, when I’m decoupling or contextualizing, and the ideas and concepts I use. But there are a lot fewer people in my cozy conceptual neighborhood than outside it, and the next 9,500 followers mostly came from the outside. They don’t “get me” naturally, which forces me to either dumb down my style and simplify my points or deal with a deluge of dumb replies. I may try to resist the pull, but the audience inevitably shapes the content and my content is how I think. I don’t want my thinking to get dumb, simplified, and defensive.
Also, in 2019 when I wasn’t active on Twitter I published 33 blog posts. In 2020 that number was down slightly to 27, and as my Twitter exploded in 2021 I wrote only 15. I was finding it harder to justify spending 20 hours polishing an idea into a blog post when I could put up a short thread on Twitter in 10 minutes and get 10 times the engagement.
But as my Twitter following grew, I realized that I was sacrificing quality for quantity, both in my writing and the engagement it gets. Just today an old post of mine got a shout out from Scott Alexander, and tomorrow I’m meeting for dinner a wonderful girl who filled out the Putanumonit dating form. I was reminded that awesome people read this blog, even if they’re not as salient to me as a writer as the addictive rhythm of Twitter likes and comments.
So, I’m going to experiment with an intermediate approach: a series of much more frequent and shorter blog posts that would’ve been a Twitter thread last month. I’ll try to write 3 every week for the next few weeks, each 300-1000 words instead of 2000-3000 like most of my longer posts. Instead of Tweeting things out the moment I think of them or struggling for two weeks to combine multiple ideas in a coherent longform, I’ll see what comes out of cogitating for a day or two on whatever catches my attention. I won’t plan these in advance, and I’ll try to write them all in one sitting with little editing.
If you subscribed for rarer, more thought-out posts you can always unsubscribe and check in on the mini-posts at your leisure. Otherwise, stick around and I’ll see you again soon.