On November 14, 2022, I deleted my personal Twitter without announcing it. Before spin class, I was looking through the suggested items in my Google News feed, and I saw that two-factor authentication was being dismantled. Had —apparently — already been dismantled. F–k, I thought, I’ve been logged out for months and won’t be able to get back into my account. I don’t even remember where I put my backup codes.
For the majority of spin class that night, I thought about terms of service as constitutions, about what we agree to, about what we simply ignore. I was frustrated about not having deleted my account when I had heard about the engineering difficulties — according to many experts and anonymous sources at Twitter, things would soon start breaking. Musk’s erratic behavior had been an entertaining display of what happens when a human sinks into tyranny and a reminder that nobody is immune from becoming like that. This tipped my reaction to “okay, we’re done now” — simply by checking my phone, I had been thrown into a state of irritation-bordering-on-anger. There was a possibility, I realized, that I would have to babysit an account that I had decided to keep in its ossified state “just in case” I ever wanted to promote my writing. Logging into an account and staying logged in risked me actually going back on Twitter, which I didn’t want to do, as I did not trust my self-control in the face of a website designed using addictive gambling principles. This was not what I wanted to think about during spin. I wanted to zone out and relax my mental space. That’s what guided cardio is for. My anger deepened. I turned up the resistance on the spin bike. I resolved that keeping the account wasn’t worth the stress that constantly having to check would give me. If the code started breaking, I didn’t want to have to care or feel stressed out by it. There would be other ways to tell people what I was up to creatively and other methods for providing useful and relevant religious guidance.
It had always been a struggle to consider leaving due to the sunk cost fallacy. I started the account I used in May 2009, when I graduated from college and no longer had that sense of community and commonality from the shared meals with others. My usage was moderate until I deleted Facebook, and then it started increasing. The amount of time I invested in the site — always driven by a feeling of loneliness — increased. Said sunk cost fallacy made it seem like leaving would be wasteful. And of course all of the writers on social media and mental health say that these places cannot satisfy loneliness, nor can they help mental health, unless they are used to actually connect with real people in face-to-face interactions, be they on Zoom or in the flesh.
After spin class, I found that I could still log in. Thank Hermes.
Twitter seemed to know why I was there, somehow. Or maybe it just knew I hadn’t logged in for some months, and it wanted to give me what would tempt me to stay. It showed me a post that someone had made about Gods’ series that was clearly linked to the KALLISTI post I’d made about seirai, something that might have been useful to respond to. I was pleased to have impacted someone to consider the topic. Someone else had posted a silly and entertaining meme.
I knew from previous experiences that the pleasant delights it showed me would give way to strife and things that agitated me within about five minutes. I found my account settings and clicked my way through the deletion process.
I thought to myself, It would be nice to have a conversation with other people and not simply be text on the screen. To have a few polytheists to go to the gym with so we can get tea after and chat. To just be around other polytheists ambiently, not even actually interacting. Just that potentiality. This is Connecticut, and none of that is likely to happen. Connecticut is a place of steady habits.
A weight lifted from my shoulders immediately after I deactivated. I felt light and fine, like I had finally done something to make the commentators that I read and to whom I pray (at the close of the lunar month) for guidance proud that I have actually taken something constructive away from all of the habitual virtue texts I’ve been reading. Hierocles is slow-clapping, definitely.
Twitter gives you a 30-day grace period to reactivate your account. I resolved not to say anything here until I reached December 14, the date of its actual deletion.
The changes to my life since mid-November have had nothing to do with deleting that account. Had I actually been active there, my experience would have been more intense — sudden time for reading, a rediscovery of the outdoors, the rewilding of my inner thoughts, the sudden ability to reach my goals. I did have sudden time for reading and goals, but that was because I finished an all-consuming professional service writing deadline at the beginning of November’s third decad.
What’s more, the innerstatues account is still on Twitter. When I last updated it, in the post I do where I say “new posts coming,” I posted a gif from the Titanic film (1997) of one of the musicians on the Titanic who stopped running in terror from the sinking ship to continue playing music, of facing death with grace. (I’m sure there are, like, 3 people who get that subtext because you have to be marinated in Plato and have seen that movie.) That account is an exercise in silence and self-restraint. I don’t reply to anyone, even when I see things that make my gut tighten in the notifications when I log in to do a batch post. The goal of the account is to help people build a devotional practice and a sound, pious mindset. It’s not about me, even if it is training me in sacred silence.
The main lesson I took away from Twitter was that I needed to be more careful about my prohairesis. Way back in 2018, I posted about social media and said
In the Enchiridion, Epictetus says that we control opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and our own actions. How true is this in an era when social media exploits the vulnerable cracks in our human psyches? What of ourselves do we actually control? How much of what we think of any issue is innate, and how much is shaped and controlled by advertisers or algorithm engineers? They shape our opinions. They shape our pursuits, desires, and aversions. Our opinions and perspectives lead to our actions in the world.
We control our attention, at least in the beginning.
The places we decide to interact impact which opinion-shaping algorithms we expose ourselves to.
Once we are in an online space, the notifications, the likes, and so on are designed to make us value the platform and keep us there. So, if we control our attention in the beginning, doesn’t it make sense to make value decisions on where we should spend our time before the dinging starts?
A lot has changed about my life and my worldview since 2018. The self-quotation above, though, I believe even more strongly — if attention is what we need to manage, we cannot give it away without limit, shattering ourselves to pieces like a mirror hitting the hard ground. So, following from this, I did not join Mastodon or TikTok or any other alternative.
Another, less Twitter-centric lesson, is how this relates to one of the major themes (I think) of my own life: Figuring out how to mix the limit and unlimited, and especially how to apply limit and to take control of my own life. I grew up lonely and undersocialized. I trusted people too much. I cried too much. I was too much. I irritated other kids so much that they bullied me. I was voracious about reading and learning and conversing so much that adults misclassified me as smart, and the gifted exam they made me take — and that I failed by 2 points on the math section — made the bullying even worse. And growing up like that gives a distorted view of one’s own self-worth. In my teens and early-to-mid 20s, I was willing to dampen my misgivings and critical thinking to fit in even when I wasn’t okay with what was going on because I figured that beggars can’t be choosers, and I’d been told all my life that I was naïve and childlike, so I trusted that what others around me did and how they thought was better than what my own conscience was telling me, even actions that made me uncomfortable. I indulged in unhealthy escapism and bypassing behaviors online for a time, mostly in my mid-to-late teens, because I had no spine. I was not in touch with my emotions and had no idea most of the time what was going on when I acted impulsively. Later, in my late 20s and early 30s, I often let myself make bad short-term decisions about life admin stuff instead of focusing on the bigger picture, all to avoid pain, all because I didn’t trust myself. And of course, the unhealthy way I saw myself — the way many people see themselves, as I know that the patterns in my own life are those shared by at least some others — is bulls–t. As Marina Diamandis says in “True”:
Everybody tells us what to do, do, do
Think they always know what’s good for you, you, you
We know they don’t really have a clue, clue, clue
People like to tell you what to think, think, think
Sometimes it feels right to do the wrong, wrong thing
Let it go and listen to your own instincts
Don’t need to add nothing to your skin, skin, skin
Be happy with the body that you’re in, in, in
Being who you are don’t cost a thing, thing, thing
It’s no wonder I fell in love with the Platonic corpus several years ago. Looking back on my teens and 20s, I can tell that I was hurting a lot, and Twitter and social media platforms didn’t help at all. Ultimately, I had to grab the bull by the horns and actually deal with the messy unpleasantness of those bypassing behaviors and promise myself that I would improve moving forward, that I would learn these lessons and actually make progress. Proclus was fond of saying that the worst thing we could wish upon someone was to not learn their lesson and to not improve, as it would mean they’d have to learn it in Tartarus on the purifying Tartarean Gods’ terms — Tartarus is like being trapped in a room with a divine therapist who won’t let you leave until you’re done, and the God even is the room — and not on their own, using the choice of life from the allotment they’ve drawn to make a good harvest of the time embodied. Through the guidance of the Gods, especially the bright certainty of meditation and contemplation, the messiness becomes ordered and harmonized. And, as I’ve been reminded of very recently by others, the unity of our lives and our deaths, of becoming and being, are even greater, and the care we give must be for the whole, not the part to the detriment of the whole.
In the end, this means not mourning what was on that site. It means not mourning for and not grasping at chapters of my life that have come to a close, of allowing myself and others who were in that space to mutually move on, to go in the direction that Providence and Fate take us. Being more discerning in the future. Knowing my own self-worth and my dealbreakers and not bending them. Of taking care who I allow into that inner sanctum of friendship. Of choosing real social food and not just its image. Every journey is a teacher, and I’m grateful for the lessons, and I’m grateful to Apollon, more than I could ever possibly express in words.
Have a good rest of your week, everyone.