I Quit Twitter and RSS, Spring 2021 Edition

Part 1: Twitter

I quit Twitter for the third time last month.

Before leaving this time, I reached out to the few people on Twitter I actively interacted with. I was able to move some of those conversations to Discord and Instagram, but I know it won’t always be the same.

T.C. Sottek wrote a pretty good thing about quitting Twitter on the Verge:

Twitter is a horror show for people who feel real anxiety just from witnessing anger and cruelty. I’ve received plenty of abuse and threats through Twitter over the years because of my work, but the stuff that actually sticks with me is what I see happening to others. Whether it’s learning too much about the sacrificial character of the day or falling down a thread of abusive replies to a random tweet, it’s difficult to avoid negativity” on a platform that seems designed to reward it.

That’s basically it. Even the nice, innocuous things on Twitter felt slimed by negativity. What made me quit, however, was that I felt negative there. I felt incapable of having a conversation on Twitter without being cynical.

Part 2: RSS and feeds

Who still uses RSS in 2021? Me, mostly. But I’m weaning myself off it.

I’ve reverted to 2003 with this one. I re-bookmarked every site I had loaded into Feedly. All of these sites are now living in folders on my bookmarks folder in Edge. All of these folders are available in two clicks on my phone, because Edge syncs them (just like Safari/Chrome, etc). Every site is now opt in, and I won’t find out about anything unless I go looking for it.

It’s mostly about self care. Social media feeds (even in something like an RSS reader) are designed to screw with your sense of time. By design, they hide people you like and have chosen to follow so that you never leave and always feel a bit sad. It’s literally a no win situation unless you’re a sociopath. Treating the internet like it’s 2004 is a way to keep some of that anxiety at bay.

RSS reading in late 2020

Yesterday’s IFTTTs remap made me think about how I’m reading sites. RSS never fully went away for me, but now that I can’t rely on IFTTT, I’m going to lean on it a bit more.

My new rules for RSS:

  • No Fire hose websites. If i see 50+ articles a week,” I’m out.
  • No publications. Twitter and Nuzzel are pretty good about lifting the more timely and interesting stuff from verticals.
  • Newsletters are A+ RSS material, because most people write 1-2 a week. Newsletters have been the new blogs for a while now, and I’m still surprised how easy it is to just put a /feed in front of a newsletter URL and it just works.
  • Check it when you remember. No notifications, no apps on the home screen. The whole point of an RSS reader is it’ll keep it until you need it.

RSS…to lower anxiety?

Brent Simmons On Alternate App Icons for NetNewsWire for iOS:

Add options that reduce anxiety. An example of this is the option to not show the unread count in the Dock on Macs. (There’s a similar setting in Notifications settings in iOS.)

Damn do I love that. I had pretty well given up on RSS because of the anxiety of having this mountain of content slowly growing behind me. It’s why I mostly just have a set of bookmarks in Airtable that I check occasionally. But I have been using NetNewsWire since it relaunched, and I’ve noticed a sort of calm about it. I’m happy to see that it’s because of careful design with anxiety in mind.

I do have a feature request though: give us the option of removing the unread number on individual feeds. I’ve never seen an RSS app do this, but I’ve always wanted it. Show me what I’ve missed in the list view, but just don’t put a number on it.