I've had some wonderful times on Twitter and with blogging over the last five years or so. I've seen Twitter grow from a tiny community where everyone seemed to know each other into a much broader and more popular way of communicating. In some ways that's a great thing: it's supposed to be about the free flow of ideas, chatting to people in all fields of life that you might not ordinarily have access to, and broadening your horizons. I've met up with about 200 people from Twitter in real life and developed some lovely friendships. I've even met the boyfriend of my dreams on here, and in Spring we'll be celebrating three years together. Somehow I've picked up just shy of 5000 followers, even though I really don't have that much of substance to tweet about.
However, I've noticed that Twitter has also lost much of its innocence over the years. It's become a place where there's a lot of abuse and nastiness just because people "can". I remember the shock of this type of thing happening the first time and how it sent ripples of upset through the community I knew online. Now we've become numbed to it: people throw out threats, abuse, hatred, take it onto themselves to language/thought police strangers, and argue endlessly for absolutely no constructive purpose whatsoever. It's only the very worst stuff that gets any attention. The constant low-level criticism, judgmentalism and fractious abusive sniping doesn't even register any more. It may be amplified for me because of the "curse of the 2000 followers" that people talk about: your tweets get retweeted outside your familiar circle much more widely above this level, and it invites people who don't know you to kick off aggressive arguments and attacks. Whatever the reason, I'm experiencing it more and more. I just don't come online to receive abuse from strangers; and even if you block them straight off, a bit of a bitter taste remains.
As an example of this, two weeks ago I had a serious of four anonymous trolling comments on this blog, apropos nothing, calling me a "fucking sodomite", an "anti-white bigoted cunt", a "Muslim lover", telling me to go back to my "London shit-hole and die of AIDS surrounded by my immigrant chums" and calling me "a Euro-loving, bum-banging, left-wing, immigrant-loving, shirt-lifting cunt". It contained a number of threats and ended by wishing that a Muslim cut "my fucking head off". This was from someone purporting to live in my sleepy little home village in Suffolk, which I seriously doubt. In one respect it's completely laughable, but on another it's not exactly pleasant to receive on a Saturday morning visiting your boyfriend, even if I know it shouldn't be taken seriously, and it's just a keyboard warrior wanking him or herself into a frenzy. I'd like to say this was an isolated example, but it's not: it's happened before, and it will happen again.
I am also capable of putting it into context and know that the nastiness online is less than 1% of all the interactions I have. This blog has had over 640,000 views since I set it up in January 2011 with my first piece, which was a eulogy to my then recently deceased German grandmother. That's an average of about 5000 readers per post of my 135 articles, which is staggering. So many people have commented kindly on my thoughts and writing, and I've loved the positive feedback. It genuinely makes me happy that people want to read what I have to say, and want to share it with others.
On the other hand, it is the 1% that sticks in your mind, even if it shouldn't. I'm so blessed to have a pretty wonderful "real" life. I have a beautiful home, travel huge amounts, have a lovely family, good friends, am materially well-off and in great health, our work project to build a gorgeous luxury farm spa retreat is progressing beautifully, and I have a boyfriend I adore. We're about to finally get a new collie puppy together, which just fills me with excitement and happiness.
All that being the case, I have to ask myself why I should let my "real life" be polluted by the online nastiness, the homophobic abuse, and the judgements of others, none of which I would otherwise ever experience offline. If it's a simple cost/benefit analysis, I'm afraid the costs have just outweighed the benefits for me. Therefore it's time to close up shop and delete my account for good. I'll let the minority of unpleasant people I've come across stew in their own unhappiness and unpleasantness. I just don't want or need to be part of it. I know others feel very differently about Twitter and I hope you go on enjoying it as much as I once did. I really like and care about many of you who be reading this. I'm sorry if you'll miss me, and I'm sure I'll miss you too.
As for my blog, there's little point in continuing to blog on a regular basis, as my posts won't ever get the readership they did before without a platform to promote them. That said, I'd like this to be farewell, but not goodbye - so I will be writing the odd personal blog post from time to time if anyone is interested, with updates on the farm project, pictures of the puppy, and photos of our various adventures abroad (For a start, Ste is meeting my entire German family just before Christmas for the first time. The only German he knows is what I taught him, namely: when you sneeze and someone says "Gesundheit", you answer "Kartoffelsalat". That might not be entirely correct, so this could be interesting). You're more than welcome to drop by here and have a look. I've disabled anonymous comments though, as that's one thing I definitely won't miss.
Thanks to anyone who's ever interacted with me pleasantly on Twitter, who's amused or cheered me up, taught me something new, or who I've got to know well enough to have considered an online friend.
And as ever, thanks for reading my blog.
Macht's gut, Nachbarn!
|[Insert suitably cheesy smiling pic]|